Former BLM Member Claims Burning of MN Capitol was Part of Plan

Protesters outside the MN Governor's Mansion. July 8, 2016. Photo Joshua Lott/New York Times

SAINT PAUL, MN – A former Black Lives Matter activist claims that the group threatened to burn down parts of St. Paul, including the governor’s mansion and Capitol building during last July’s Philandro Castile protests.

Trey Turner is no longer a part of the organization, but said he joined the movement during the Jamar Clark 4th Precinct protests because he was alarmed by the shooting and hoped to bring more accountability to the police.  In an interview with Alpha News, he said the 4th Precinct protest was mostly peaceful.  However, things changed during the protests outside the Governor’s Mansion in St. Paul following the police-involved shooting of Philando Castile.  

As Alpha News reported, Castile’s death was livestreamed on Facebook by his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, following the shooting.  After the video aired, hundreds of protesters descended upon the governor’s mansion to protest and demand “Justice for Philando.”

In the video, Turner claims he overheard Black Lives Matter organizers discussing their plans if Police Officer Geronimo Yanez was not charged in the murder of Castile.  Turner says, “During the time that I was out there, I overheard him (organizer Brian Allen) in conversation with other people, saying that if Geronimo Yanez is not charged in the murder of Philando Castile, that they will burn down the governor’s mansion.  And then there was talk as well, about going beyond that and burning down the mansions that are on Summit Avenue along with the Governor’s mansion.”  Turner also claims another organizer, Curtis Avent, talked about burning down City Hall, the Capitol building and the governor’s mansion.  Turner goes on, “These are all things that were mentioned by organizers of Black Lives Matter Saint Paul.”

In the Alpha News interview, Turner said that the former leader of BLM-SP, Rashad Turner (who left the movement in September), was also at the protests, but that he never heard Rashad Turner incite or agitate for any kind of violence while he was out there.

In the video, Turner also discusses the role of white people within the Black Lives Matter protest.  He said the organizers called them “White Allies” and told the black activists to take a White Ally with them when they left the protest as protection from police.  Turner told Alpha News he does not believe in “White Privilege.” However, the white people at the protest did: “Their whole mindset was that ‘we need to use our white privilege to protect these people. We need to use our white privilege to help these people.  We accept we have white privilege and we’re ok – that’s why a change needs to be made because we accept we have white privilege and we need to use it to their (BLM”s) benefit.”

Turner also says that when he disagreed with other members of BLM, he was called an “Uncle Tom,” and that ultimately it was the disagreements between himself and other members that got him ejected from the movement.  One of the disagreements he had with the group was the push by Muslim protesters to get everyone to join them in Islamic prayers.  

“They were trying to get people to join in on the prayers and things like that.  And they tried to talk a couple of white girls into wearing hijabs, but the girls didn’t do it.  But part of why they didn’t do it is because I kind of riled up a little scene out there because they tried to make us do a Muslim prayer.  It kind of riled everything up because I was like, why are you trying to get me to do something for a religion I don’t agree with?  I don’t agree with any of the ideology, why would I take part in that? Which kind of raised up a lot of resentment from people.“
“That was a big part of why I got kicked out of the BLM movement.  I was speaking about more than just the prayer itself, I was speaking about Islam.  And people didn’t like what I had to say.  Because apparently knowing too much about Islam is ‘Islamaphobia.’”

The 27 year old told Alpha News that he comes from an African-American single-parent family. His father is black and his mother is white.  He said when he was 14 years old, he and his father moved from Minneapolis to Burnsville, where he lived for the past thirteen years before recently moving back to St. Paul.  He believes that moving out of the city is why he has a different point of view than most of the other Black Lives Matters activists he met while part of the movement.

Turner’s video has been viewed more than 20,000 times on YouTube and has more than 160 comments.  Most of the comments are positive, but some are critical of his statements and dispute his involvement with the protests.  Black Lives Matter – St. Paul organizer, Corydon Nilsson rebutted Turner’s claims in a Facebook post:

Nilsson states: “Mr. Turner says that organizers from Black Lives Matter Saint Paul talked about burning down downtown St. Paul, Roseville and other surrounding suburbs when in fact, organizers from BLM STP and many other groups were getting together on multiple occasions to figure out ways we could keep the peace in our city and outside. I want to reiterate that we are not here to police anyone’s language but we will not be lied upon.”

In the interview with Alpha News, Turner said he stands by his statements and plans to release more information on his YouTube channel in the future.