Sen. Amy Klobuchar canceled a campaign rally in her home state of Minnesota Sunday night after dozens of protesters occupied the stage for more than an hour, demanding that the Democratic presidential candidate drop out of the race over her past involvement in a controversial murder conviction of a black teenager.
The rally, scheduled to take place at 8 p.m. local time in St. Louis Park, was derailed when protesters affiliated with Black Lives Matter, the Minneapolis NAACP and other civil rights organizations stormed the event, as seen in videos uploaded to social media. Toting signs and banners, the activists chanted “Klobuchar has got to go” and “Free Myon,” in reference to Myon Burrell, who was sentenced to life in prison following the 2002 shooting death of an 11-year-old girl.
A campaign spokesperson told reporters that the rally was eventually canceled after the protesters, who wanted Klobuchar to acknowledge Burrell in her Sunday remarks, refused to leave the stage despite the senator offering to meet with them, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
“The campaign offered a meeting with the senator if they would leave the stage after being onstage for more than an hour,” the spokesperson said. “After the group initially agreed, they backed out of the agreement, and we are canceling the event.”
Questions over Klobuchar’s prosecutorial record, namely her handling of the Burrell case when she was the top attorney in Hennepin County, have dogged the senator since she announced her presidential bid last year. Klobuchar also has faced criticism for declining to prosecute cases involving police accused of using excessive force against black suspects, The Washington Post’s Elise Viebeck and Michelle Ye Hee Lee reported.
Burrell was 16 years old when he was first convicted in the death of Tyesha Edwards, who was hit by a stray bullet while doing homework at her dining room table. That conviction was overturned by the Minnesota Supreme Court, but Burrell was found guilty again following a second trial in 2008 that came after Klobuchar had left the prosecutor’s office. Burrell, his family and activists maintain that he was wrongfully convicted, accusations that have only increased in recent weeks following an Associated Press report that revealed a number of flaws and inconsistencies in the initial police investigation.
“Amy Klobuchar has the power and the influence — if she wanted to actually help us to free him she could, and she doesn’t want to,” Leslie Redmond, president of the Minneapolis NAACP, told USA Today. “This is a tale of two cities. There’s a real distinction between how we see Amy Klobuchar, and it’s because she keeps hiding behind her progressive background or values, but she’s actually not as progressive as she comes across.”
The outrage over Klobuchar’s prosecutorial record was on full display at the Sunday rally in suburban Minneapolis ahead of Super Tuesday — when 15 states, including Minnesota, and one territory will hold their Democratic presidential primaries.
Videos of the event showed tense scenes as the protesters onstage faced off against hundreds of Klobuchar supporters who had gathered inside the gymnasium at St. Louis Park High School to hear the senator speak.
“Black lives matter!” the protesters shouted while people in the audience could be seen waving “Amy for America” signs and chanting, “Amy! Amy!”
LIVE: Dozens of protesters have taken the stage at a campaign rally for Sen. Amy Klobuchar in St. Louis Park.
LIVE: Dozens of protesters seeking justice for Myon Burrell have taken the stage at a campaign rally for Sen. Amy Klobuchar in St. Louis Park. https://kstp.com/news/amy-klobuchar-rally-canceled-myon-burrell-protesters/5661512/?cat=1Posted by KSTP-TV on Sunday, March 1, 2020
An announcement came over the gym’s loudspeaker about 40 minutes after the rally was supposed to begin that elicited cheers from the protesters and scattered boos from the crowd.
“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for coming tonight and for your patience,” the announcer said. “We’re sorry to say that tonight’s event has been canceled. We are sorry for any inconvenience. Please remember to vote on Tuesday.”
Justin Buoen, Klobuchar’s campaign manager, said he was “disappointed” by the cancellation, according to a transcript of his remarks to reporters at the rally emailed to The Post.
Buoen said the campaign had arranged for the activists to meet with Klobuchar on-site.
“She was in the room ready to meet with them, and then they changed the terms and decided that they didn’t want to meet with her,” he said. “Really wish we would have been able to, one, do the meeting, and listen to the protesters but also have the event.”
But the protest’s organizers pushed back against the campaign’s version of events.
Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights lawyer and Black Lives Matter activist, tweeted that protesters “did not back out of a deal to meet with the Senator.”
“We thought that Amy Klobuchar speaking about Myon’s case with Myon’s family onstage was a reasonable request and a good way to let attendees know why we were there,” Armstrong wrote in a follow-up tweet. “Instead of responding to this request, Amy’s team decided to cancel the event. We didn’t know until media told us.”
For the record, Protestors at Amy Klobuchar’s Rally on Sunday night did not back out of a deal to meet with the Senator. We agreed for Amy to meet with Myon Burrell’s family, .@LeslieERedmond @NAACPmpls Prez and me. We also asked that Amy directly address Myon’s case on stage.— Nekima Levy Armstrong (formerly Levy-Pounds) (@nvlevy) March 2, 2020
Redmond told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that it was never the protesters’ goal to shut down the rally.
“We’re disappointed too,” Redmond said.
Klobuchar has struggled to attract voters of color since her third-place finish in New Hampshire last month, The Post’s Amber Phillips reported. The candidate recently came in at a distant sixth place during the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary, garnering just over 3 percent of the votes. According to exit polls, Klobuchar won 0 percent of the black vote in South Carolina.