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Two arrested blocking hockey game at Saint Cloud tuition protest

By Manuel Berduc |
February 29, 2016
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Students in St. Cloud protest student debt and the cost of tuition
Students in St. Cloud protest student debt and the cost of tuition (Photo by Sam Wagner)

Saint Cloud, MN - 30 students disrupted traffic at a Saint Cloud State University (SCSU) hockey game, Feb. 27, to protest student debt and the cost of tuition. Three weeks ago, members of the People’s Collective (PC) issued the call for a protest, and members of the University of Minnesota Students for a Democratic Society (UMN SDS), Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) General Defense Committee Local 14, as well as high school students from Champlin Park High School all joined in.

The protest demanded an immediate tuition freeze, a decrease in tuition, a $15 minimum wage in all public higher education schools in Minnesota, debt relief and bankruptcy options restored to students, free tuition at every public university in Minnesota for the first two years, and that the Minnesota state budget surplus be used to alleviate tuition costs.

Both SCSU and the University of Minnesota introduced new proposed tuition hikes, something protesters from both universities rallied against.

At the planning meeting, students discussed their student debt, with lower numbers around $20,000 and the highest around $300,000. Leading organizer Luna Gebriel of People’s Collective stated, “It is baffling to me that I don’t have a choice but to put myself through an education in order to have a better life for myself and my family, with a debt that will be hanging over my head for decades. I'm a first generation immigrant and my parents cannot help me pay for my education. I work two jobs and overnight shifts while I'm in school to provide for myself and it’s still not enough. We need change now."

Protesters held off traffic at the Division 1 Men’s College Ice Hockey game between Saint Cloud State University Huskies and Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs for an hour, chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, student debt has got to go,” and “The students, united, will never be defeated.”

As traffic was redirected, protesters split up and quickly moved to block a second entrance to the parking lot, holding up traffic on both sides. Students finally ran to block the entrance doors of the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.

Without issuing a warning, officers arrested two protesters at random, charging them with trespassing and holding them for eight hours. As activists both from Saint Cloud and the Twin Cities called in to the jail to demand the immediate release of the two, phone lines were disconnected.

Baillee Schwint of People’s Collective stated, “No one heard warnings from the police, nor did those arrested hear their rights being read either. Regardless, I think the protest did a good job. We targeted the hockey game because it’s a big investment to our school, yet students are not. We want to see money being used to help students.”

Another leading activist of People’s Collective, Isuru Herath, explained what the protest was about, stating, "The real goal of the disruption was to fight against the capitalist corporate powers running our education. This protest was organized and led by students of color, and as a non-white student I understand that Black and brown folks carry more debt burden than any other group. This protest showed that there is solidarity, and that students want to fight back against corporate profits running our education!”

After the protest, around a dozen students waited until 3:00 a.m. for the two protesters to be released from jail. In spite of his arrest, Matthew Boynton of UMN SDS said, “I'm excited to see people across the state protest in support of lower tuition, increased diversity, an end to overpaid corporate administration, and against student debt. SDS stands in solidarity with students in Saint Cloud. We look forward to working with them again in the future, and we hope this action becomes a precedent for the student movement.”

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