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Archive for November, 2015

Students for a Democratic Society at the University of Minnesota demands justice in the violent attack perpetrated against Black Lives Matter protesters at the 4th Precinct in North Minneapolis on November 23, 2015. The attack perpetrated by masked gunmen attempting to intimidate protesters demanding justice for Jamar Clark left 5 victims injured by gunfire. This attack by white supremacists must be understood as an example of the legacy of white supremacist terrorism that has plagued the United States since its inception. Racist attacks such as these, whether perpetrated by individuals, organizations or the state will not deter further resistance to the institutional, structural or individual racism in America today. We will not let acts of violence prevent us from standing up and fighting back against racism in our community. We demand justice!

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UMN SDS stands in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, the NAACP, and the community of North Minneapolis demanding justice for Jamar Clark.

Clark, a 24 year old African American, was shot in police custody outside the Elk’s Lodge at the intersections of Plymouth Ave and James in North Minneapolis in the early morning hours of Sunday November 15, 2015. Family members and witnesses report he was laying down on the ground not resisting arrest when he was shot execution style in the head.

According to the NAACP he was shot in front of dozens of witnesses who were sprayed with mace and had guns drawn on them in the wake of shooting.  He was pronounced brain dead at a local hospital and was taken off life support on Monday after his family had time to gather.

Immediately Sunday night protesters gathered at the 4th Precinct in North Minneapolis, only blocks from where the incident took place. The protest quickly turned into an occupation of the precinct, demanding that the video of the confrontation be released publicly and that the responsible officers be brought to justice. In addition the protest has demanded immediate independent investigation, independent civilian oversight of the police, and police having to live in the local communities they serve have been demanded.

Since it has been learned that the officers involved, Officers Mike Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze have faced lawsuits in federal court. Schwarse was accused in 2009 of forcing a man to become an informant through false arrest. Riggenberg was involved in a 2012 lawsuit which accused him of  using excessive force in an arrest.  None the less both are considered “exemplary” and have never received disciplinary action. It has also been revealed recently that Clark was in the midst of filing a lawsuit against the Minneapolis police department.

Plymouth Ave has been the center of historic struggle for the African American community over the past century. In 1922 after three nights of unrest a group calling itself the National Equal Rights League issued a call to action at the Elk’s Hall. The primary demands of the group were around justice and law enforcement.  In 1966 residents took over a building on Plymouth Ave and established The Way, which was aimed at calming the neighborhood in the wake of unrest, disturbance and disillusionment. The 4th Precinct today stands on the location of the site of what had once been The Way. In 1967 violence erupted after an incident between two African American Women and Minneapolis Police at the cities annual summer Aquatennial Parade. Unrest in that incident moved to Plymouth Ave which was a main thoroughfair of local business and social life. Hundreds took to the streets and violence erupted between police and local residents. Over a dozen businesses were destroyed in the unrest and the National Guard was used to quell the unrest. As protests continue today at the 4th Precinct on Plymouth Ave, there are still echoes of this past.

On the night of Monday November 16, hundreds of protesters took to the streets and marched to nearby Interstate 94, where a mass act of civil disobedience shut down traffic for hours on one of the busiest highways in the state. In all 43 adults and 8 juveniles were arrested as hundreds more continued to march chanting “Hands-Cuffed, Don’t Shoot!” On the night of Wednesday November 18th police moved to clear the well-organized occupation camp that had set up around the entry of the 4th Precinct. Police dressed in military gear, heavily armed, and swept methodically through the camp to push protesters out.

Mayor Betsy Hodges has remained all at once committed rhetorically to “justice” but also keeping the investigation out of the public eye by refusing to release the tapes of the killing and allow police to manipulate the narrative. While Mayor Hodges publicly claims that she cannot do anything to tamper with the investigation, her police chief and the police union actively spread propaganda and fear by making unsubstantiated claims of protester violence. The union leadership has meanwhile spread claims that Clark had been going for the officers gun when he was shot. In these efforts to sway public opinion and establish a cover-up for their officers without any transparency or any effort to release documents proving any allegations, future jury pools are being tainted. In both the mayor and the police leadership we can see that politicians will not help provide answers nor will they aid in efforts for justice.

Justice for Jamar Clark will only come from the demands of people standing up and fighting back. The protests this past week have already caught the eye of the international media, and already politicians like are starting to reach out to show support, in response to the ongoing struggle. We as SDS are committed to being in the streets fighting side by side with the community of North Minneapolis, the NAACP, and Black Lives Matter as they wage the struggle for justice for Jamar. We cannot be silent, we will not be silent, and we will not stand down. When our communities of color are under attack, we stand up and fight back!

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Dear President Kaler and the Board of Regents,

Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) is writing to voice our opposition to the ongoing sexual harassment and abuse of women and queer and transgender people that has been pervasive on this campus for a longtime, but has just this semester began making headlines. The University administration’s lack of serious action on this issue demonstrates to us that it is not only NOT taking these issues seriously, but also contributing to the culture of rape on our campuses. With the flood of recent headlines about sexual violence at the U of M, SDS and the undersigned call on the administration to demand accountability for their personnel and a zero tolerance policy for sexual assault.

The actions by members of the University community that have been broadcast in recent headlines are troubling to SDS and to students in general for two main reasons:

First, the assaults and harassments have held up an already-pervasive rape culture that exists on college campuses around the country. The University of Minnesota’s athletic department’s lack of action regarding the recent behaviors of football players, both in groups as well as individually, has only supported the wide-spread and disturbing trend that men are entitled to do whatever they want, regardless of the consent or non-consent of other parties involved, with little to no consequence. While the U’s recent passage of the Affirmative Consent Policy is a step in the right direction, SDS demands the administration’s policies reflect its rhetoric.

Second, SDS has advocated for lower tuition for many years, (with the 2013 tuition freeze evidence of our struggles). It adds insult to injury for students who are, each year, taking on more and more debt, when we realize that the UMN administration is knowingly hiring perpetrators of sexual violence and paying them large sums of money. For example, the search committee that hired Norwood Teague to be Athletic Director had documented evidence of a history of sexual harassment, but the administration chose to hire him anyway. Teague got $422,000 per year to come to the U to harass women. SDS stands against this gross misappropriation of our tuition dollars. It is horrendous that while our tuition continues to skyrocket, and administrators continue to line their pockets with raises and bonuses, they hire harassers like Teague.

SDS demands accountability from the administration for hiring perpetrators like Norwood Teague. Additionally, SDS demands further accountability of people in position of great influence over the student body, such as Coach Jerry Kill. Coach Kill seems to think that simply reporting incidents of sexual violence as they come up exempts him from further responsibility for the appalling behaviors of his football players. These behaviors set examples for the wider campus community. Coach Kill, as a very public representative of the U of M, is paid $2.5 million, and has a responsibility to this community to take a proactive stance against the sexual violence perpetrated by his football players.

SDS stands in solidarity with the victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault on campus and joins them in demanding accountability from university leaders and administrators. It is not enough to simply report incidents up the chain of command without addressing the larger problem. If the University chooses to continue ignoring the allegations its players and high-ranking administrators are facing, it would be at a serious detriment to the safety and well-being of our campus community, thereby perpetuating the culture of rape on campus. Students, staff, and faculty stand up for our university.

Students for a Democratic Society at the University of Minnesota
Amnesty International – UMN
Whose Diversity?
MPIRG – Task force against sexual violence

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