Yesterday, thousands of people marched through Minneapolis and gathered outside the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium in the largest protest yet against the Washington NFL team’s name. By police estimates, 3,400 people gathered near the Tribal Nations Plaza, which was built as a tribute to eleven of the state’s tribes. Organizers say as many as 5,000 attended.
The protesters came from as far away as Oklahoma, Montana and New Mexico. More than two dozen speakers from across the country addressed the crowd. State Rep. Susan Allen, the first Native American woman elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives, introduced the speakers; a mix of activists and politicians.
Clyde Bellecort, the co-founder of the American Indian Movement (AIM), told the crowd; “My heart soars like an eagle today, for 45 solid years we’ve been fighting this battle of racism and slurs.”
Representative Betty McCollum said; “We are here to tell the NFL there is no honor in a racial slur. Here in Minnesota, we have 11 proud tribal nations, but only 150 years ago, their ancestors, men and women, elders and children, were hunted and murdered for profit. This was a government-funded policy of genocide. The pain of this brutal and shameful history is still with us.”
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges led the crowd in a chant saying “Change the name!” She them went on to say; “I have a message to the Washington team: The clock is ticking on your name … it is more than an insult. It’s hate.” She also said; ”There is no excuse to not know the damage your racist name does to people.”
Former Governor Jesse Ventura was his typically blunt self; “White people need to learn history. You don’t make a name out of genocide.”
Occupy World Writes stands in solidarity with our Native brothers and sisters. We join in their demand that Washington and the NFL stop using a name that glorifies genocide and is seen by the Native population as a racial slur. All of us who write for Occupy World Writes live in Minnesota. We wear that badge with pride today.