The faces of the Fourth Precinct protest

The Fourth Precinct protest is often presented as a standoff between law enforcement and a small segment of millennial blacks in North Minneapolis. There’s something of an unspoken agreement in the mainstream media that it’s the protesters on trial, not the police. With descriptors like ‘chaotic scene,’ and ‘shouting and taunting bystanders,’ protesters are presented as a frightening horde to readers. This misses the humanity and individuality of the people involved. Even more, it misses the cause, a structural inequality that’s on the mind of many across the country. Continue Reading

What makes protest effective? Conversation with Ricardo Levins Morales [AUDIO]

As the Black Lives Matter movement continues to unfold in Minneapolis, I sat down with activist, artist and writer Ricardo Levins Morales to discuss the ways that make protests effective. Morales immigrated to the United States in the late 1960s, and since has been active in social and labor movements such as working with the Black Panthers and Young Lords in Chicago.

“What your opponents want more than anything is for you to disappear, just go away,” Morales said in an interview.

“The important thing is to have tactics. To do something so that people remain engaged in a way that will continue to engage and educate them.”

Listen to the interview along with photos from the Fourth Precinct (by photographers Uche Iroegbu and Patience Zalanga), historical photos and Morales’ illustrations. Continue Reading

10-year-old pepper-sprayed by Minneapolis Police during downtown protest

Social media videos capture scenes of a police officer spraying protestors. Outraged, some protestors and community members are demanding action be taken against the officer.

Shortly after 10 p.m., videos began to surface showing protesters in the streets marching peacefully. Off camera, a police siren can be heard. Moments later amid screams, you could hear someone yelling, “You just maced a 10-year-old kid.” Continue Reading

Fight for 15: Protest in Minneapolis for increased minimum wages

Protestors in Minneapolis rallied on Wednesday, April 15, on the University of Minnesota campus to demand a $15 minimum wage. Numbering in the hundreds, the group blocked traffic on their march to the Dinkytown McDonald’s where union members, advocacy groups, and supporters demonstrated support for increased wages and fair treatment in the workplace. The protest was part of a national movement that has been called the Fight For 15. Continue Reading

Mall of America v Black Lives Matter: The Difference Between Civil Rights and Free Speech Laws

The Mall of America (MOA) is private property.  So are the other shopping malls in Minnesota.  One may not agree with that legal fact but that is the law in this state.  This means that owners of shopping malls have a right to deny the public access to their property for the purposes of exercising free speech rights but that does not mean they can deny them access on the basis of race.  This distinction seems to be lost in the dispute regarding the trespass prosecution in the “Black Lives Matter” case. Continue Reading

Professors Join Fray Over Mall Protest Prosecutions- Bloomington Responds

University professors and researchers are joining the call for City of Bloomington prosecutor Sandra Johnson to drop charges against organizers of a “black lives matter” protest at the Mall of America in December. The protest was in response to highly publicized police violence against blacks in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City as well as some cases in Minnesota.117 university professors and researchers based mostly in the Twin Cities metro, but some from greater Minnesota signed an open letter calling the plan to charge the organizers “political persecution.”“We are deeply disappointed in the City of Bloomington’s decision to use its considerable power to actually add to the obstacles that are blocking the movement toward a better, more peaceful, and more just society. We urge the City of Bloomington to drop all charges against those who participated in the recent peaceful protest at the Mall of America.” (Full text of the letter is below)The letter comes a day after more than 100 faith leaders signed a similar open letter.Eleven people will appear in court on March 10th for their arraignment on charges ranging from trespassing to disorderly conduct for their attendance at the peaceful demonstration which included nearly 3,000 individuals on December 20, 2014 at the Mall of America.Bloomington City Attorney Johnson issued her own open letter on Tuesday responding to the faith leaders. In it she said “the criminal justice system must look at the conduct not the content of the messages behind the illegal conduct. To approach protest or demonstration cases any other way would result in viewpoint discrimination based upon the popularity of the message with the prosecutor and with the community. Continue Reading

