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Protesters shut down I-35W bridge in Minneapolis

MINNEAPOLIS -- Gov. Mark Dayton does not mind protesters camping outside of his official residence 24 hours a day, but said two interstate shutdowns are dangerous.

MINNEAPOLIS -- Gov. Mark Dayton does not mind protesters camping outside of his official residence 24 hours a day, but said two interstate shutdowns are dangerous.

"It is against the law," the governor said Wednesday while touring storm damage in Watkins. "It creates a very, very dangerous situation."

Protesters shut down a major route into downtown Minneapolis at rush hour Wednesday morning, demanding that police be demilitarized. Law enforcement officers arrested 41 people and said they are expected to be charged.

It was the second Twin Cities freeway protesters have blocked in recent days in the aftermath of last week's fatal police shooting of a black man in Falcon Heights.

Dayton said protesters need to realize the risks they are taking when they close down a freeway, risks they themselves especially face.

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He said law enforcement officers handled the Wednesday incident "as peacefully as anybody could under these circumstances."

Traffic backed up for miles while protesters occupied the Interstate 35W bridge's southbound lanes into Minneapolis. The bridge, over the Mississippi River, is the replacement for one that collapsed into the river Aug. 1, 2007.

“The State Patrol supports the right to exercise one’s First Amendment rights, but the freeway is not the place to do so,” said Col. Matt Langer, Minnesota State Patrol chief. “The closure of an interstate freeway for the purposes of a demonstration is unacceptable. They are used by everyone and are an artery for emergency vehicles. It is illegal to walk on the freeway and blocking traffic is dangerous for both pedestrians and motorists.”

State troopers, Hennepin County sheriff deputies and University of Minnesota police responded to the rush hour protest. The bridge is next to the university campus.

They towed away four cars protesters used to block traffic.

A statement released by the protesters said they are "non-black Twins Cities residents" who support Black Lives Matter's opposition to last week's shooting death of Philando Castile at the hands of a St. Anthony police officer.

The statement said: "The coalition condemns this violence and believes this shut down reinforces our belief that comfort and business as usual must be disrupted until substantive changes occur in our city and throughout the country. This group demands the dismantling of the police department, which includes disarming, defunding, demilitarizing and disbanding police. We believe that security for all of us does not lie in use of aggression and force."

The shutdown began at 7:30 a.m. and the interstate reopened about 9:15 a.m. Dozens of law enforcement officers were on the Minneapolis bridge over the Mississippi River.

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Protesters blocked Interstate 94 in St. Paul late Saturday and early Sunday, and some have been encamped since early last Thursday in front of the governor's residence in St. Paul. There were reports that other Twin Cities protests were planned for the day.

A state investigation into the Castile shooting began right after the incident the night of July 6. Castile's girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, live-streamed the aftermath of the shooting and said that police pulled Castile's car over because of what an officer said was a broken tail light.

Investigators refuse to discuss the shooting.

Wednesday's protesters said educators and the media have a responsibility to tell people about problems the black community faces.

"Real security occurs when all of us have meaningful employment, educational opportunities that help us pursue our own life choices and the adequate healthcare needed to live fruitfully," the protesters' statement said. "Research and our experience tells us that the vast amounts spent on militarized police make most communities, excluding the very wealthy, less secure."

They said they will not speak to the media.

Black Lives Matter Minneapolis officials called the protesters "allies."

Even after the people who shut down the interstate were arrested, other protesters remained near the interstate as law enforcement officers asked them to leave.

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