Activists with a Black Lives Matter affiliate chapter in Minnesota would feel safer if a sworn officer who last month encouraged his Facebook followers to physically harm protesters was fired. St. Paul Police Sgt. Jeffrey Rothecker, who was put on administrative paid leave after apologizing for his social media post, should be kicked off the force, Black Lives Matter St. Paul said this week.
“We are not surprised that Jeffrey Rothecker is still on paid administrative leave, but we find it detestable that he still holds the title of St. Paul police officer and continues to represent this institution,” the activists said in a statement released Monday, promising to disrupt a popular St. Paul extreme sporting event unless the officer’s employment is terminated. So far, police officials have not ruled out Rothecker’s firing and possible prosecution over his conduct on social media, the Pioneer Press reported.
Black Lives Matter St. Paul has vowed nonviolent shutdown actions at a Red Bull-sponsored event scheduled for Feb. 27 called “Crashed Ice,” which features skaters hurtling down an ice course at the Cathedral of St. Paul. In the four previous years that the event has been held, it has drawn more than 100,000 people to downtown St. Paul, and it netted millions of dollars for local businesses in 2015 alone, according to officials quoted by the Press.
The demonstration would be the latest in a string of Minnesota protest actions by Black Lives Matter, the national social justice movement that grew out of the police-involved deaths of black men and women in the last few years. In December, Black Lives Matter Minneapolis staged protests at the Mall of America and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on one of the busiest holiday shopping and travel days of the year.
Ahead of a planned Martin Luther King Jr. Day demonstration in St. Paul in January, Rothecker responded to a query about traffic congestion around the protest by encouraging motorists who encounter protesters to “run them over.” The officer proceeded to coach motorists on how to ensure they would not be prosecuted for harming activists.
The St. Paul police said it “has a solid track record of being respectful of protests while ensuring that events go on as planned,” according to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal. But police also promised arrests of protesters who planned disruptions at other past public events.