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Decision soon on charges for I-94 protesters; union leader slams Dayton

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St. Paul's city attorney will decide by the end of the day whether to charge any of the 50 protesters arrested during the shutdown of I-94 on Saturday night.

The freeway was closed for hours as protesters marching over the police shooting of Philando Castile were confronted by officers and state troopers in riot gear late Saturday, with the road eventually cleared and re-opened at 1 a.m.

Fifty protesters were arrested on suspicion of third-degree riot as the protest descended into clashes with rocks, concrete blocks, fireworks and bottles thrown at police, who responded with smoke bombs, flash bangs and pepper spray.

St. Paul City Attorney Samuel Clark says a decision on whether some or all of them will be charged will be made "as soon as possible" ahead of the 10 p.m. Monday deadline at which point they must be released without charge.

"Over the weekend, rioters endangered others when they stormed Interstate 94, refused to follow more than two dozen orders from law enforcement officers to leave the freeway, and instead opted to participate in an incident that developed into a full scale riot," Clark said.

"My team is currently reviewing evidence from the event, including police reports, photos and video to determine whether or not there is sufficient evidence to charge at this time," he added. "We will make that initial determination as soon as reasonably possible and before the 10 p.m. deadline by which those arrested can be held without being charged."

The same night, St. Paul police arrested another 52 protesters marching through city streets following the I-94 shutdown. They were booked for public nuisance and unlawful assembly and released pending further action.

A protest held outside St. Anthony Police Station on Sunday passed off much more peacefully.

Union chief: Dayton comments 'reckless'

Meanwhile, Sean Gormley, executive director of the Law Enforcement Labor Services Union, has criticized Gov. Mark Dayton for saying that Castile might not have been shot if he were white.

In a comment reported by KARE 11, the union says Dayton's statement on Friday disregarded the investigatory process and shared a "premature and unsupported conclusion about the shooting" just hours after Castile's death, a move he called "unthinkable and irresponsible."

Because of the subsequent fatal shooting of five police officers in Dallas on Friday, and the tense protests seen across the nation including in Minnesota since then, his comments could "also be viewed as reckless," he added.

Gun rights advocate had warned St. Anthony Police

A professor of law emeritus who helped draft the state's firearms permit law says he warned the St. Anthony police chief about the way his officers were handling traffic stops.

Joseph Olson, who is the chairman of the group Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance, says he was pulled over two years ago for running a red light in Falcon Heights by a St. Anthony police officer.

He told ThinkProgress he put his hands on his wheel and waited for the officer by his window when he heard a voice behind his head.

"I heard this voice with a tremor of fear in it," he told the website. "Actually, it scared me. Is this a scared cop?"

Olson said his SUV had tinted windows and as such the cop couldn't see him very well. The whole interview was conducted through the rear view mirror and because of the darkened windows, Olson said he "could've had somebody sitting in the back seat with a rifle" and the officer wouldn't have known.

Olson raised these concerns with the recently departed St. Anthony police chief John Ohl, telling him "I think you have a training problem, and if you don't fix it, you're going to have a bigger problem."

He said however, that his concerns were dismissed.

The Star Tribune tried to contact Ohl about Olson's comments, but was unable to reach him. Olson did tell the newspaper that that the officers involved in the shooting of Philando Castile were not the ones who pulled him over.

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