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Photo gallery: Black Lives Matter marches on the Minnesota State Fair

Black Lives Matter Saint Paul marched on the Minnesota State Fair to demand change in the fair’s vendor selection process, as well as protest the St. Paul Police Department.

Hundreds of protesters joined Black Lives Matter Saint Paul to march to the Minnesota State Fair on Saturday morning to demand change in the fair’s vendor selection process, as well as protest the St. Paul Police Department, who BLM organizers say have a poor history with minority communities.

Marchers trekked roughly a mile to the fairgrounds from St. Paul’s Hamline Park, shutting down northbound traffic on Snelling Avenue, and briefly closing down both lanes of Como Avenue, where dozens of marchers attempted to enter the fair before St. Paul police closed the gates.

BLM supporters chanted for a half hour as fairgoers watched from behind the fencing. Marchers then moved to the main gate on Snelling before eventually dispersing. The event lasted about two hours.

Like other past BLM events in the Twin Cities, the protest remained peaceful, but garnered heavy criticism online — largely focused on BLM’s claims regarding discrimination in the vendor selection process — and mixed reception from onlookers.

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BLM St. Paul organizer Rashad Turner said that, despite the criticism, the protest wasn’t just about making noise, but about bringing attention to real changes they hope to see made. “This ain’t just about the State Fair, it’s about the bigger picture,” Turner said. “But [the fair, and those who run it] represent some of the same disparities we see in our city of St. Paul, some of the same disparities we see across the state. And definitely across this nation.”

At the rally, Turner listed off some demands advocated by BLM St. Paul: body cameras for all St. Paul police officers; revisiting the indictment of the two officers involved in the fatal shooting of St. Paul resident Marcus Golden back in January; and requiring officers to carry personal liability insurance to deter them from acting rashly.

Turner also said the State Fair needs to do a better job proactively including communities of color. “They really need to include us at the table to come up with a plan that’s equitable,” he said. “There’s no way everyone is represented if you have a colorblind policy.”

State Fair General Manager Jerry Hammer mostly dismissed the organization’s claims, saying three out of the six new vendors at the fair are minority-run, and that anything but a colorblind system would turn the fair on its head because of tough competition.

“In any given year there are at least 450 registrants for food space,” Hammer said. “If we have three or four [new vendors] a year, it’s actually a lot. That’s why we don’t invite people to participate.”

Turner said that colorblind systems only perpetuate existing disparities between communities of color and their white counterparts. “Anyone who does the research on what [colorblind policies] mean and how that’s been studied, they would know that,” he said.

Programs like Affirmative Action, which seeks to proactively close disparity gaps in workplaces and schools, have been a source of national controversy for decades. But Turner said these kinds of programs are necessary if we expect to see any real economic changes for communities of color.

Marlin McElroy, who works shuttling disabled persons to and from the fair, said he was disappointed by how some onlookers reacted to the protest, but that he supports the movement and was proud to see BLM at the fair.

“What just happened here right now is more important to me than anything,” McElroy said. “[African Americans] aren’t properly represented anywhere.”

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BLM organizer Rashad Turner speaks to the crowd at Hamline Park.
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
BLM organizer Rashad Turner speaks to the crowd at Hamline Park.
The one mile march took roughly an hour
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
The one mile march took roughly an hour as participants made their way from Hamline Park to the fair.
A Black Lives Matter marshall blocks off traffic as the march begins.
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
A Black Lives Matter marshall blocks off traffic as the march begins.
Day'Resha Jones chants at the head of the crowd.
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
Day’Resha Jones chants at the head of the crowd.
Ferneatress pushes her daughter Armery in a stroller down Snelling Avenue.
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
Ferneatress pushes her daughter Armery in a stroller down Snelling Avenue.
Monique Collars-Doty
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
Monique Collars-Doty lays quietly for four minutes to give reverence to the four hours Mike Brown’s body laid in the street.
Participants perform a die-in on a railway overpass on Snelling Avenue.
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
Participants perform a die-in on a railway overpass on Snelling Avenue.
Minneapolis resident Drew Edwards
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
Minneapolis resident Drew Edwards leads a chant as the crowd makes its way north on Snelling Avenue.
Missouri native Crystal Williams
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
Missouri native Crystal Williams travelled across state lines to show her support.
Mia Johnson said the protest forces people to think about racial problems.
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
Mia Johnson said the protest forces people to think about racial problems.
Matt Sciple carries one of many signs criticizing the vendor selection
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
Matt Sciple carries one of many signs criticizing the State Fair’s vendor selection policy.
St. Paul police follow along the march on bicycles
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
St. Paul police follow along the march on bicycles as they escort the crowd to the fair.
Viane Burch
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
Viane Burch says there weren’t many minorities at the fair 10 years ago and nothing has changed today.
Shuttle driver Marlin McElroy
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
Shuttle driver Marlin McElroy said he was disappointed by how some onlookers reacted to the protest.
Marchers cheered as they arrived at the gates of the State Fair.
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
Marchers cheered as they arrived at the gates of the State Fair.
Fairgoers watch the protest from the other side of the fence.
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
Fairgoers watch the protest from the other side of the fence.
A police line rushed to close Gate 7 on Como Avenue
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
A police line rushed to close Gate 7 on Como Avenue before dozens of protesters could make their way into the fairgrounds.
A protester yells at a line of police blocking their entrance.
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
A protester yells at a line of police blocking their entrance.
Another protester holds up a sign against the closed gate.
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
Another protester holds up a sign against the closed gate.
St. Paul police set up barricades at fair entrances
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
St. Paul police set up barricades at fair entrances in anticipation of the march.