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March on Minneapolis city attorney home demands dropping charges against 646-plus arrested protesters

By Jess Sundin |
October 19, 2021
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Minneapolis march demands dropping charges against the 646 plus demonstrators
Minneapolis march demands dropping charges against the 646 plus demonstrators arrested last November. (Photo by Jazmine Hall)

Minneapolis, MN - On Saturday evening, October 16, 300 people marched through Uptown Minneapolis to the home of the city attorney, to demand that he drop the charges against the 646-plus protesters arrested on November 4, 2020, and to demand community control over police in Minneapolis. The November arrests targeted some of the more than 1000 students, teachers, union members and activists who took to the streets in Minneapolis to demand police accountability and speak out against Trump’s attempts to steal the election. Last year’s march was part of a national day of protest initiated by the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression.

When the 2020 march entered Interstate 94, they were surrounded by hundreds of State Patrol who carried out the largest mass arrest in Minnesota history, detaining protesters for nearly six hours. Minneapolis police brutalized bystanders who attempted to document this violation of rights, while University of Minnesota police and transit police also assisted in the operation.

The first to speak on Saturday, Jerome Hilson, tied together the fight for community control of the police and the fight to defend the 646. Hilson is a member of Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar (TCC4J), which organized the march last November and this weekends’ protest against the charges. "CPAC - Civilian Police Accountability Commission - what that does is that's going to give us control over the police, so that they can no longer abuse their power like they did that night or any other night. It is actually going to give us democratic power over the police - 646, let's do that! They cannot scare us, they cannot intimidate us; we will fight for what we need. All power to the people."

The October 16 protest took place as the University of Minnesota chapter hosted the Students for a Democratic Society national conference. Many SDS members were arrested in the November march in Minneapolis, and student organizers have experienced police repression across the country. Speakers included members of the Tally 19, organizers who were arrested during a Black Lives Matter demonstration last September in Tallahassee, Florida. Their charges include felonies, and the state government has since passed anti-protester bill HB 1 into law.

The protest stopped outside the home of City Attorney Jim Rowader, for speeches, dance music, noise-making and chants including, “646! Drop the charges!” The lights were on, but the city attorney never made an appearance. After nearly an hour, protesters left the otherwise quiet block, and marched the mile back to the park where the protest began.

Arraignments for the 646-plus began October 8 and will continue for six weeks. During the first kangaroo court session, the city attempted to coerce arrestees into entering plea deals, namely participating in a “restorative justice” option or community service in exchange for dismissing the charges. While individual protesters may need to take a plea deal for a number of valid reasons, the majority want to fight these charges because the mass arrests violated protesters' First Amendment rights.

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