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Gathering for Philando Castile – sad, warm, motivating by Ann Treacy
June 17, 2017, 4:52 pm
Filed under: St Paul

Yesterday police officer Jeronimo Yanez was found not guilty of the death of Philando Castile, a young black man who worked in St Paul Schools. Last summer Yanez stopped Castile for a broken brake light – or some other minor, car-related violation. Minutes later Yanez shot him multiple times – while Castile’s girlfriend and her young daughter watched. She live-streamed his death (post shooting) on Facebook.

Last night approximately 2,000 people met at the Capital to demonstrate their disappointment in the event. And I say “event” because there are so many points of failure in the system for Philando Castile.

Tom and I went to the demonstration. We did so to show support for the community, to let people outside of Minnesota know that inside Minnesota many of us recognize the points of failure, to help community leaders see that we want change and honestly because it’s helpful to see that other people care when times are dark.

We listened to the speakers. One noted that this isn’t a black and white issue – it’s a dark and light issue. And while it’s definitely a black and white issue, the point is well made. It’s a dark time for all of us when one of our own (many of our own!) are unsafe doing daily tasks.

The police play an important role in civic society. We need our brightest and best in that role. Yanez was clearly not the brightest or best. He was fired but to read it in the paper, he was fired like a football coach who gets caught doing something bad. He’ll lose his job but some form of compensation is coming.

I don’t understand why the police officers who are our best (and they are out there!) aren’t more vocal about needing better team members. He clearly did not have the confidence to stop a black man without resorting to violence. So he should not have been in that position. That’s one of the first points of failure – and maybe the biggest.

It may be a bad analogy – but to this day it bugs me to see a bad waitress (or waiter) because back in the day I was good at it. When I see terrible service I want to go in and show someone how to balance a tray, how to pay attention (ketchup before the bill please), how to smile. A good cop has to feel the same way. Better training, better standards have to be in place. Collateral damage for a waitress in training is a broken dish and a hungry customer. If collateral damage for a police officer is death of citizens – that is unacceptable! As Nekima Levy-Pounds said – it’s our right to demand justice.

OK back to the demonstration. We heard speakers and singers. We heard from family, friends and folks running for office. In the crowd we met classmates of Philando Castile – who told us they will be holding an annual fundraiser for him akin to a class reunion.

I was proud to see Lily, Kate and Lucia (our adopted road trip kid) at the demonstration.

We stayed with the March for an hour or so. My favorite stranger was the young woman of small stature with the “Water and Snacks (free)” sign and backpack. My least favorite stranger was the young woman who (with her friends) suddenly covered her face with a make-do mask and then put on latex gloves. Unnerving in any setting.

People were saddened but warm. There was a lovely woman making stenciled posters and giving them away. I proudly carried it until I gave it to Lily to carry. We moved on feeling sad, warm and motivated to try to make things better. I am a huge proponent of transparency and I think a video in every hand, stories from every corner support that effort.

We were not there when the march moved to 94. It had occurred to me earlier that might happen but then later I was surprised to hear that it had. I thought the plan was to backtrack to the Cathedral via Selby. Ironically on the way back to Minnetonka I saw the miles of traffic backed up due to the protestors on the highway.

It looked like the police remained cool for the most part. I heard secondhand account of some pushing. And reading the paper today 18 people were arrested – after they were all convinced/shepherded off the highway.

I have mixed feelings on a protest on the highway – but I think it’s much less destructive than allowing unprepared officers on the street. And if helps bring better training to police (they clearly handled the situation much better than last year) and encourages police departments to really look at the skillsets on their forces then it’s an action with a purpose, which again is much more than we can say for Yanez’s actions!

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