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One month after mass arrests, protesters demand all charges be dropped

By Jess Sundin |
December 4, 2020
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Jae Yates speaking at press conference demanding all charges are dropped
Jae Yates speaking at press conference demanding all charges are dropped from the Nov. 4 mass arrests. (Photo by Kim DeFranco)

Minneapolis, MN - About 50 people gathered for a noon press conference on the frontage road above Interstate 94 to demand that charges be dropped against the 646-plus protesters who were arrested there one month ago.

On November 4, 1000 people marched against the triple pandemic of racism, economic crisis and COVID and demanded Trump not steal the presidential election, as part of a national day of protest called by the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. The marchers were surrounded by hundreds of state patrol and other police on the interstate, and 647 people were arrested. Most were charged with misdemeanors, while at least one, Amina McCaskill, was hit with multiple bogus felony charges. Some believe it was the largest mass arrest in Minnesota history. On the frontage road above the freeway trench, more were arrested and brutalized as the Minneapolis Police Department tried to stop neighbors from observing and filming police or from supporting protesters in any way.

Press conference speakers included arrestees and organizers from November 4: Jae Yates of Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar (TCC4J), David Gilbert-Pederson of MN Workers United, Nekima Levy Armstrong of Racial Justice Network, Gabriel Black Elk of Native Lives Matter, Kent Mori of the Anti-War Committee and Toshira Garraway Allen of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence. All of them demanded the November 4 charges be dropped and pledged to continue the fight for police accountability and against racism.

Jae Yates of TCC4J said, “Since November 4, we have organized ourselves for our legal defense, and we and our supporters have signed petitions, made phone calls and joined car caravan protests to demand that charges be dropped. The Minneapolis City attorney has not dropped the hundreds of adult misdemeanor cases, and Mike Freeman’s office has not dropped the charges against minors and nor the bogus felony charges against Amina McCaskill. We are here today to once again demand that all these charges be dropped. And we demand that the political leaders in this city, county and state take a stand against the criminalization of protest, especially in a state where hundreds of murderous police officers have never been prosecuted for their crimes against our neighbors.”

Yates then read from TCC4J’s response to a statement by Governor Tim Walz about the mass arrests. “Since the formation of Twin Cities Coalition 4 Justice 4 Jamar, our demands have been clear. We want officers who commit violence against our communities to face justice for the harm that they do. We want compensation for families who have lost people to police violence. And we demand community control of the police, so we have the ability to self-determine how policing is done in our communities. Those demands have gone unanswered for years, and this summer, outrage boiled over when the torture and murder of George Floyd was captured on camera. Your response to that outrage was overwhelming force, with the National Guard. As yet, you have enacted no meaningful legislation or executive orders to address violent and racist policing. Yet once again, on November 4, you mobilized overwhelming police force to attack a thousand people marching in Minneapolis.”

The TCC4J statement continued, “While we were armed with picket signs and music, we faced off with hundreds of police in full riot gear, pointing their weapons at us. Police on the scene repeatedly took actions aimed at escalating the situation and provoking conflict. While organizers worked hard to keep protesters united, police tightened their cordon, pulled one young protester out of the crowd, brought in their sonic weapon and called on the press to leave. Some police threatened protesters, saying they were Proud Boys, others displaying Three Percenter badges on their uniforms. Some officers were seen wearing thin blue line masks, while others wore no mask at all. Pressing the crowd ever closer together, putting some on tightly packed buses, and removing protesters’ masks under pretense of taking pictures… all contributed towards creating a potential COVID super-spreader event.”

Walz claimed the mass arrest was necessary for the safety of protesters, but TCC4J answered back, “You have not passed any laws to hold drivers accountable for deliberately targeting protesters on roads or highways. You have not ensured accountability for police officers who openly encourage drivers to attack protesters. You have largely failed to arrest or prosecute drivers who have attacked protesters. And even in your statement, you offer a defense of the oil tanker driver who was criminally charged for driving into protesters on I-35W earlier this summer. It’s hypocritical to cite any safety concerns with our protests, while you allow armed, unmasked racists Trump supporters to party on your front lawn immediately after you announced new restrictions on gatherings. Why were they not arrested for their safety?”

TCC4J and other organizers will continue organizing in defense of the arrested protesters, and continue building the movement against police violence, racism and injustice.

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