UMN, Support Arrested Students & Staff!
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On November 4th, SDS led a contingent of University students to participate in the Post-Elections protest called for by the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar and endorsed by many of the people’s movements in the city. This protest was held to fight for community control of the police, to stop police crimes and housing evictions, to provide economic relief for the unemployed, to have healthcare for all, for the end of racist attacks and harassment on immigrants and Asians, and to count all of the votes to stop Trump from stealing the election.
Despite the completely peaceful nature of this protest, we were met with an overwhelming police response. As we took to interstate 94, which is historically a common practice for political demonstration, we were surrounded or “kettled” by hundreds of police officers, state troopers, and national guardsmen on all sides. Although we were nearly to the off-ramp exit, we were not allowed to calmly disperse as the police force immediately called for our arrest for unlawful assembly. During the next 5+ hours, all 646 protesters waited on the freeway in fear of violence and arrest as each was individually charged.
It cannot be understated that this protest was NOT intended to be an arrestable action by the organizers involved. The practice of shutting down traffic on I-94 and other interstates has been a long held tradition, meant to disrupt the everyday function of a city in order to draw attention to the severity of the issues at hand. We had safely secured the interstate with dozens of marshals and were about to successfully exit after only being on the highway under ten minutes between one on and off ramp. This practice has never before been met with such severe repression.
This group of protesters was made up of children, teenagers, the elderly and hundreds of people who had no previous experience with political arrest. Dozens of University of Minnesota students, primarily undergraduates, as well as campus workers from unions such as AFSCME 3800, were involved and arrested. We were not given access to bathrooms, nor necessary food, water or medical supplies beyond what some individuals had on hand. But this did not matter to the hundreds of police officers intent on arresting every single last protester, acting directly under the order of Minnesota Governor Tim Walz.
These events reveal several alarming developments. The police in our cities have the resources to suppress people’s movements all across the country. The right to protest and be heard is not something that simply exists unabated; it must be continuously fought for and won. This is why we must fight for the charges to be dropped against protesters.
Macalester College’s president Suzanna Rivera has not only acknowledged the significance of the November 4th arrests, in which a number of her students were involved, but has promised to pay their fines, stating that the right to protest should not be reserved for those who can afford to do so. Where is the response from the University of Minnesota administration? We are waiting to hear from you and your silence is deafening.
We are asking all students, faculty and staff of the University of Minnesota community to join us in this fight. We are calling for University President, Joan Gabel and Regents Kendall J. Powel, Steven A. Sviggum, Thomas J. Anderson, Richard Beeson, Mary A. Davenport, Kao Ly Llean Her, Michael D. Hsu, Mike O. Kenyanya, Janie S. Mayeron, David J. McMillan, Darrin M. Rosha & Randy R. Simonson to speak up after remaining silent during the past few weeks on how their police department, UMPD, were sent to aid the arrests of their students and faculty members. We also demand that the University administration establish a CPAC (Campus Police Accountability Council) to perform oversight on the UMPD which will give power back into the hands of the community. The UMPD has proven time and time again to be a source of harm to our Black and brown students, as well as the surrounding communities. We demand student and worker driven oversight of the organization that claims to protect us, but fails to do so. If the University of Minnesota claims to stand behind the values of the Black Lives Matter Movement, then they absolutely must stand behind their students and staff that do.
Dare to struggle, dare to win,
Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)
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