- Associated Press - Friday, May 1, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Hundreds of people, including many high school students who walked out of school, rallied Friday in support of protesters arrested in December at the Mall of America.

The march and rally at a south-side park and later to downtown also included protests against recent high-profile confrontations between police and citizens, including the Freddie Gray case in Baltimore.

The protests came the same day that several members of the group Black Lives Matter appeared in a suburban courtroom for a hearing related to the arrests at the Mall of America. The group had encouraged students to leave school, and some from Southwest and Washburn high schools did, staging a die-in that briefly stopped traffic on a street near Martin Luther King Park.

Despite intermittent rain, the mood was more festive than angry, the Star Tribune reported. Protesters chanted, rapped, sang and danced as they listened to spoken-word poetry and passionate speeches.

Eliaf Ray, a 16-year-old student from St. Paul Central, told the Star Tribune he came “to stand up for what’s right, (against) the injustice. We want to make a change for everyone.”

Willie Mae Demmings, 83, lives near the park and said she was excited to see the young protesters. So was Lena Gardner, an organizer for Black Lives Matter.

“A lot of the work we do is for them, so that when they’re my age, they don’t have to be out in the streets marching,” Gardner told Minnesota Public Radio. She called the protests against police brutality around the country the start of “the Black Spring.”

As protesters headed downtown for another rally, police officers on foot, bicycle and in squad cars cleared the street for them.

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