On New Year's Eve, our community gathered for a noise demonstration in downtown Minneapolis in support of prison abolition and in solidarity with incarcerated folks. Officers swarmed the scene, abruptly making violent arrests without dispersal orders. It is an abuse of power to disperse a protest without issuing such an order. Instead of ticketing or releasing folks - which is the norm - our friends and relatives were held over the holiday weekend under probable cause charges, which historically has been used by police to give extra time to justify otherwise unlawful arrests that violate everyone’s first amendment rights to protest.
We have seen time and time again how the police and carceral state target our community, while leaving privileged others alone. How the media targets abolitionist “radicals” that seek a better future and softens the actions of right wing assaults on democratic institutions. This pattern is glaringly evident in how our community members are being charged with felony riot charges for a peaceful demonstration that lasted less than 30 minutes, while white right-wing militia are left free to maim and cause chaos.
They were supposed to be released Monday January 4 at noon, and many showed up to the Hennepin County jail for support. At 11:50AM, the jail roster suddenly changed, showing new charges and unprecedented bail amounts set at $100k, $20K, or $1k. By the end of the day, we learned these high bail amounts were all set under pretenses of felony conspiracy to riot with weapons charges. This is absurd, especially because all of the weapons being carried were legal. Everyone carrying a firearm had a license and was well within their legal second amendment rights to have such arms.
We have seen white right-wing militia mobilize with automatic weapons, conspire to kidnap governors, and surround government buildings with intent to breach them. On Monday December 21, over 10 individuals stormed the Oregon state legislature special session. They broke doors, windows, public and private property, assaulted journalists, and used chemical irritants on law enforcement officers. The “demonstration” lasted 6 hours, and only 4 people were arrested at the end of the day. Their charges are mere trespassing and possession of body armor by a felon. Nothing about their weapons and no charges of “rioting.”
This dissonance is unreal. Police will not protect us, and will then violate our second amendment rights while deciding to charge us with absurd felonies. Additionally, setting such egregious bails without adequate cause (or notice) is an act of state violence and greed. They want our money to pay the officers who have decided it’s okay if we are harmed. They want our money to keep their corrupt systems of injustice in place, while enforcing their racialized biases on our existence.
There is more to this story and more brutality experienced at the hands of the police by these folks that cannot be elucidated in a press release, you will hear more about their experiences in the future as people have capacity. We have consistently received reports of our community members being treated radically differently if they were identified as non-white, from both our BIPOC comrades and white accomplices, and we believe that this has greatly affected who has been charged with which “crimes.”