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Bloomington confronts ‘Back the Blue’ rally and marches for Black lives

By Meredith Aby-Keirstead |
July 26, 2020
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Protest challenges racist "blue lives matter" rally
Protest challenges racist "blue lives matter" rally (Photo by Kim DeFranco)

Bloomington, MN - Over 500 people rallied at Kennedy High School and then marched to Bloomington City Hall, July 25, to confront a ‘blue lives matter’ demonstration.

The newly-formed Bloomington Antiracist Coalition (BARC), a group of Bloomington high school students and graduates, worked with other community and Black lives matter organizers to plan the Bloomington March for Justice. Their demands were justice for Black lives, an end to police ‘unaccountability,’ to stand in solidarity with Muslims, demand anti-racist changes to the Bloomington Public Schools, and to call for Isak Aden’s case to be reopened. Isak Aden was murdered by Eagan and Bloomington police in 2019.

Coincidentally, while BARC was beginning to plan the Bloomington March for Justice, Bloomington Patriots announced their plans for a “Back the Blue” rally. The Bloomington Patriots used marketing materials from, and coordinated with, ACT for America, an Islamophobic hate group that fearmongers about ‘sharia law coming to America.’

Tre Tellor, a spokesperson for BARC, explained the importance of the action to communities of color in Bloomington, “Marching for justice against the Back the Blue rally was really important to me because growing up in Bloomington I dealt with microagressions and feared the police every day. To get a chance to mobilize with hundreds of people in my hometown against hate was inspiring, it reminded me that there are people even in the suburbs willing to fight hate.”

As the protesters marched by city hall, the Bloomington Patriots and their supporters came out to the street to confront them. The ‘blue lives matter’ protesters were outnumbered five-to-one by the Bloomington March for Justice. Few of the pro-cop protesters wore masks, and several were openly carrying weapons, including one with an AR-15. The pro-cop protesters also carried lots of American and Trump flags. They tried to provoke multiple physical confrontations, including ripping off a marshal’s mask and glasses at one point. The Bloomington March for Justice marched around city hall and then returned to Kennedy High School.

Daniela Kunkel, one of the founders of BARC explained, “It’s important that we marched to counter the Back the Blue rally because islamophobia, anti-Blackness, racism and hate are not and will not be tolerated in Bloomington. BARC is looking for making change happen right here in the suburbs - police brutality, racial profiling and racism don’t stop at the Minneapolis city limits.”

Kunkel continued, “Isak Aden matters, his life mattered. His case needs to be talked about. The emotional and physical terror that the police officers put him through on the night they killed him needs to be talked about - 90-plus armed officers against one, 23-year-old man. He and his family have not received justice. We need to hold our police accountable in Bloomington for the unjust and brutal murder of Isak.”

The protest had a good turnout from the Bloomington community, including members from the Bloomington Federation of Teachers, many who marshalled for the first time at the march.

Cory Elsmore, a Kennedy High School teacher and union member, when asked why they were marshalling the protest, said, “My students need to see that I am there fighting for them and with them.” Julia Moe, a Jefferson High School teacher and union member agreed, “I will always be there to support my students! They are hurting and scared, and I feel that pain. We have needed this change to happen for years, and I had to show that I agree.”

The Bloomington March for Justice was organized by Bloomington Antiracist Coalition, Slaughterhouse Education, Communities United Against Police Brutality, Minnesota Disability Justice Network, Justice Squad, Project Rose, CAIR-Minnesota, Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar, Racial Justice Network, Christ the King Lutheran Church in Bloomington MN, Indivisible Bloomington MN, and People’s Justice Coalition.

The next protest to demand justice for Isak Aden will be on August 4 at 6 p.m. at 1501 Central Parkway in Eagan, Minnesota to challenge an event hosted by the Eagan Police Department with the bogus aim of ‘building community trust.’