Faith leaders join officials urging protesters to stay home after 8pm

"To be in the street after 8 p.m. means we can’t separate you from the bad people," said Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison
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Religious and social justice leaders joined Minnesota's top government officials Saturday afternoon urging protesters to stay home, with more extremist rioters expected on the streets Saturday night.

Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Penny Flanagan, U.S. Sens. Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison emphasized support for protesters seeking justice, but note that rioters are making it dangerous to stay out past 8 p.m.

Leaders from Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths, as well as several community leaders, echoed the message throughout the 90-minute press conference. 

"I'm bringing out everyone whose voice in the community is so much stronger than mine," Walz said. "In this chaotic environment, all that you can to do to help, Minnesotans, is by staying off the streets tonight." 

As top leaders contend that agitators from outside the Twin Cities, possibly including white supremacists with coordinated efforts, are responsible for the damage, some have raised concerns that there isn't yet enough evidence to provide a full picture.

Reporting from BMTN and countless other news organizations show that in many incidences, the damage is done by people not associated with the protests.

In some cases, fires and looting occurred in locations far from demonstrations. Dozens of video accounts of masked, predominantly men ignoring pleas of protesters to not set fires or loot are circulating on social media. 

Law enforcement response amid the chaos has also resulted in injuries; dozens have severe bruises from rubber bullets. One photographer says she is now permanently blind in her left eye after a rubber bullet hit it. 

Justin Terrell, who leads the Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage, called for massive reform of police and other government systems. He asked black residents to lead by staying home and helping their neighbors, while stressing that they are not accountable for the chaos of the last few days. 

"Black people, the folks burning our community are not operating in your interest," he said. "Do not end up in the crosshairs of an ideological battle that has got nothing to do with us." 

"Help me tell [my children] a story of how black folks came together, and led our state through this moment, and cut all this other nonsense out," he said. 

"The people who are trying to tarnish the reputation of the noble protest for justice are out there, trying to mix in with the crowd," Ellison said. "To be in the street after 8 p.m. means we can’t separate you from the bad people." 

Smith emphasized support for the protests. 

"I stand here with commitment to do justice for George Floyd, with a painful awareness of the hard work to erase the racism that is too much a part of our state," she said. "I ask my fellow Minnesotans to raise up your voices in righteous protest ... and then, I ask you to go home by 8 p.m. so that we can keep our neighbors and ourselves, and our beautiful communities safe." 

Emilia Gonzalez Avalos, executive director of Navigate MN, said the damage has caused "more harm and pain in places where there's already harm and pain by structural racism and inequality and carelessness."

"I'm asking folks not to participate. Tonight, stay at home. Support the vulnerable, the elderly, the children that live around the perimeter of Lake Street," she said. 

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