MINNEAPOLIS – Protesters chanting “Black Lives Matter” and hoisting signs shut down Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s rally in St. Louis Park, Minn., Sunday night after occupying the event for more than an hour.
Klobuchar was scheduled to speak at St. Louis Park High School in suburban Minneapolis ahead of Tuesday’s Minnesota primary, which she is fighting to win and notch her first victory. But dozens of protesters entered the gymnasium and took over the stage, shouting for Klobuchar to drop out of the presidential race over the former prosecutor’s handling of a 2002 case. The demonstration prompted her campaign to cancel the event.
The protesters were critical of Klobuchar’s role in prosecuting Myon Burrell, who they say was wrongfully sentenced to life in prison for the fatal shooting of an 11-year-old girl.
Klobuchar was the Hennepin County Attorney when Burrell, who was 16 at the time, was convicted. That conviction was eventually overturned by the Minnesota Supreme Court, but Burrell was convicted again in a second trial overseen by Klobuchar’s successor.
A recent Associated Press investigation detailed numerous potential flaws in the case, calling into question Burrell’s conviction and Klobuchar’s role in overseeing it. Activists have since called on her to end her presidential campaign.
“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,” said Leslie Redmond, president of the Minneapolis NAACP, which helped organize the protest. “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.”
Klobuchar’s campaign manager, Justin Buoen, said he was disappointed at the turn of events that prevented the senator from speaking to voters in her home state two days before they vote in their primary election on Super Tuesday.
“We had a negotiation and had an agreement with the organizers of the protest to meet with the senator onsite,” Buoen told reporters. “She was in the room ready to meet with them and they changed the terms and decided they didn’t want to meet with her. So I’m disappointed that that happened tonight.”
Redmond said protesters wanted Klobuchar to acknowledge their concerns onstage but that the campaign wouldn’t agree.
Klobuchar so far has struggled to garner a diverse coalition of support, earning just 1% of black support in the South Carolina primary, according to exit polling. Fellow Midwesterner and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg ended his presidential campaign earlier Sunday amid similar failures to appeal to black voters.
But Buoen dismissed the protests Sunday as evidence of any broader concerns with the senator’s appeal.
“I don’t know that one event is emblematic of anything,” he said. “I’m disappointed, and hopefully we’re able to do a meeting in the future.”
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Amy Klobuchar: Black Lives Matter protesters shut down Minnesota rally