St. Paul, MN – On July 28th, 2017, at Ramsey County Attorney John Choi’s office, supporters of Louis Hunter handed over 1,000 signed postcards to authorities demanding that the charges against Louis be dropped. Philando Castile’s cousin and father of four, Louis Hunter, has been facing two second degree felony charges for over a year now.
These charges come from July 9, 2016, a night of high tension, mere days after the high profile killing of Philando Castile by police officer Jeronimo Yanez, where thousands of protesters marched onto Interstate 94 in St. Paul.
Unicorn Riot was live to cover the action:
In over five hours of the Interstate being shutdown from Hwy. 280 to downtown St. Paul, police say 16 officers were injured in minor clashes that left 46 people charged with unlawful assembly, misdemeanor public nuisance, and third-degree riot. In the police complaint, Louis is alleged to have thrown construction debris and rocks at the police, he has denied this act and has admitted that he was at the protest. Louis is the only person being charged with a felony.
Watch video spotlighting some of the police attacks on the crowd of community members seeking justice for Philando during the night of July 9, 2016:
Unicorn Riot was live throughout the night of July 9, 2016, watch the livestream below:
Fifty eight community members, who were charged with crimes during Philando Castile protests, have pledged solidarity with Louis Hunter and have decided to not take any plea deals until Hunter’s charges are dropped. In January of 2017, Judge Atwal threw out third-degree riot charges on all defendants from the July 9, 2016 protest for lack of evidence.
Two months ago, a judge ruled against Hunter’s attorney Timothy Phillips when a motion was made to drop the charges. Although Ramsey County District Court Judge Leonardo Castro presides over Louis Hunter’s case, due to a conflict of interest, Carver County Assistant Attorney David Hunt, is the prosecutor.
“Though he hasn’t been found guilty, he’s already been negatively impacted by the arrest and charges. He was evicted, forced to move, and is still in search of decent housing; and, his work vehicle was confiscated, undermining his ability to make a living.“
Further statements on the support page read a brief description of Louis’ case and what has transpired in the last year:
“Last summer, Louis Hunter stood up against the police murder of his cousin, Philando Castile. Thousands protested, but only Louis faces serious felony charges in connection to the protests. Louis is fighting this injustice! He needs your support as he fights for his own freedom, for Philando, and for all black lives.
Louis is a loving father of four, a landscaper, and an active member of his church. When Philando was murdered, Louis rose in resistance along with thousands. He marched on I-94, demanding justice. And, like many that night, he chose to leave of his own accord rather than risk arrest.
During the protest, people channeled righteous anger in different ways. For some, this included throwing things at the riot police sent to repress the protest; this was not Louis. He demonstrated on the freeway, then went home without engaging the police physically. But with the police anxious to punish someone for the protest, it didn’t matter.
To Louis’ shock, police surrounded his vehicle and arrested him the following day. He was interrogated and charged with two counts of felony riot. They impounded his truck, leaving him unable to work. His family was evicted as a result.
While the media has reported sympathetic stories about the strain on Officer Yanez’s family as a result of his murder of Philando, they aren’t talking about the hardship Louis’ family faces merely because he attended a protest.
The allegations against Louis keep changing. First, a 911 caller claimed that someone getting out of Louis’ vehicle threw a molotov cocktail onto I-94; the caller was later unable to identify Louis in a photo line-up. So prosecutors dropped that claim, instead accusing him of wielding a board against police. Finding no footage to support this, they shifted again, to vague allegations of riotous behavior. The ‘evidence’ the prosecutors are relying on is police testimony, and even that is inconsistent – as the prosecutor himself has intimated in open court.
Louis was recently offered a deal: plead guilty to gross misdemeanor riot, to be sentenced as a misdemeanor. This apparently “generous offer” is the result of their weak case. But even though the system is designed to punish those who take their case to trial, even though he takes a serious risk, Louis refuses to plead guilty to something he didn’t do.
In pursuing these vindictive charges, Ramsey and Carver County authorities have heaped pain upon pain for the Castile and Hunter families. Even worse, Louis could be the only person to serve time as a result of Philando’s murder. While Officer Yanez walks free with blood on his hands, Louis faces ten years in prison for going to a protest.
These charges are an attempt to silence and punish dissent in response to a profound injustice. We must stand in solidarity with Louis!”
For more media surrounding the Philando Castile case, check out our archives, here.
By Niko Georgiades
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