Competing Groups Claim To Be True “Black Lives Matter” At MN State Fair

Black Lives Matter booth at State Fair

Two factions of the Black Lives Matter movement are using two very different approaches to getting their message out at one of the largest state fairs in the country — causing one faction to call the other a “fraud.”

Todd Gramenz says he “created Black Lives Matter” and has set up a booth at the Minnesota State Fair dispensing literature about the movement and selling hats and t-shirts.

St. Paul Black Lives Matter organizer Rashad Turner says the booth that has been set up in the Black Lives Matter name at the fair is a “fraud,” and is organizing a protest outside the fair for this Saturday. Turner is targeting the fair for the protest not only because it draws about a third of the population of Minnesota and is a good place to get out the group’s message, but also because he says the fair does not have enough minority vendors.

Like many other Black Lives Matter groups across the country, the St. Paul group was formed in response to highly publicized shootings of unarmed blacks by police.

Turner says Gramenz is not affiliated with the St. Paul, Minneapolis, “or any other organization” with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Gramenz set up his booth today. He says the group did have to pay for the space. They are selling hats along with t-shirts that have “Black Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter” written on them. He takes issue with Turner’s plans to have a protest outside the fair, implying that it won’t be peaceful.

“Negativity won’t help our youth,” says Gramenz. Previous Black Lives Matter protests that have shut down an interstate highway in Minneapolis and a light rail line running between Minneapolis and St. Paul. Gramenz says those type of actions are “not progress.” He says if the planned state fair protest was “100 percent peaceful, I would honor it.”

Related story: Controversial “All Lives Matter” T-Shirt For Sale At MN State Fair

In media interviews about the possible protest, Minnesota State Fair officials last week said they would make booth space available to the Black Lives Matter group. Turner says the fact that the fair gave it to someone posing as a Black Lives Matter group shows how out of touch the fair is with their issue. “The state fair needs new leadership,” said Turner. “The G.M. (General Manager) has never reached out to me.”

Turner says he knows Gramenz and has wished him the best of luck, but says he is “undermining what we are doing.”

A spokesperson for the Minnesota State Fair says they did reach out to the Black Lives Matter group, but were approached by Gramenz who signed the lease for the booth saying he was with Black Lives Matter. The fair is charging Gramenz the same rent as they do any other booth and he is paying a percentage of what he sells to the fair. The fair spokesperson says their dealings with Gramenz have been “incredibly positive.”

The blue tent canopy booth is located on Underwood Avenue just west of the Food Building.

More photos of the booth and its merchandise.

Black Lives Matter t-shirt at Minnesota State FairBill Sorem

Black Lives Matter t-shirt at Minnesota State Fair

All Lives Matter t-shirt for sale at Black Lives Matter booth at Minnesota State FairBill Sorem

All Lives Matter t-shirt for sale at Black Lives Matter booth at Minnesota State Fair

Black Lives Matter booth at Minnesota State FairBill Sorem

Black Lives Matter booth at Minnesota State Fair

Black Lives Matter booth at Minnesota State FairBill Sorem

Black Lives Matter booth at Minnesota State Fair

Related story:Controversial “All Lives Matter” T-Shirt For Sale At MN State Fair

Michael McIntee

Michael McIntee is a former network TV news executive with more than 30 years of broadcasting experience. He began his broadcasting career at the University of Minnesota's student radio station. He is an expert producer, writer, video editor who has a fondness for new technology but denies that he is a geek. More about Michael McIntee »

Bill Sorem

Bill Sorem is a longtime advertising professional who started with Campbell Mithun and ended up with his own agency. After a tour as a sailing fleet manager in the Virgin Islands he turned to database programming as an independent consultant. He has written sailing guides for the British Virgin Islands and Belize, and written for a number of blogs. In 2010, he volunteered as a citizen journalist with The UpTake and has stayed on as a video reporter.

One thought on “Competing Groups Claim To Be True “Black Lives Matter” At MN State Fair

  1. Sounds very much like this guy is not a “competing group” or a “faction”, but a lone individual disconnected from any actual social movement. Anyone have information to the contrary?

    Anyone who says “I started Black Lives Matter [or any mass movement]” should be regarded with the utmost skepticism, especially when it’s well known that it was three queer black women who coined the phrase.

    What would the fair do if there was a guy claiming to be Sweet Martha’s Cookies but who actually just sold Oreos…?

    Can we get a response to this from actual local organizers? And white folks – come out and show some solidarity with the protest on Saturday, if you can! It’s about a movement, not individuals.