Residents, protesters call for St. Anthony mayor, others to resign

Between the fatal shooting of Philando Castile at the hands of a St. Anthony police officer and the eviction of residents from the Lowry Grove mobile home park, more than 100 people showed up to the June 27 St. Anthony City Council meeting, directing their outrage towards the council.

The meeting drew St. Anthony residents as well as people from elsewhere who angrily called for the resignations of Mayor Jerry Faust and police Chief Jon Mangseth. 

The council meeting — simultaneously a demonstration — happened less than two weeks after officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted of all charges related to the July 6, 2016, killing of Castile, a 32-year-old black man, and just one day after St. Anthony reached a $3 million legal settlement with the Castile family. 

It also came just days prior to the June 30 final eviction of residents from the Lowry Grove manufactured housing community — some of the suburb’s most financially vulnerable and racially diverse residents. The 15-acre property is slated for redevelopment by its new owner.

City officials sat quietly as person after person vented their frustrations. 

Residents said the $2.995 million settlement, being paid to Castile’s family using funds from the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust, acknowledges and emphasizes the city’s liability in Castile’s death.

In addition, people spoke out against giving severance pay to Yanez; the city announced he would be no longer working for the police department following his June 16 acquittal. St. Anthony said in a statement it would be offering Yanez a “voluntary separation agreement” from the police department, which contracts to provide police services to Lauderdale and Falcon Heights. Yanez shot Castile during a traffic stop on Larpenteur Avenue in Falcon Heights. 

Sandi Sherman, a member of St. Anthony Villagers for Community Action, organized the June 27 show-of-force, on Facebook. She told the council that “residents of St. Anthony Village have lost confidence in [the] city’s leadership” and that it was time to “heal and find real solutions to the challenges” the city faces. 

Sherman accused Faust and Mangseth of creating a “culture of bias” in the city’s police department and, with support from the crowd, demanded they step down from their leadership positions.

John Thompson, a friend of Castile’s and a well-known advocate for the Castile family, said at one point during the two-hour comment period that the money being paid to the Castile family was “blood money,” and he reiterated that Faust should quit. 

Lowry Grove residents also showed up. Last year, they attempted to make a counter offer to buy the land they lived on, which, if done according to proper procedure, should have given them precedence over the other buyer, The Village, LLC, according to state law. But according to two court rulings, they didn’t do it correctly. 

Lowry Grove residents and their supporters have been displeased with the mayor and council for not attempting to help. Council members have said they’re unable to assist because the sale of the property was a private transaction. 

Another point of contention raised by residents was when in 2012 St. Anthony officials refused a conditional use permit for the Abu-Huraira Islamic Center in the city, which some in the crowd claimed was motivated by religious intolerance. That situation led to a Department of Justice lawsuit, which was settled in 2014.

The DOJ is, again, involved in St. Anthony, conducting a two-year review of its police department.

The city council seats held by Jan Jenson and Randy Stille are up for election this year; both members ran unopposed in 2013. 

The last contested election in St. Anthony was in 2011. However, it could be different this year, as activist John Thompson said, “We’re coming for your seats!”

As of press time, neither Faust, Mangseth nor other elected officials have responded to the call for their resignations. 

 

Jesse Poole can be reached at jpoole@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7815.

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