Protests and Arrests Erupt on I-94

Sarah Burke, staff writer
A group of marching protestors on I-94 gather around two banners protesting police brutality, taken by Sigal Photos and shared by AFSCME Local 3937.

Roughly 646 protesters were arrested in Minneapolis for marching on I-94 in an anti-Trump protest on Nov. 4. The protest aimed to maintain election security, defend immigrant rights and protest police brutality amidst the 2020 election, according to Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar (TCCJ4J), one of the event’s 30 organizers.

About 1,000 protesters were split into two groups, one beginning at Cedar Avenue and another near the Hennepin County Government Center. People gathered around 6 p.m. then began marching around 7:15 p.m. At 7:40 p.m., the protesters crossed onto I-94. Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) officers followed them in riot gear, advancing on the protestors without giving a dispersal order.

Police told protestors to sit down and await arrest. Roughly 200 protesters were surrounded by police by 11 p.m.. The road was reopened at 1:23 a.m..

Some Augsburg protestors argue that MPD did not handle the situation appropriately. Maddy Gowans, a sophomore at Augsburg, now faces two misdemeanor charges for being at the protest despite attempting to leave once police became involved. Gowans and other protesters have demanded their charges be dropped. 

“The only reason I was arrested was because they did not let us disperse. That’s unethical, that’s unfair, and it’s unjust.”

Maddy Gowans, AU sophomore

“The only reason I was arrested was because they did not let us disperse,” said Gowans. “That’s unethical, that’s unfair, and it’s unjust.” 

Kristy Moua, a junior at Augsburg, was a bystander at the protest. She noted she had seen cops circling the area of the protest earlier that day and said they appeared to be “too ready.” Moua believes that police officers shined lights into the protestors’ eyes to keep them from seeing what was going on. 

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (MnDPS) stated that it is illegal for the protesters to be on a freeway. “Walking on the freeway is illegal and very dangerous for pedestrians and motorists,” said MnDPS on Twitter. “We respect the right of everyone to express themselves under the First Amendment, but the freeway is not a place to do that.” 

Additionally, the MN State Patrol posted on Twitter about how police handled the situation, stating that “No force or chemicals were used and no protesters or law enforcement were injured.”

In the aftermath of the protests, TCCJ4J are demanding that protestors who were detained and jailed be released and that all charges be dropped. “We continue to fight for and demand community control of police so that police can no longer infringe on our First Amendment rights as they did today” TCCJ4J said in a Facebook statement. 

Their call for justice is backed by a group of Minnesota legislators, who wrote to Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan in a public statement criticizing them for calling police and troopers who “escalated the situation rather than de-escalating it.” They requested a public forum allowing constituents to voice their concerns about law enforcement directly in hopes of reaching a mutual understanding. “The people of Minnesota look to you in these situations,” the legislators said. “If law enforcement agencies are not conducting operations in a way that reflects the values and priorities of our state, we expect that you will use your ability to command them to stand down.”

A crowd of protestors on I-94 is kettled by encroaching Minneapolis Police cars, viewed from the bridge overhead, taken by Kristy Moua.