UMPD officers take down a banner that demonstrators released during Convocation at Mariucci Arena on Thursday.
Four members of the University of Minnesota student group Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) attempted to interrupt Thursday morning’s first-year Convocation at Mariucci Arena by demonstrating during President Bob Bruininks’ welcome speech.
The group blew air horns, threw down hundreds of fliers and unfurled two University of Minnesota banners that had been painted over with political messages.
The banners were dropped from the upper deck box seats, which weren’t accessible to the public during the ceremony.
The demonstrators entered Mariucci a few days earlier in order to prop open doors and make sure they could bypass security, Grace Kelley , who organized the demonstration, said.
Each student had to present a ticket in order to get into the arena.
“We had to infiltrate the building,” Kelley said.
Bruininks never stopped his speech, but did acknowledge the demonstration.
“The University does believe in First Amendment rights and free speech,” he said, “but in an appropriate and respectful manner.”
His comments were met with applause from some students, and the banners were removed by police within five minutes.
“It was intense,” said first-year Ryan Noshay, who was at Convocation. “Nobody was really listening to [Bruininks] for like five minutes. Even the Regents were looking up.”
The demonstrators will not be facing academic discipline, Bruininks said after Convocation.
“Free speech and differences in opinion is what makes this University great,” he said. “I still feel that this Convocation is the best we’ve had in my eight years here.”
SDS is using this demonstration to kick off their “Campaign to Save Our School,” a public campaign designed to unite students against the current administration’s financial policies, SDS member Tracy Molm said.
“Bruininks took a wage freeze, but at $750,000 that’s not saying a lot,” Molm said. “There are clerical workers that are paid $38,000. You can’t support a family on $38,000.”
One sign read: “We pay Bruininks $700,000 per year to lay off thousands of workers.”
Despite the demonstration, Convocation was a great success, Beth Lingren Clark, director of Orientation and First- Year Programs said.
“It’s a great kickoff to the Welcome Week experience,” Lingren Clark said. “The disruption wasn’t even worth mentioning, really.”
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