By Marisa Helms
ST PAUL, Minn. (Reuters) – Several hundred protesters from the Black Lives Matter movement marched to the Minnesota State Fair on Saturday to bring attention to race issues ranging from policing to underrepresentation of minorities at one of the nation’s biggest state fairs.
The mixed-race crowd, including senior citizens and children, chanted slogans along the 1-1/2 mile route and briefly lay down on a bridge south of the fairgrounds.
“There’s a cliche that Minnesota is nice to everyone, but that’s not the case for people of color,” said 51-year-old marcher Tim, who did not want to give his last name because event organizers said they had received death threats.
“As a white person I want to be vocal about that … This (protest march) is a small inconvenience to state fair traffic compared to what people of color experience every day,” he said.
Fairgoers stopped to take photos of the marchers, organized by Black Lives St. Paul.
“We’re disturbed on a day-to-day basis. We don’t mind disturbing the status quo for one day,” said Trahern Crews, 40, an event organizer who is running for a seat on the St. Paul City Council.
Black Lives Matter, a decentralized national movement against racism in policing and the justice system, gained momentum last year during protests over police killings of unarmed black men.
The group also pressures 2016 presidential hopefuls to address issues such as mass incarcerations of African Americans.
St. Paul police put on extra staff for the march, which grew louder as it neared the entrance of the fair, which attracts up to 1.8 million visitors over its 12-day run each summer.
On Friday, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton said that while he understood the interest of the demonstrators, taking their protest to the fair is “inappropriate.”
The demonstration is expected to stay outside the fairgrounds due to a state restriction.
Rashad Turner, organizer of Black Lives St. Paul on Friday reminded protesters to remain peaceful. “Our opponents will claim victory if they push someone over the line. I don’t know about you, but let’s not give them the satisfaction.”
(Editing by Fiona Ortiz and W Simon)