Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States – Minneapolis activists are calling for all charges to be dropped against those who protested against police brutality and racism in the year following the murder of George Floyd, saying the arrests were an attempt to quell dissent.
Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on charges of second and third degree murder and second degree manslaughter in connection with Floyd’s death on April 20.
The verdict sparked a happy celebration and calls for more justice, especially for the hundreds of protesters who remain on trial.
Around 600 people were arrested during the first protests, which activists call an “uprising”, but mass arrests have taken place in numerous protests since. More recently, around 150 arrests were made during protests following the murder of Daunte Wright by former police officer Kim Potter, which occurred in the suburbs of Minneapolis at the Brooklyn Center while Chauvin’s trial was unfolding.
About 50 people were arrested after Chauvin was released on bail in October, around 600 during the post-election uproar in November, and 35 during a New Year’s Eve protest and other protests. The arrests have resulted in charges ranging from petty crimes to a criminal riot.
Link, a self-proclaimed “leftist” who only gave his first name due to arrests by the Minneapolis Police Department, told Al Jazeera that it was “the people who were protesting and trying to suppress and suppress them. give all these accusations to ”Who put pressure on the authorities to prosecute Chauvin.
Local organizations like the National Lawyers Guild and the Legal Rights Center are organizing the hundreds of people arrested to fight the charges.
Traia Thiel, chapter organizer with the Minneapolis The National Lawyer’s Guild told Al Jazeera she was charged with a misdemeanor after the October protest.
Thiel explained that those arrested coordinated and mounted a unified attempt to bring the charges to justice.
Hennepin County courts are overloaded with last year’s arrests and the COVID-19 pandemic has further slowed proceedings, making lawsuits against protesters a tedious task for local courts.
While some agreed to plea deals, Thiel’s mischief was dropped along with all the others who had not made a plea deal “just a few weeks ago,” she said.
600 on I-94
Thiel explained that it is difficult to know exactly how many people have been arrested or have pleaded, given the large number of arrests over the past year.
She was not personally surprised that her charges were dropped, but said she thought “the 600 cases before they drop this little group of 50 … it’s interesting the way they choose the events. to abandon ”.
The 600 cases occurred during a post-election protest on Interstate 94. Rob Lewis, Maria Higueros-Canny, Theo Martinson-Sage and Mara McCollor were all arrested that night.
The Hennepin County district attorney charged 19-year-old Amina McCaskill with 2nd degree riot felony during the I-94 protest in Minneapolis. Police allege in a complaint that McCaskill admitted to pointing a laser at a police officer, but that they wore laser safety glasses and were not injured.
– Tony Webster (@webster) November 6, 2020
Lewis and Higueros-Canny are both teachers. Martinson-Sage and McCollor are university students. All were inspired to protest by the uproar they saw in 2020. All have received misdemeanor charges, which they plan to fight.
Higueros-Canny, a single mother, entrusted her children to her sister. She, along with the others, was arrested around 8 p.m. local time after being “boiled,” a tactic used by police to control crowds of surrounding protesters.
The police took hours to reserve the hundreds of detainees. Over time, Higueros-Canny began to worry about his children. “We finally went and turned around probably around 11:30 pm.”
McCollor and Martinson-Sage, who are in their early 20s, were also arrested around 8 p.m. It was the first arrest for the two.
Their hands were tied behind their backs by the police during their arrest. McCollor said she was scared as “heavily armed” mounted police surrounded the group and helicopters flying overhead.
The university students were charged in a police car after a few hours and released. But they were still tied up, they said, unable to use their phones to call a cab.
Eventually, they found others who could help them cut the plastic by holding their hands.
– WCCO – CBS Minnesota (@WCCO) November 5, 2020
All felt that the kettling and arrests were aimed at suppressing activism. Lewis said the experience allowed him to draw parallels with activists he knew in Egypt.
“You don’t go out to protest because you will be beaten. You will be surrounded. You will be arrested.
Once he has seen protests at Brooklyn Center after Wright’s death, which involved tear gas, sledgehammer and less lethal ammunition used on protesters, Lewis “was made to think, will I be safe going to a protest?”
Yet all four said they would continue to protest.
“I might not be taking a freeway anytime soon,” Higueros-Canny said, “but I’m still going to be out there at night protesting in places like the Brooklyn Center.”
She concluded, “It all made me even more determined.”