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Mass Arrests in Minneapolis Anti-war Protest

by Meredith Aby-Keirstead |
April 12, 2003
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Demonstrators block doors of Federal Building
Demonstrators blocked doors of Minneapolis Federal Building, as others staged a die-in inside to protest the U.S. attack on Iraq. (Mohammed Hannon)
Minnesota anti-war protest

- On March 25, over 250 protesters gathered at the Federal Office Building in downtown Minneapolis at 7 a.m. for the Anti-War Committee’s rally against the war on Iraq. Protesters then marched through downtown streets to the federal courts building. As they approached the Federal Building, activists peeled off from the march to cover entrances, preventing people and cars from entering the building. While the outside entrances were blocked, activists who were masquerading as visitors did a die-in, blocking the metal detectors inside the building. The march continued to the front plaza, where a legal rally was held in solidarity with the demonstrators doing civil disobedience and with the people of Iraq. 67 protesters were arrested. Police held some for 12 hours.

Civil disobedience is a tactic which is being used in cities across the country, including San Francisco, Portland, New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego and Washington D.C. The same week as the Minneapolis action, 215 people were arrested in New York City and 68 in Washington D.C. alone.

“Civil disobedience has an important place in the history of the United States, through the civil rights movement and the fight against the Viet Nam war. Civil disobedience gives people the opportunity to express a higher level of militancy against U.S. foreign policy to the public and to the policy makers,” said Margaret Schnieders of the Anti-War Committee.

The majority of the demonstrators had never done civil disobedience before. Luce Guillen-Givens, a student at Macalester College in St. Paul, MN explained what motivated her decision, “I participated because I wanted to be part of an action that actually did something, and I think this one did. A lot of people tried to get into the building, and we made some sort of personal impact on them - even if they were angry about it, they were forced to think about the war. That’s one of the larger goals here; to force people in the United States to deal with our foreign policy. It’s too easy to go about our normal, daily routines as if all were well in the world. It shouldn’t be this easy. I really feel that as long as our government insists on committing acts of slaughter against human beings in any part of the world, we need to do everything in our power to impede that process. For every day that the U.S. government fights an unjust and cruel war somewhere else, they’ll have another kind of war to fight here. This shouldn’t be easy for any body of leaders, and I am determined to make it hard for ours.”

On April 3, the adults had their first court appearance. They were charged with trespassing. The governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty, publicly demanded that the demonstrators be forced to pay ‘restitution’ to the city of Minneapolis for the police overtime and for the court costs. The city of Minneapolis attorney’s office offered the protesters a plea bargain. 25 people did not accept the plea bargain and are going to continue to fight their charges. The four juveniles are still waiting to see whether the city will press charges.

Jessica Sundin is with the Anti-War Committee and is fighting her charges. “It’s outrageous that people who are doing CD for their first time are being offered such a stiff deal. In the past, 12 hours in jail would be the maximum penalty for any minor crime associated with political protest. Governor Pawlenty and the prosecutors are pressuring us not to protest the war. What we need is more protests, and more militant protests against this war, and to defend our right to dissent.”

The anti-war movement is increasing its pressure on the leaders on the imperialist countries across the globe. Civil disobedience is one tactic that raises the level militancy directed against the U.S. war on the people of Iraq.