“Minnesota Nice” is not extended to water protectors!

Lake St. bridge between Minneapolis and St. Paul on 1-27-2017. Photo: Screenshot from Fox 9 livestream

Yesterday afternoon, activists gathered on a bridge over the Mississippi River to protest the Trump administration”s executive order concerning the Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines. It took place on Lake Street Bridge, near where Marshall intersects with Lake Street. To those not familiar with our city, this is where Minneapolis and St. Paul meet, over a river that has been polluted by industrial and agricultural runoff to the level that fish consumption advisories are common. The protest was peaceful, with the police shutting down access to the bridge from either direction and redirecting traffic to protect all citizens, including the protestors.

As many of you may know, Occupy World Writes is based in the Twin Cities. When most people think of Minnesota and the people who live there, they usually have two preconceptions about the place. The first is that it resembles the Arctic Circle during the winter (which it occasionally does), and that the people are basically decent, caring human beings. “Minnesota Nice” is one of those catchy phrases that our state tourism departments love, and use to their benefit.

We monitor local actions, on the ground or via social media feeds, where we can also examine different angles and hear perspectives from all sides of an issue. We also monitor the comments to see what kind of reactions the community that’s watching have. We were shocked, saddened and outraged by what we were reading. Some examples:

“Run ’em down!” “Arrest them all!” “Go get a job!” “This is ASSAULT if I can’t drive where I want to!” “It’s all the fault of those BLM people!”

In other words, “WAAH! You’re inconveniencing me! I have to drive a whole two or three miles out of my way! How DARE you!”

“Run ’em down”: Vehicular manslaughter is a crime in Minnesota, as it is in all US states. To cause bodily injury with intent by using a motor vehicle against a pedestrian is also illegal. The protesters were there legally, as proven with the law enforcement officers protecting them.

“Arrest them all!”: In order to be arrested, a person must be breaking the law. These people were protected BY the police, not trying to escape them. Law enforcement understands that 1st Amendment rights and peaceful protests are completely legal. To arrest people for NOT doing anything against the law is an overreach, at best.

“Go get a job!“: Assessing one’s employment status by appearance alone is not a skill – it is a judgement. The activist community around here is the same as it is in most big cities across this country – very diverse. Most are employed; everyone who works, works hard. Some work 2nd or 3rd shift, some work over the weekends and have other days off during the week, and some are retired or full time students between class schedules. When people go to a sporting event, we don’t look at all the spectators and say “Go get a job!” Maybe this what these people CHOOSE to do when not at their jobs.

“This is ASSAULT if I can’t drive where I want to!”: Assault is defined as an intentional act by one person that creates an apprehension in another of an imminent harmful or offensive contact. We have not been able to assess how motorists in cars across the city were “assaulted” by people standing on a bridge.

“It’s all the fault of those BLM people!”: The people we observed in the footage were not African American. They appeared to be a diverse group of white, native, latino and other sects that represent a cross section of the greater metro area. Many of the posters and other supporting demonstration gear was identical to what was seen in Standing Rock and Sacred Stone Camps in North Dakota, where people in the Twin Cities swore their solidarity with the water protectors.

What we observed the most was the total disconnect between what should be an obvious 1st Amendment right being exercised, and the assumption that this was somehow “illegal” and should not be allowed.

It does not seem to have occurred to any of those criticizing this action, that when the Bill of Rights was written, it was done so very methodically, in a certain order, for a reason. You would not need 2nd Amendment rights if you did not have 1st Amendment rights worth defending.

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