City Of Bloomington? 100+ Faith Leaders Want A Word With You

The City of Bloomington’s insistence on prosecuting organizers of a “Black Lives Matter” protest at the Mall of America is getting more pushback from Minnesota’s religious leaders.A letter signed by more than 100 faith leaders asks City Attorney Sandra Johnson to have a community-wide dialog about race instead of prosecuting people.“The energy you have put into this aggressive prosecution needs to be redirected to a community-wide effort toward open dialogue between our justice system and those who do not receive equal and fair treatment and protection from our current system,” says the letter. “We would like to meet with you at your earliest convenience to discuss these matters.”Eleven people are charged with crimes ranging from trespassing to disorderly conduct for their attendance at the peaceful demonstration which included nearly 3,000 individuals on December 20, 2014 at the Mall of America. The protest was part of a larger nationwide demonstration reacting to police violence against African-Americans.This is the second letter faith leaders have sent to the city. The previous letter was signed by 41 clergy and also asked for the city to stop its prosecutions and invited the city to charge them too. Full text of the letterBlack Lives Matter Minneapolis Faith Leaders Letter of SupportDear Sandra Johnson,We, the undersigned, members of the clergy in the city of Bloomington, write to express our support of the Black Lives Matter movement. As a matter of background, on January 20, 2015, individuals working with the Black Lives Matter Minneapolis group were invited to present to the Bloomington Conference of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Minneapolis Area Synod at our monthly gathering, at which some of the undersigned were present. A representative from the synod office was also in attendance.We did not know what to expect when we invited this group to meet with us. Continue Reading

Mall of America, where civil liberties go to buy

[See original post here: http://www.bluestemprairie.com/bluestemprairie/2015/02/mall-of-america-where-civil-liberties-go-to-buy.html]Bluestem’s editor has been to the Mall of America three times in her life: once to shop in the mid-1990s, once to stop by a bookstore where a friend of a friend worked, and a final time to meet a former student for lunch as he was on his way to Hazelton.Thus, we can’t honestly say we’re boycotting a place we don’t patronize to begin with. Had we enough money for reckless consumer spending, we’d indulge our tastes locally, with purchases of pasture-raised pork or beef raised by family farmers and prints by prairie photographers.Two stories underscore the liberty-loving nature of our shopping preferences, both centered on MOA. First, the complaints brought up against people involved in the pre-Christmas Black Lives Matter protests. Just three days ago, Minnesota Public Radio’s Emily Kaiser looked at that issue in Black Lives Matter: The legal issues behind MOA protest:Black Lives Matter and local civil rights groups have denounced the charges, suggesting their participants are being unfairly singled out. The city attorney is also seeking restitution for the cost of policing the event.”I think the charges and the nature and number of charges being brought are disturbing,” said Bruce Nestor, attorney and member of the Black Lives Matter legal team on MPR News. Continue Reading

“Don’t Buy Miss Saigon” unity rally, in pictures

Artists, organizers, and community members convened in a unity gathering in downtown St. Paul’s Rice Park last Tuesday, to bring attention to what they see as racially offensive imagery and messaging in the play “Miss Saigon,” which was touring at the Ordway Theater earlier this month. A coalition of Asian American organizers and allies have brought together artists, activists and community members over the past several weeks to bring local, and even national, attention to the problematic play. The Facebook page for the event reads, “‘Don’t Buy Miss Saigon’ Coalition has been organizing against the stereotypes and misconceptions perpetuated by the production of Miss Saigon and the fact that it has come back to the Ordway for the third time. The Coalition has created the October 8 event as an opportunity for local Asian Americans and our allies to come together in solidarity and to share our own truth about what it means to be Asian American.”Above are some pictures taken by community organizer, Xay Yang, and the event’s photographer, Anna Min. Yang said the event was very well attended. “It was intergenerational and people were mobilized and energized. The organizers were strategic in their planning and had put in so much passion into this. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | In the aftermath of Zimmerman’s acquittal, racial justice remains elusive

Let’s face it, America has not done a very good job of reconciling its ugly and painful history of racism and oppression against African Americans and other people of color. The predominant attitude seems to be that what happened in the past stays in the past and that history has little to no bearing upon current happenings within our society. Sadly, as illustrated in the tragic murder of Trayvon Martin and in the aftermath of the acquittal of George Zimmerman, this could not be further from the truth. In this case, race played a significant role in the fact that Trayvon Martin, a young African American male, was profiled and stereotyped by Zimmerman as a criminal who was “up to no good,” as he walked in the rain through a gated community in Sanford, Florida.The lingering perception of the Black man as criminal and suspicious has plagued young African American men since the days of slavery and beyond. In fact, throughout the South following the abolition of slavery, laws were created that made standard behavior by Black men a crime and led to high rates of incarceration for that segment of the population. Continue Reading