The Minnesota Peace Team (MnPT) is holding training sessions for service during the Republican National Convention (RNC). I plan on being in St. Paul with the demonstrators during the RNC. I want it to be as large and as peaceful as possible. So I attended an evening orientation and a full day’s workshop held at Walker Community United Methodist Church on August 8th & 9th.
Active Listening manual, to accompany role-playing training
One of two facilitators, Katherine led in the role-playing and guided the discussion groups.
I am not a theater guy, so I have never done any of the Minnesota Fringe Festival things, yet I think I stumbled into a bit of what I imagine a Fringe event to be like, mainly amateur theater. The training is built around role-playing. The group of around 25 people invited me into “the circle”. They were open and gracious enough to allow me to participate in an observer way, outside their circle. I thank them all. The Theater arts give this studio artist the heebie-jeebies.
The evening orientation was to set up some group ground rules and to define the objectives, as well as to become acquainted with the other people. The stated goal is to be nonpartisan, to protect people on all sides of a dispute from physical violence. Their intent is to not interfere with civil rights, not to protect property, and not to enforce laws. The training is to teach nonviolent techniques to protect life and human rights in potentially violent situations.
Be Mindful. Discernment. Peace Team practices center on individual safety and human rights.
A good deal of discussion was held about various levels of a team member’s willingness to expose oneself to violence. As with their acceptance of my non-participation in role-playing, the group recognizes individual need to limit personal vulnerability. They would welcome any assistance people are willing to extend in terms of supportive staffing. A Peace Team member may be a provider of nourishment or a co-counselor in helping other team members to unwind. There are many ways to contribute, without the need to be in the heat of action.
People make a difference by knitting a fabric of caring in their lives.
Walker United Methodist Community Church proved gracious hosts, with vegetarian options for the provided lunch, and desserts as well.
In the role-playing, the group split into sub groups with some people acting as police, some as peaceful demonstrators, some as agitators / provocateurs, or sometimes as two individuals in an argument, and other members being the Peace Team members, defined with bright yellow vests.
The Peace Team are to be clearly identified in a fluorescent yellow vests and caps, but remain un-affiliated with any but peaceful, non-violent people.
One scenario had peaceful demonstrators, disruptive demonstrators, and a police contingent set up with a prescribed role-playing objective. As they were directed into a confined area, an intentionally surprise situation occurred, exhibiting the abruptness and confusion of an individual act within an already chaotic event. However well planed activities may be, an unplanned event may likely happen. So the training is to provide a safe exposure to similar happenings, and a guide for possible positive reactions.
Some of the role-playing was geared to feeling empathy for other sides, the feeling of being lost and how to regain composure, how to rely on other team members and how it is possible to be connected to and supportive of your team. They will be in clusters of four of five people.
Members of the St. Paul and Minneapolis police made an appearance. The Minnesota Peace Team does not want association with the police or with any protest group. This writer however, was encouraged that there are liaison activities. If enough people on all sides strive for peaceful cooperation, a better chance exists for nonviolent demonstrations. And the Peace Team is willing for dialog with any group or organization with sincere desire for respectful and peaceful protesting.
St. Paul Police Lieutenant Jane Laurence, front, Lieutenant Connie Leaf of the Mpls Police, in back, Mpls Police Sergeant Bill Blake, answered questions and explained some of their perspectives.