In a march organized by the Black Student Union (BSU) and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), hundreds of students gathered at the UMPD station on Saturday to end the deployment of UMPD to quell protesters in Brooklyn Center. Featuring speakers of color from different student and community groups in Minneapolis, the protest served as a space for people to share their frustrations, tell their personal stories and put pressure on the University to cut ties with the West Command Task Force.
UMPD officers were deployed earlier in the week during protests over the police killing of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center. UMPD is one of 35 police departments in Hennepin County participating in the West Command Task Force, a group that formed after the police killing of George Floyd to assist member police departments “in the event of an emergency that exceeds their own capacity,” President Joan Gabel said in a campus-wide email on April 12. All departments in the task force pledge 10% of their force to assist one another when needed.
Representatives from BSU, the Minnesota Student Association (MSA), and Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar chanted Daunte Wright’s name and called protesters into action by asking them to go beyond posting on social media and actively joining protests and organized actions.
“We all have similar issues on campus,” said Khalyma Robinson, an officer of SDS. “They’re all related, they’re all connected, and we’re all trying to get the same people to listen to us.”
The protesters marched through campus and their chants rang clear down University Avenue. For many, this was an opportunity to make their voices heard as protest leaders encouraged participants to be loud and express themselves.
University students and protesters Ogechi Anyanwu and Gemini Madison saw the protest as a way to be recognized.
“It’s really important for us as students to come out here and use our voices,” Anyanwu said.
“There’s not a lot of Black voices here [on campus] so it gives us a chance to get out there and just fight for something that’s very important to all of us in America,” Madison added.
As the protesters marched on, onlookers stopped to observe the march and listen to the chants. All were invited to join and show their support. The march ended back at the UMPD station with one last chant to remind students of their own power: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom!”
“I think that the Black Student Union did a good job of trying to bring everyone, not just Black students, but everyone within the community to come and stand up for what they believe in,” said Odell Sackie, another protester and University student.
Student groups such as SDS have plans to continue collaborating with the community and other student groups to organize activist events for the upcoming weeks and summer months, Robinson said.
“We can build connections and build a community,” Robinson said. “We can help each other maintain pressure [on administration].”SDS has been calling for the demilitarization of UMPD and the creation of a Campus Civilian Police Accountability Council, composed of University community members with oversight over University police.
“This is the beginning of a revolution,” said Samiat Ajibola, president of the Black Student Union and MSA vice president-elect. “This is the beginning of something new. This is the beginning of reimagining what our campus looks like.”