By LUCAS ALAN DIETSCHE
DULUTH, Minn.—Oct. 22 was a triple holiday in the Duluth and Superior area. It was the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. It was also Save the Kid’s National Week of Action Against School Pushout. And it was also the one-year anniversary of the Duluth city council’s voting for riot gear for the local police.
A “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” forum, initiated by members of Save the Kids, a nation-wide abolitionist and transformative justice group; Socialist Resurgence; and the University of Minnesota-Duluth NAACP, commemorated the triple holidays. The Oct. 22 event at the university was attended by 40-50 students and local activists.
Activists held pictures of direct and indirect victims of police brutality while reading victims’ stories. Then a panel of criminologists and activists, including Indigenous spokespeople, answered questions related to the history of the police, whether to abolish police, and regarding alternatives to policing. The event was ended with a Save the Kids and Socialist Resurgence member discussing their work and how to “keep the fight going.”
On the issue of the riot gear: From the beginning of summer in 2018, Democratic Mayor Emily Larson and the mainly Democratic city council indicated that they supported the riot gear. Despite picket lines of protesters, organized as a token effort by the Citizen Review Board, city council took the deciding vote on Oct. 22, 2018.
The day of the vote, a march of students organized by the University of Minnesota-Duluth NAACP took place. Later that day, a protest before the council meeting was organized, with members of Save the Kids, indigenous community, the Criminal Justice Committee of the NAACP, For the People-TP, Occupy Duluth, Socialist Action, and Twin Ports DSA. Twin Ports Anonymous, and Anti-Colonial Land Defense marching to the protest site. In the middle of the peaceful protest, this group marched to city council demanding to shut down the packed meeting. https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/news/4517720-protesters-shut-down-city-council-meeting-councilors-approve
Many shouted, “No Justice, No Peace!” and connected the need for riot gear to the need of the authorities to put down the opposition to expansion of the Enbridge pipeline, which carries toxic tar sands oil from Canada, across the Great Lakes, and to the United States—despite a history of major oil spills.
The Duluth City Council voted by a majority to support the riot gear. Since then, unfortunately, hardly any opposition to Duluth police or their riot gear has taken place. Many local activists see the Citizen Review Board as a rubber stamp for the local police needs.