Soon after a peaceful march ended at Duluth’s City Hall on Saturday evening, a handful of people stopped their cars on Interstate 35 to continue protesting the death of George Floyd.

“No justice, no peace,” some yelled, and “Say his name, George Floyd.”

Dozens of Duluth Police Department officers were on the scene, some with face masks and shields, but they largely did not interact with the mostly peaceful disruption.

The traffic stoppage followed a mid-afternoon organized event in which upward of a thousand protesters gathered at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial before parading west to the fountain near the Civic Center. The gathering, like many held this week, was to protest the death of Floyd, a Minneapolis man who died Monday after a police officer kneeled on his neck for nine minutes.

A protester yells at police while taking part of a blockade of traffic on I-35 Saturday evening. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)
A protester yells at police while taking part of a blockade of traffic on I-35 Saturday evening. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

Newsletter signup for email alerts

The interstate protest lasted about an hour before the crowd headed toward Canal Park, then later back to the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial for water. At that point, a protester sprayed “F*** 12” on the ground in front of the installation — slang for “f*** the police.”

The News Tribune saw one crowd member quietly opposing the location of the graffiti.

Rachel Jackson of Duluth drove one of the lead cars that stopped traffic on the interstate.

“I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit,” she said. “I’m a public educator and I feel strongly about peaceful protests.”

Her goddaughter, Sade Jones, 18, rode along.

“It feels like history is repeating itself and it’s never going to change,” Jones said.

A protester spray paints "---- 12" — an anti-police phrase — on the bricks in front of the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial in Duluth on Saturday evening. (Jimmy Lovrien / jlovrien@duluthnews.com)
A protester spray paints "---- 12" — an anti-police phrase — on the bricks in front of the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial in Duluth on Saturday evening. (Jimmy Lovrien / jlovrien@duluthnews.com)

Around that time, the crowd moved toward a construction truck and trailer that was stopped on Fifth Avenue West ramp. Some protesters jumped on top and on the sides of the vehicle.

“I don’t want anybody to get hurt,” Jackson said. “As long as people don’t get hurt, this is important.”

Doug Kman watched the scene from a median, his little silver car stopped in the middle of the road becoming a perch for protesters. At one point he jumped off the wall and went to pound a dent out of his roof.

“Lots of people were on my car,” he said.

Some cars were allowed to pass if the drivers responded favorably to the question: “Do black lives matter?”

One young woman in a red car cruised through easily when she raised her fist in the black power sign.

Patricia Halder, 30, was among the drivers who stopped. She yelled frequent reminders to the crowd.

Protesters walk in the northbound lanes of I-35 on their way to Fifth Avenue West. They blocked the overpass for some time. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)
Protesters walk in the northbound lanes of I-35 on their way to Fifth Avenue West. They blocked the overpass for some time. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

“No violence,” she said. “I’m not black, I’m native — but if we don’t unite, it won’t change,” she said. “When we unite, maybe it will change.”

Two women holding a sign that read, “Justice for George” passed through the I-35 and Fifth Avenue West intersection with cheers from the crowd.

Protesters asked officers to hold their signs, and many remained stoic. The News Tribune saw one officer briefly hold a sign that said, “A thin line between love and hate.”

The crowd stopped at Fifth Avenue West bridge and gathered around about a dozen officers with the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office and more than 50 Duluth police officers, most of them not wearing shields or holding batons.

About 30 minutes after occupying the intersection, the crowd then proceeded onto First Street.

“I came to support the protest of George Floyd’s death. We won’t do like the cities,” he said, referencing the multiple nights of rioting in Minneapolis and St. Paul. “We want it to be peaceful.”