Falcon Heights remembers Philando Castile with Restoration and Unity days


Mike Munzenrider • A memorial to Philando Castile stands near the spot on Larpenteur Avenue in Falcon Heights where he was killed by a police officer during a traffic stop in 2016. The Falcon Heights City Council passed a proclamation May 23 designating two July days in his memory.

courtesy of City of Falcon Heights • Falcon Heights City Council members and other city officials joined Philando Castile’s family and friends for a photo after the council unanimously passed a proclamation in Castile’s memory May 23.

photo courtesy of Minneapolis Institute of Art • “Why” by Angie Renee, which will be part of the exhibit, “Art and Healing: In the Moment” that opens June 17 at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

photo courtesy of Minneapolis Institute of Art • “Philando Castile,” by Leslie Barlow, will also be part of the exhibit “Art and Healing: In the Moment.”

Nearly two years after Philando Castile was killed by a police officer during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, the Falcon Heights City Council voted unanimously to designate two July days in his memory.

At its May 23 meeting the council proclaimed July 6 as “Restoration Day” and July 7 as “Unity Day,” with members of the Castile family in attendance.

“Whereas, Philando Castile will not be forgotten, that from this day forward, July 6 will be observed as restorative, a day to remember how important it is that each of us cross traditional ‘borders’ between communities, a day to meet someone and get to know someone different than us,” the proclamation says in part.

Castile, a 32-year-old black man, was shot to death July 6, 2016, in his car on Larpenteur Avenue near Fry Street, after being pulled over for a broken taillight and for, according to the officer who killed him, looking like a suspect in a recent armed robbery.

His death set into motion waves of protest that first coalesced at the governor’s mansion in St. Paul and then became a mainstay at Falcon Heights City Council meetings.

The police officer who killed Castile, Jeronimo Yanez, was acquitted of all criminal charges related to the shooting in June, 2017. 

 

‘Moving mountains’

Council member Melanie Leehy explained that the idea for such a proclamation first came from former council member Tony Fischer in April of 2017.

“If he hadn’t have done something, I would have,” Leehy said, “so I was really glad that he, as a council member, wanted to do some acknowledgment for July 6.”

Fischer lost re-election in November, 2017, in the same election that Leehy won her council seat.

“Once I was elected and came on the council, this was a priority item for me,” Leehy said, adding that the proclamation was “a grant of respect to Philando Castile’s family.”

Leehy explained that Restoration Day was about “personal steps of action,” while Unity Day “demonstrates that healing is beginning.”

Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, told the council she appreciated the action.

“I just wanted to say thank you guys for making this proclamation for him, in his honor, because we as a civilization of people have to do better in our relationships with one another,” she said. “We have to love one another more, be compassionate, look out for one another and mainly not be so judgmental just because of the color of someone’s skin.”

Valerie Castile said her son was a martyr, having died to bring different people together.

“Philando is moving mountains and he’s making people come together as human beings in a civilized society,” she said, noting that a Minneapolis Institute of Art exhibition featuring work made in response to his killing opens this month.

 

Roses from concrete

Sue Gehrz, a former Falcon Heights mayor, speaking before the council, said she travels frequently and the people she meets always know about where she comes from. 

“If I ever mentioned I was from Falcon Heights or mentioned Philando Castile’s name, they knew, they had their own views and their own reads on why what happened, happened,” she said.

Gehrz said the proclamation was a way to show the world that Falcon Heights was still a great place, “and you’re not pretending what happened didn’t happen.”

John Thompson, a friend of Castile who became one of the most passionate voices calling for justice after his killing, gave council members his personal thanks and said that the perception of the city is changing.

“People are not so nervous to travel down Larpenteur Avenue because of the work that you continue to do here in Falcon Heights,” he said, referencing that many people, in the wake of Castile’s death, said they felt policing on Larpenteur was over-aggressive and targeted people of color.

“There are roses growing out of the concrete right here in Falcon Heights,” Thompson said, “and I’m excited to see what’s next for the city and I’ll continue to do the work with you.”

Last July 7 was marked by an event remembering Castile on the Falcon Heights City Hall grounds and another event is planned for this July 7, beginning at 4 p.m., to coincide with Unity Day.

Said Mayor Peter Lindstrom, “I know it’s going to be a wonderful evening again this summer.”

 



IF YOU GO: The Minneapolis Institute of Art exhibition featuring work inspired by Philando Castile’s death, called “Art and Healing: In the Moment,” opens June 17 and runs through July 29. It is free and open to the public, with various special events happening during the run.

For more information about the exhibition go to www.artsmia.org. The Minneapolis Institute of Art is located at 2400 Third Ave. S. in Minneapolis.



 

– Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813

 



 

The proclamation in full

The Falcon Heights City Council passed the following proclamation May 23, designating two days in July in memory of Philando Castile:

 

Whereas, Philando Castile was a valued and loved member of his family and community; and

Whereas, Philando Castile was a young man with a full life ahead of him; and

Whereas, Philando Castile was killed in Falcon Heights on July 6, 2016; and

Whereas, that as members of this society, we each carry the responsibility to positively work to eliminate injustices in today’s world and the legacies of past injustices; and

Whereas, there remains work to be done to strengthen trust in Falcon Heights and the surrounding community; and

Whereas, there will not be peace without the pursuit of justice; and

Whereas, segregation of our communities across color is one of the greatest obstacles to becoming a unified community in this nation.

Whereas, Philando Castile will not be forgotten, that from this day forward, July 6 will be observed as restorative, a day to remember how important it is that each of us cross traditional “borders” between communities, a day to meet someone and get to know someone different than us. A day to listen to someone’s story that is different from our own. A day to take steps of humility and forgiveness in efforts to restore connectedness. A day to build a broader and stronger community in service to those too long suffering and in service to a stronger nation and thus be called Restoration Day.

Whereas, the work of restoration has begun, may it be that from this day forward, July 7th will be observed as an opportunity to express unity, and thus be called Unity Day.

Whereas, let us be the ones to take the opportunity to move forwards becoming one individual nation, with life, liberty and justice for all peoples.

Now, therefore, be it resolved by the council of the city of Falcon Heights, Minnesota that this Council proclaim July 6th as Restoration Day and July 7th as Unity Day.

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