More than a hundred community members, activists, family members, and legislators gathered at the St. Paul Police Western District office Sunday afternoon to protest the police killing of Yia Xiong.
Xiong, a resident of the Winslow Commons Apartments, was fatally shot by St. Paul police on February 11 after they responded to a call that a resident was threatening others with a knife.
Attendees marched along University Avenue near Hamline Avenue North. Led by Hmong elders, they chanted, “Hmong lives matter!” and, “I’m deaf, don’t shoot!”
Xiong’s family has said the 65-year-old was hard of hearing and didn’t speak English. They also said he fought in the United State’s “Secret War” during the Vietnam War.
It was the second Sunday in a row that protestors have aired their grievances outside the Western District.
Valerie Castile, whose son Philando Castile was fatally shot by St. Anthony police during a 2016 traffic stop, addressed the crowd.
“When you call the police, they don’t come to solve a problem,” she said. “They aren’t coming to negotiate and see what is wrong. There was something wrong. [Yia Xiong] needed help, but they didn’t want to help. That’s too much work for them. They are coming to kill.”
St. Paul City Council Member Nelsie Yang also spoke at the rally.
“There were many officers who could have intervened, and not one person chose to do what is right,” Yang said. “That is exactly why we are here. We are here to fight for justice. We are here to make sure no one dies like Yia Xiong and at the hands of our police.”
The Xiong family is demanding the firing, arrest, and prosecution of St. Paul police officers Abdirahman Dahir and Noushue Cha, as well as accountability for all other officers involved. They are also calling for an independent investigation to be carried out, and for state Attorney General Keith Ellison to lead the prosecution of officers Dahir and Cha.
The family is demanding the public release of all police body camera footage from the incident, police dispatch transcripts, and the names of all officers at the scene.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is investigating the case, has said Dahir fired his police rifle and Cha fired his Taser at Xiong after Xiong ignored police orders and exited his apartment with a knife in his hand.
The case remains under investigation, and there has been no determination whether the officers’ actions were legally justified, or whether they should face criminal charges.
Minnesota state Senator Foung Hawj shared a statement with the crowd from the Minnesota Asian Pacific Caucus, condemning Xiong’s killing and institutional violence. The caucus is calling on legislators to make transformational changes to policing that focus on ending police violence.
The incident has sparked outrage in the Hmong community and has renewed calls for police reform in the state. Hawj promised to work on tightening police reform legislation, and to withhold police funding until meaningful changes are made.
More than 100 community members also gathered at a forum Friday evening to discuss the shooting and call for police reform.