AP NEWS

Protesters disrupt 1st meeting on Minnesota police shootings

August 18, 2019
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In this Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019, photo Kimberly Handy Jones, the mother of Cordale Handy who was fatally shot by St. Paul police in 2017, left, is joined by the family members of other people killed in police shootings in protesting a state panel to address police use of force, at the Minnesota Capitol in St. Paul, Minn. (John Nguyen/Minnesota Public Radio via AP)
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In this Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019, photo Kimberly Handy Jones, the mother of Cordale Handy who was fatally shot by St. Paul police in 2017, left, is joined by the family members of other people killed in police shootings in protesting a state panel to address police use of force, at the Minnesota Capitol in St. Paul, Minn. (John Nguyen/Minnesota Public Radio via AP)

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Protesters are calling for more family representation on a new state panel examining police use of force in Minnesota.

Demonstrators disrupted the start of the working group’s first public meeting Saturday at the state Capitol. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington are leading the 16-member group, which was announced last month.

Protesters filled the room and prevented the hearing from starting as scheduled, Minnesota Public Radio News reported. The demonstrators said the group was skewed toward lawmakers and law enforcement, and needed representatives of families affected by police shootings. Protesters also renewed calls for an independent state agency to investigate police shootings.

Ellison, a Democrat, defended the group’s diversity, although he acknowledged “that’s not to say there are not more who could also add to the work we’re here to do.”

“We have Democrats, Republicans, law enforcement, prosecution, citizens, community voices. We have people from the mental health community, we have people from tribal communities, we have people from across the state of Minnesota. I think we have a diverse group and I think we are well-positioned to take on this difficult subject,” Ellison said.

Valerie Castile, mother of Philando Castile — who was shot and killed by a police officer during a 2016 traffic stop in Falcon Heights — told the panel that the protests happened “because our community is traumatized.”

“Everybody in this community is hurting because day after day, it’s always something happened, someone’s child is being killed — and we have to do whatever we can do to change that,” she said.

Jeronimo Yanez, the St. Anthony officer who shot Philando Castile, was acquitted in June 2017 of all charges related to the shooting.

Officials say Minnesota has had more than 100 officer-involved shootings resulting in injury or death since 2014. The group plans two more public meetings before delivering a report to the Legislature by February 2020.

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org