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13 arrested in sit-in at University of MN president's office

By Matt Boynton |
February 10, 2015
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13 people arrested for occupation of U of M presidents office following release
13 people arrested for occupation of U of M presidents office following release from jail. (Fight Back! News/Rachel Bean)

Minneapolis, MN - On Feb. 9, two simultaneous actions occurred on the University of Minnesota campus to demand racial justice and substantive diversity. The protesters’ eight demands can be found here: http://www.fightbacknews.org/2015/2/9/university-mn-students-start-sit-d....

While scores of students rallied outside Morrill Hall, the University of Minnesota’s (UMN) administration building, and listened to speakers from the Department of African and African American Studies, the Social Justice minor, Black Lives Matter, Whose Diversity? and AFSCME 3800, 16 activists affiliated with Whose Diversity? slipped into the president’s office and began an occupation in Morrill Hall. After meeting with UMN President Eric Kaler and other top administrators and being given formal written responses to their eight demands, 13 of the 16 activists were arrested around 7:00 p.m. by the University of Minnesota Police Department (UMPD) on trespassing charges.

According to one of the activists, there were police present in Morrill Hall before the action even began. Both uniformed and plainclothes police appeared prepared for the occupation in advance, indicating a high level of surveillance of campus activists by both UMN administration and the UMPD. When Morrill Hall closed at 6:00 p.m., police gave students the option of leaving the building with citations or facing arrest.

The 13 activists arrested on trespassing charges were told by the UMPD that they are banned from entering Morrill Hall for one year, unless given explicit written permission in advance. While Whose Diversity? was able to bail the 13 out immediately, the activists were still held overnight in jail and weren’t released until 4:30 a.m. on Feb. 10. The court date for the activists is set at 8:30 a.m. on Feb. 24.

Beyond legal action, the 13 activists could face further political repression by the university administration. Last spring semester, 8 Whose Diversity? and Students for a Democratic Society members were given disciplinary letters by the Office of Student Conduct threatening them with punishment, including the threat of expulsion, for their actions in leading protests on campus.

Jesus Estrada-Perez, one of the 13 activists who occupied Morrill Hall, indicated that the next steps in the struggle for racial justice at UMN are to counter any attempts by the administration to spin portrayals of its actions and those of the protesters, and to hold the administration accountable to its promises. On this, Estrada-Perez stated, “The U is spreading tons of misinformation, but remember, as Assata Shakur said: ‘We have nothing to lose but our chains!’”

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