Anti-War Committee and Students for a Democratic Society-U of MN Join Statement
June 5th, 2017
We support those counter-protesters from the March 4 capitol rally recently unjustly charged, decry the attempts by Ramsey County law enforcement and the press to single out Anarchists as inherently unworthy of a place in our discourse, and stand firm against attempts to divide our movement between “good” and “bad” protesters.
On March 4th, 2017, Donald Trump supporters were called on to “March 4 Trump”. While this event was touted as being open to every “race, creed, color, gender, orientation, age, or anything else traitors exploit to divide” (https://www.march4trump.com/about/), it was, in reality, a podium for bigots to show their not-so-popular support for one of the most blatantly racist, sexist and anti-gay presidents in the modern era. Students for a Democratic Society at the University of Minnesota heeded the call, despite concerns that there might be violence, and urged people to attend a counter-rally to show the Twin Cities, our state and the world that hate speech is not free speech. Roughly 100 people showed up from various progressive organizations throughout the Twin Cities to say “NO” to pro-Trump bigotry.
Originally, 6 protesters were arrested that day at the State Capitol and were kept in jail without charges throughout the weekend. Five of those were arrested outside of the Capitol, away from the protest site. All of them were released early the following week, still, without charges. According to the Pioneer Press (http://www.twincities.com/2017/05/26/tim-kaines-son-woody-kaine-charged-with-7-others-who-crashed-trump-rally/), now, on Friday, May 26th, nearly three months after the incident, the 6 originally arrested, plus 2 more individuals, are being charged with misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors such as “fleeing on foot” and “concealing identity in public” as well as felonies, such as “obstructing the legal process.” Note that most of the charges leveled are mere justifications for the unwarranted arrests of those initially detained and, as one protester’s parents pointed out, the charge “contains no suggestion that he engaged in disruptive behavior while at the rally, but are instead focused on his actions as he was arrested after he left.”
We denounce Ramsey County Attorney John Choi’s decision to pursue charges against these individuals. Not only are the charges vague and obtuse, but they are discriminatory – accusing only the counter-protesters of violence, when those of us who were in attendance know full well that the Trump supporters were violent, pushing, hitting, and at one point attempting to strangle a counter-protester. “All I was doing was holding my ground, when four white supremacists grabbed me. I was punched, kicked and strangled in a chokehold until others could intervene.” -Austin Jensen, Anti-War Committee Countless first-hand accounts and videos online show explicit violent assaults instigated by Trump supporters towards nonviolent counter-protesters inside the State Capitol Building. Furthermore, the only protesters targeted were those allegedly wearing masks and black clothing: “The small group that caused problems were wearing black clothing, with their faces and heads covered, and goggles — which a police official described as an indication of people who identify as anarchists.”
A Trump rally organizer Jonathan Aanestad tried to claim, “They committed political terrorism against many of my friends and political colleagues on March 4.” We disagree. By disallowing a gathering of Trump adorers to occur without a response, the counter-protesters were standing in solidarity with immigrants, Muslims, victims of sexual harassment, and many others who have truly been enduring state-sanctioned “political terrorism” throughout the candidacy, and now presidency, of Trump. We stand with those who put themselves in danger to protest racist, sexist and xenophobic policies that day at the capitol, and we absolutely stand with the young people who are facing trumped-up charges for defending themselves in the face of brutal arrests and against violence toward their persons.