Students, panel want U to better address discrimination

A group of University of Minnesota students spoke out about policing and discrimination at the University of Minnesota on Thursday, during an event about protests and protesting.

The students spoke out, in part, against the framing of the very discussion being had. As part of a series called Big Questions, the university's College of Liberal Arts — in partnership with MPR News — posited the question "Is there a right way to protest?"

In a letter posted before the event, students under the name Do! (Differences organized!) maintained the framing of the question unfairly shifts the onus.

"Such a question places the responsibility of effecting positive social justice squarely on the backs of organizers, while ignoring the role of systems of power and domination that create socially unjust conditions making protest imperative."

The students also distributed alternative questions they thought should have been asked instead. Some were, during the ensuing discussion.

There's been a lot of attention on protests in recent months — everything from the Fourth Precinct protests last year in north Minneapolis after police killed a man named Jamar Clark to the recent occupation of a wildlife refuge in Oregon. Thursday's event also took place almost a year to the day after a sit-in at the university president's office in Morrill Hall.

Some students were part of both the sit-in last year and Thursday's demonstration.

When the students finished speaking, they sat on the floor in front of the panel while four panelists discussed all of this: Keith Mayes, an African American & African Studies professor at the University; Trista Harris, President of the Minnesota Council on Foundations; Javaris Bradford, President of the Black Student Union at the University of Minnesota; and Lena K. Gardner, co-founding organizer and leader with Black Lives Matter Minneapolis.

Host Tom Weber moderated the event, which also included audience questions.

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