Judge Dismisses Charges Against Philando Castile Vigilance Protesters at Governor's Mansion

This photo was taken on the day of the majority of the Governor's Mansion protest arrests, and depicts the interaction of police and protesters just prior to several arrests.

On July 26, 2016, police arrested dozens of individuals holding vigil at the Philando Castile memorial in front of the Minnesota Governor's Mansion in St. Paul, MN. Nearly two years later, these cases are finally now going to trial. Today, Ramsey County Assistant Chief Judge Robert A. Awsumb dismissed all charges, including public nuisance and unlawful assembly, against three of these protesters. Judge Awsumb dismissed these charges after the City of St. Paul's Attorney's Office put on its case-in-chief, calling police officers to testify about the incident. Judge Awsumb found that merely being present at a protest was insufficient to sustain the charges without evidence of individual culpable conduct.

This blog poster has been working on the defense team for these cases, and congratulates colleague attorneys John Barham and Jordan Kushner on this victory. It is a victory for the rights of peaceful protesters exercising their 1st Amendment Rights in appropriate places. It also serves as a check to prevent the over-extension of policing and prosecuting power to attempt to staunch protesters.

Streff Legal clients and other protesters are set for trial later this year, continuing a long, drawn-out effort by the St. Paul City Attorney to prosecute these cases.

As a reflection on this news, Streff Legal offers this link to a debate between Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley, Jr., commenting on the 1968 protests surrounding the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, IL. It is a reminder that the issues of institutionalized police practices in dealing with protest, as well as the extent to which protest may be undertaken lawfully, remain very critical to our national discourse.