Dozens of I-94 protesters see their riot charges dropped

Dozens of people were arrested after demonstrators marched on I-94 in St. Paul, following the fatal police shooting of Philando Castile.
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Dozens of people that marched on I-94 after the death of Philando Castile, blocking traffic on the highway and leading to tense clashes with law enforcement, had riot charges against them dropped.

A judge Wednesday threw out the third-degree riot counts against 38 of the protesters, the Star Tribune reported.

A few attorneys on Facebook shared the news as well, including Bruce Nestor (who noted the defendants' legal team included members of the National Lawyers Guild, ACLU, and other private attorneys) and Steven Appelget (who said he represents some of the defendants).

The group 94 Friends – whose goal is strictly to raise money for attorneys who do legal work for protesters – also wrote about the decision.

Here's one of the orders, if you want to read about the judge's decision in detail.

Hundreds of demonstrators marched along the highway in St. Paul on the night of July 9. Rocks and other debris were thrown at officers, and more than a dozen of them were injured. The State Patrol said it arrested 50 people on the highway; others were arrested off the highway.

The judge Wednesday said there wasn't enough evidence to meet the minimum standard for probable cause that could lead to charges, Nestor wrote. The law requires someone to actually engage in an act of force or violence – not just be near other people who are doing so.

Third-degree riot is a gross misdemeanor, and can result in a penalty of up to a year in prison, or up to a $1,000 fine.

Nekima Levy-Pounds, a former attorney and local NAACP leader who is now running for Minneapolis mayor, called the dropped charges a "major victory."

The protesters are still facing less serious trespassing charges, and were expected in court Thursday.

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