4 more protesters from Philando Castile I-94 demonstration plead guilty

One of them called the prosecution of protests "inappropriate."
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Four of the many people charged for protesting on Interstate 94 following Philando Castile's death pleaded guilty Monday.

Emmett Doyle, Brian Heilman, Jesse Mortenson and Rachel Mueller were all in court, facing misdemeanors for their participation in a demonstration on the highway last summer, a news release from Mortenson says.

The four were initially charged with third-degree riot and misdemeanors, according to the Pioneer Press – though the riot charges were dropped in January.

They pleaded guilty straight to the judge Monday, admitting guilt to the charges (unlawful assembly or public nuisance), rather than having it go to a jury.

The decision "effectively cuts the prosecution and the state" out of the process, Mueller told GoMN, and let them make "candid statements" to the court about why they chose to be on the highway. 

"I think one of the messages that we are trying to send ... is that the prosecution of protests, the prosecution of dissent, especially given the times we're in, is inappropriate," the 28-year-old south Minneapolis resident said. "And protesting on a highway specifically in the effort to make roadways safe for all people, as they are not, as evidenced by Philando Castile, it's an important thing to stand up for."

She also hopes their comments about the unfairness of prosecuting protesters has an impact on later cases.

The four will have a single misdemeanor charge on their record and are on probation for a year – if they're arrested in the next year for a similar charge, they could face up to 30 days in jail, Mueller said.

This was the second round of court cases

Doyle, Heilman, Mortenson, and Mueller make up the second group of demonstrators to head to court over the July 9, 2016, protest. Three pleaded guilty in early August and got a year of probation and fines, FOX 9 reported.

Another 14 will go to trial in the months ahead.

"Two weeks ago Judge [G. Tony] Atwal urged our co-defendants towards moderation and cooperation, but links to white supremacy extend into the highest levels of society," Mortenson said in the release.

He argues that while their actions on I-94 might have "seemed extreme" at the time, they now look more like a "warning" – especially in the wake of President Donald Trump's soft condemnation of recent white nationalist violence.

"We were right: the system didn't bring justice for Philando, and it has protected white supremacy all the way to the horror we saw in Charlottesville last weekend," the Facebook event says.

The release also points out the jokes and threats made online about protesters in the street that suggest they should be run over, comments which have been posted long before Heather Heyer was killed.

There were other strategic factors to pleading guilty as well Monday, including showing solidarity with the others still facing charges for protesting. It also keeps the prosecution from getting a "win," Mueller explained.

"They haven't effectively prosecuted any of us at this point," she said

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