The Minnesota State Fair is one of the most popular annual events in this state. The Great Minnesota Get Together draws a record number of people from around the state and across the nation every year. It is good, expensive, family fun, for not quite everyone. I’m ambivalent about the Fair. I appreciate that so many people have such positive stories about the MN State Fair. Many of those warm memories are of nurturing family traditions over generations. One tradition that I truly appreciate is the rally and march by the families of those murdered by police in Minnesota and the nation. The original Minnesota Ain’t Fair protest was put together by Monique Cullars Doty to memorialize the annual visit to the Fair with her nephew, Marcus Golden; killed by St. Paul Police in January 2015. Since the SPPD took Marcus from his family, too many more have been gunned down by killer cops in the Twin Cities Metro. Over the last 4 years the State Fair Shut Down has become a kind of unity rally for the families of those killed by unaccountable cops.
The strong family support network tragically continues to grow. The relatives of Thurman Blevins and Billy Hughes were the latest to be taken into the fold. It is a community created by unaccountable violence. They work tirelessly to remember their dead and demand justice. In Argentina and the rest of South and Central America there are Mothers of the Disappeared. In AmeriKKKa there are Mothers of the Murdered. How many more will it take? When will we wake?
Remembering the names of those murdered by police is a critical purpose of the rallies and protests. Shutting shit down and disrupting the business as usual status quo are not why we take to our streets, just like the Sons of Liberty were not out to make tea in Boston Harbor. Whether with signs and banners or with chants and speeches the names are recited, and justice demanded. The sheer scale of the atrocity is striking as the list goes on. The short video, Names Blessing Dance, honors the recitation of names. It was blended with the Peruvian dance troupe to bring that blessing to the list. Say their names as the drums wake your heart and clear your head.
The rally that followed featured a number of activists from the community and family members of the murdered. Michele Gross, Pastor Min Toya M Woodland, Nekima Levy-Armstrong, Sue Good Star, Kay Maureen Smith, and Matilda Smith. Then it was time for Monique to take the megaphone and for us to take the streets. Straight up Snelling to Dan Patch the dedicated group marched and chanted. When we took the intersection right outside the main gates, the push back began. Complaints from the crowd and shouts to go home. Maroon shirt guy opined that we were not gaining converts to the cause. The appropriately named Grumpy Donut guy heckling with his megaphone. So many flipping us off guys that I lost count. I put together Grumpy Megaphone to summarize the Shut Down 2018. At one point, Snelling Ave. was completely empty for many blocks to the north of Dan Patch. It felt desolate and dangerous standing outside the circle and facing north. Not a cop in sight. I’ll let the video do the talking.
When a reporter from the Pioneer Press interviewed the men that had heckled the protesters and gave them the same stature as the protest, Nekima Levy- Armstrong stepped up to confront the reporter and call her out. I missed the first part of the interaction and became aware of the interaction when the reporter moved south across Dan Patch and closer to the police officer on that corner. Eventually, she took a position that put the cop between her and Nekima, who was still questioning her. See for yourself. Personally, I think the reporter could have defused the situation with and open mind and some humility. There was nothing threatening about Levy-Armstrong. She was stern, but respectful. This video was shot just as we began the march back to the park. The reporter paralleled the march most of the way back, but did not engage at all. I hope she will remember this day and turn it over in her mind, though the shrug and sigh around 1:10 suggest otherwise, but I’ve been wrong before.