Mayor Chris Coleman promised Wednesday that St. Paul's plans to host the Red Bull Crashed Ice world championship this month will not be disrupted by protesters aligned with the group Black Lives Matter.
"This event will go on as planned," Coleman said in a statement.
Last week the St. Paul chapter of Black Lives Matter announced plans for a Feb. 27 peaceful protest to shut down the skating competition, which typically draws more than 100,000 people during its two-day run in front of the St. Paul Cathedral.
Black Lives Matter has issued a list of demands, topped by the firing of St. Paul Police Sgt. Jeffrey Rothecker, who posted a Facebook comment last month encouraging drivers to run over the group's protesters and offering advice on how to do so without getting arrested. Rothecker has admitted writing the comment and apologized for it.
'Just like State Fair, Marathon'
St. Paul's Black Lives Matter chapter demonstrated at both the Minnesota State Fair and the Twin Cities Marathon last year. The group initially said it would shut down the Marathon but after a City Hall meeting with Mayor Coleman, leaders changed tactics and held a rally that did not disrupt the race.
Coleman referenced those protests Wednesday, saying: "Just like the Minnesota State Fair and the Twin Cities Marathon, this event will go on as planned. Our law enforcement in Saint Paul is expert at protecting both demonstrators’ First Amendment rights and the public ."
As for the demand that Rothecker be fired, Coleman said “I understand and share the outrage and disgust at the allegations of the officer-involved threat made on social media." But he noted that both federal and state employment laws forbid an immediate dismissal.
A complaint about Sgt. Rothecker was filed with St. Paul's police-civilian review board and is being investigated. The board's recommendation will be sent to Police Chief Thomas Smith, who will decide what disciplinary action, if any, is warranted. Rothecker will then have a period of time to appeal the decision. Coleman says the entire process could take up to a year, during which he is forbidden by law from discussing the case.
The sport is officially known as ice cross but Red Bull sponsors a professional tour it calls Crashed Ice. It's said to have been born when a couple of Scandinavian daredevils tried skating down a luge run.
Organizers say the course in front of the Cathedral takes skaters on a 12 story drop over its 500 meter length.
Last winter 140,000 spectators attended the two-day event. Coleman noted the expectation that crowds will be even larger this year when, for the first time, St. Paul is hosting the world championship.