FREE SPEECH ZONE | St. Cloud State’s racist Homecoming history


Recently announced was the decision by St. Cloud State University (SCSU) administration to drop Homecoming as a traditional October event. “St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis, who was a student at St. Cloud State from 1985-1989, said he is sad to see it go.” Kleis added, “Homecoming events had never been a burden on the city or neighborhoods.” (“SCSU decision to scrap Homecoming draws mixed response;” St. Cloud Times, 3/5/2011)

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Maybe Kleis has amnesia or chooses to revise history as another desperate public relations ploy. Both the conservative right wing St. Cloud Daily Times and the more objective University Chronicle reported disorderly SCSU Homecoming incidents yearly. Neighborhood residents complained. It was the “burden” of Homecoming 1988, that prompted Police Chief Dennis O’Keefe to send squads of riot gear-clad cops to north campus where some 50 people were arrested on Friday, 16 October. St. Cloud police were forced to call neighboring community back ups.

Since City Hall, Chamber of Commerce and law enforcement have resorted to concealment, damage control and denials about St. Cloud’s historic reputation for racial hostilities, one can understand why Kleis would not mention the SCSU Homecoming riots of October 1988. 

Based on the combination of blatant community racism supported by similarly racist police, SCSU’s Black students were told (by VP for Academic Affairs Steve Webber, VP for Student Life and Development Dave Sprague, Minority Student Programs director Robert Broadus and Campus Security director Moorthy Pathmanithan) to have their Homecoming dance party in the Education Building’s Cultural Center to avoid police targeting.

At about 3 a.m., officer Raygor responded to a call from the Engineering and Computer Center (ECC) building, according Chief O’Keefe. Supposedly, Black students were seen “climbing in and out of an Education Building window.” The veracity of the caller was questionable because: (a) there was only one window in a room with three doors; (b) the one window was only four inches from a commonly used and fully functioning door directly to the outside; and (c) no door on the Education Building’s north facade could be seen from anywhere in ECC.

Officer Raygor concluded nobody had climbed in or out of any window. About 30 Black students were merely dancing, listening to music and socializing. No signs of illegal substance abuse or use were reported. As Raygor sat in his patrol car completing his report, some 20 cops brandishing clubs and weapons while dressed in full riot gear rushed past Raygor, forced their way into the room and proceeded to attack Black female students Tanya Fagin, Chanda Marshall, Maria McKennies and LaSandra White. Many of those same police had commonly invaded dormitory rooms to interrogate Black male students (while never advising them of charges, investigative reasons, Miranda rights and/or their rights to have campus security staff and/or parents present), Maced several Black male students including Chris Coyour. (“SCSU Black students say riot police were abusive;” St. Cloud Times, 10/21/1988)

Later the same Sunday morning several of the assaulted Black students attempted to file formal complaints at police headquarters against officer Lee Mayavski. They were pointedly told they could not file any complaints. A week later, during aggressive questioning by SCSU students, staff, faculty members and administrators, O’Keefe grudgingly admitted, “My officers had just finished two nights of rioting and were in no mood to take complaints.” Again, SCSU’s Black students were victims of traditional police targeting.   

One defiant SCSU Black faculty member, Myrle Cooper, notified parents of the four assaulted Black female students. However, SCSU’s Minority Student Programs director, Robert Broadus convinced angry parents not to demand an investigation or pursue criminal charges against the police. The parents wanted to avoid further trouble and effectively let St. Cloud’s famously racist police off the hook. Predictably, Cooper convinced Coyour and his mother to sue police.

Cooper enlisted the help of the late noted criminal defense attorney, Doug Thomson. Thomson agreed to provide pro bono services because he was aware of St. Cloud’s history of blatant community racism and police brutality with Blacks systematically kept off local juries. The case was later turned over to attorney Brian Toder, who won the first and only successful Black lawsuit against St. Cloud police. (“Lawsuit settled by former SCS student;” University Chronicle,1/5/1992)

Evidently, mayor Kleis prefers avoidance, denial, fabrication and revisionism concerning SCSU’s Homecoming “burdens.” When police increase patrols and visible presence during Homecoming weekends, there’s a “burden” to tax payers if not cops or Kleis. City Hall’s frantic efforts to conceal and ignore St. Cloud’s racial hostilities plus SCSU’s administrative reluctance to confront city leadership about racism, facilitates continued racism. 

Hallucinations concerning SCSU’s Homecoming disturbances are as absurd as claiming racism and St. Cloud aren’t synonymous. (“St. Cloud’s history of friction with outsiders;” Minnesota Public Radio, 7/30/2010)