A police officer in St. Paul, Minnesota, suffered a broken spine after a protester allegedly dropped a concrete slab on him during a Black Lives Matter protest.
Protesters shut down Interstate 94 for several hours over the weekend after the police shooting death of Philando Castile last week.
“We were just informed that the officer who had a concrete block dropped on his head during I-94 riot has broken vertebrae,” the department tweeted. The identity of the officer was not revealed.
St. Paul Police confirmed on Sunday that 21 officers from several agencies were injured on I-94 and in other parts of the city. On Saturday night, 50 people were arrested on rioting charges on I-94. Later, 52 more people were arrested on charges of “public nuisance and unlawful assembly during an incident” at 4 a.m. on Sunday morning near I-94, the department added.
“Last night, really was the first time in my 28 years as a police officer, that I had observed the level of violence that was directed towards public servants,” said St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell in a press conference on Sunday morning. “It’s really a disgrace. Protesters last night turned into criminals. I’m absolutely disgusted by the actions of some. We will not tolerate it.”
— CNN (@CNN) July 10, 2016
Protesters allegedly threw fireworks at police, he said. At approximately 9 p.m. on Saturday is when the protest turned into a riot and the “tone started to changed,” Axtell said.
Axtell also showed a steel police badge that was bent from the “significant impact of a rock” thrown at an officer from a bridge. He said a number of protesters were throwing rocks at police from a bridge.
Axtell and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said some protesters essentially used their children as shields amid clashes with police. “It’s really disgusting if you ask me,” Axtell said. “I can’t for the life understand why you would put a child into that position in the first place.”
“The fact that they would bring children … is absolutely outrageous,” Coleman said.
Chief of Minnesota State Patrol Matt Langer said closing freeways endangers the people that are on the freeway, as well as the public.
“Being on the freeway is illegal… including [at] these protest events,” Langer said at the press conference.
— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) July 10, 2016
BREAKING: Protestors on I-94 now throwing fireworks at police. pic.twitter.com/RffGiOCKtn
— Timothy Blotz (@TimBlotzFOX9) July 10, 2016
The mother of slain Philando Castile released a statement disapproving of the violence in the St. Paul protests.
“On behalf of myself and our entire family, we urge all people to remain peaceful in all demonstrations throughout our community and our nation,” said Valerie Castile in a statement on Sunday, according to KARE-11. “When demonstrations become violent, it disrespects my son and his memory. Philando was a man of peace and dignity. Please, I ask you to at all times remain peaceful in your expressions of concern regarding his death at the hands of the police. I promise that we will not rest until justice prevails.”