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Philando Castile

Taking the ‘moral high road’ in St. Paul

Officials promise support for Diamond Reynolds and daughter, hope for calm

In the moments she stared down the barrel of a police officer’s gun as she broadcast the aftermath of the shooting death of her boyfriend online, Diamond Reynolds demonstrated tremendous poise. In fulfilling the numerous media demands that followed, Reynolds has for the most part exhibited strength in her demands for justice.

But as she sat alongside the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton last night during a meeting in St. Paul, a weary Reynolds gave hints at how much last week’s tragedy has taken its toll.

“Me and my daughter are going to need counseling,” Reynolds admitted during a meeting with church and community leaders from the Twin Cities region. “My daughter is having a hard time sleeping. She’s having a lot of nightmares.”

Jackson and Dayton promised long-term support for Reynolds and her 4-year-old daughter, Dae’Anna, who both watched in horror as Philando Castile was mortally wounded by a police officer during a traffic stop Wednesday in the St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights.

The vow to provide aid to Reynolds, who works as a hotel housekeeper, according to her Facebook page, came during a nearly two-hour meeting at the Golden Thyme Coffee and Cafe in St. Paul. As the group of about 20 ate gumbo and jambalaya, Jackson and Dayton gave assurances that Dae’Anna, who comforted her mother after the shooting, would have a fund that she’ll be able to access when she turns 18.

“The state of Minnesota will offer all available support for Diamond,” Dayton said. “In the midst of this tragedy, I’ll do whatever I can to help make that happen.”

Before the meeting at the cafe, Jackson visited protesters outside of the governor’s mansion in St. Paul, which has been the scene of mostly peaceful demonstrations following Castile’s death. Jackson said he hoped that the gatherings would remain calm in the aftermath of the shooting deaths of five police officers following a demonstration in Dallas. There were tense demonstrations Friday night in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where police were videotaped earlier in the week shooting to death another black man, Alton Sterling, and in Atlanta.

“Our strategy is to take the moral high road,” Jackson said. “Our strategy is not sniper fire and terrorism.”

Much of the calm in Minnesota has been attributed to a statement by Dayton, who said during a press conference on Thursday that race likely played a factor in Castile’s shooting.

“Would this have happened if those passengers, the driver were white?” Dayton asked. “I don’t think it would have.”

Spike Moss, who has been a community activist in the Twin Cities region since the 1960s, praised the governor Friday night for his strong stance, which has drawn criticism from a national police organization.

“I was deeply touched that the governor would come out and acknowledge racism,” Moss said. “By doing that, it sends a strong message to the people of the community.”

How long that message is able to keep the Twin Cities region calm remains to be seen. The officer who fired the fatal shots, identified on Thursday as Jeronimo Yanez, has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.

But in the 148 cases in Minnesota where people have died at the hands of police, not a single officer has been charged, according to the Minneapolis StarTribune.

Jeff Martin, president of the St. Paul chapter of the NAACP, was among several community members who held a separate meeting yesterday with Falcon Heights mayor Peter Lindstrom.

“There were some people who demanded changes with the police department,” Martin said. “I’m not sure what other groups plan to do. It’s just important that anything that happens remains nonviolent and well-organized.”

As the participants cleared out of last night’s meeting at the cafe in St. Paul, Reynolds lingered behind. She hadn’t wanted to eat during the gathering and spooned gumbo into a bowl from the still simmering pot and grabbed a seat at the now-empty table.

She was pleased with the outcome of her meeting with Jackson and Dayton.

“It’s very important to meet with people like this,” she said after eating. “If these people don’t stop and listen and hear our voices, then who’s going to stand up for us?”

Jerry Bembry is a senior writer at Andscape. His bucket list items include being serenaded by Lizz Wright and watching the Knicks play a MEANINGFUL NBA game in June.