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TruthToTell Monday, March 26-9AM: SOCIAL JUSTICE PROTEST: Minnesota’s Legacy - KFAI FM 90.3/106.7/KFAI.org
The history of social activism in Minnesota is as much about protest as it is about advocacy. Social justice and protest are inextricably linked.
When it comes to legal dissent and embracing protest as political expression and free speech, official forces in the US and Minnesota have always resisted. When resistance meets resistance, when power resists those who speak to power, someone usually gets hurt. Such clashes date to the founding of all political entities everywhere – and Minnesota’s own history is rife and rich with the quest for justice, but recently – say, over the past 40-50 years of social and political upheaval – the forces of government have become more virulent, more dangerous in the name of homeland security and the so-called war on terror, than any previous periods, save those between the industrial giants and their exploited labor masses.
With every passing day, it seems, the government, even under Barak Obama, perhaps especially under this President, the Justice Department and local police forces keep stretching what they believe are justified intrusions into our private lives, not to mention our Constitutional right to publicly protest, to dissent from official policies maintaining our involvement in war and nation-building, in protecting despots over the people the rule. Thus do local and federal police forces now have the declared legal wherewithal to use any means necessary to quell such expression.
Those who have spent their lives or part of them standing up to these forces who would trample the rights of the rest of us to demand the elimination of discrimination, of racism, or the inequality of all humanity in every field of human endeavors are often praised in eulogies because they’ve died doing so.
Occasionally, some progress is claimed and rewarded with institutional change or with a cultural shift, slow as they all may be. Those still around to accept the kudos deserve them for their work as well as their survival.
The history of these phenomena is captured in a marvelous little volume by revered Minnesota Historian, Rhoda Gilman, one of the truly articulate chroniclers of Minnesota’s historical realities, including the definitive biography of Minnesota’s first state governor, Henry Sibley. Her latest book, Stand UP! The Story of Minnesota’ Protest Tradition, traces our conflicts beginning with the imposition on Minnesota’s Native peoples of the white man’s greed which itself came to a head during the Dakota Uprising 150 years ago this year, and takes us right up through the rise of the political right and the clashes in between.
Among the events demonstrating precisely the importance of protest was the 1969 takeover of the UofM’s Morrill Hall by African-American students. That upheaval led to the creation of the U’s first dedicated department – the African-American Studies Department, now the African-American and African Studies Department. Morrill Hall/Rachel Tilsen Social Justice Fund was established by alumni attending "We Still Have a Charge to Keep" events three years ago, the 40th Anniversary of V-DAY at Morrill Hall.
TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL and MICHELLE ALIMORADI put it to our guests how effective such work have been in altering the political and institutional landscape long considered uneven and unfair.
RHODA GILMAN – Historian, retired from the Minnesota Historical Society; former Green Party candidate for Lieutenant Governor; Author, Stand UP! The Story of Minnesota’ Protest Tradition
ROSE MARY FREEMAN MASSEY – Original member and President, 1969 UofM Afro American Action Committee; co-founder with Dr. Horace Huntley of the Morrill Hall/Rachel Tilsen Social Justice Fund; Instructor, Milwaukee Area Technical College History Department.
MELVIN GILES – St. Paul Community activist, peace advocate, community gardener; One of the first two recipients of the Morrill Hall/Rachel Tilsen Social Justice Fund.
PROF. JOHN S. WRIGHT – Instructor, African American literature, art and history; Africa and African diasporic studies; namesake of the John S. Wright Scholarship Fund (study abroad).
TruthToTell March 19: FLOODING THE BALLOT: Legislating by Constitutional Amendment - Audio Podcast HERE
Are we becoming California by a back door? California law is peppered with voter-passed initiatives and referenda. Is this true democracy? Or a denigration of representative government?
Photo by Shekleton (Shekshots)
The Minnesota Constitution does not allow what California’s does: passing and repealing state statutes by IR&R – Initiative, Referendum and Recall. Not that Republicans haven’t tried to install that device in the Constitution (current House File 2562, King Banaian [R-St. Cloud] would do just that), claiming that true democracy is when citizens vote directly for state laws, bypassing the Legislature. This would be 7th amendment offered up this year. (As this is written, the Minnesota Senate is about to place the Voter ID issue on November's ballot.)
But to pass laws by popular vote right now, legislators can place them on the ballot only in the form of Constitutional amendments. (Referenda, or the repeal of existing state law, is not currently allowed at all. Recall of state office holders is allowed by a convoluted process involving the courts.)
So – this year and last – new but frustrated Republican majorities in both houses have found their rightwing agenda neutralized by the veto pen of DFL Governor Mark Dayton. In response they’re attempting to send their entire agenda to the ballot box – some bills already having been vetoed, others not. The issues already heading for the voters or possibly on the ballot thus far:
The Marriage Amendment – defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Placed on this year’s November ballot last session. (Vice Pres. Walter Mondale and fmr Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz just announced their opposition to this.)
Shoot First – Vetoed this session. So-called castle doctrine principle expanded to allow gun owners to shoot first much sooner – and ask questions later.
Voter ID – Vetoed last session, now on the docket for passage to the November ballot. Requires a photo ID before voting – never mind the millions with no access to such identification.
“Right-to-Work” – This may be floundering – but it would remove the requirement that a worker sign on to union membership in a union shop.
Tax Bill Supermajorities – This may be on the back burner as well. Would require a two-thirds majority of the Legislature to vote in the affirmative for any tax bill to pass.
TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL and MICHELLE ALIMORADI put it to our guests about individual and collective issues around the flood of Constitutional amendments this session and last – in search for answers about both the wisdom and strategy of piling amendments on the ballot in such a crucial election as this year’s – what with redistricting forcing legislators and Congressmen and women in new territories and a ballot full of offices from President and US Senate on down through judicial races and – yes, Constitutional amendments and, perhaps, even other local ballot questions.
SUSIE BROWN – Public Policy Director, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits
HEATHER MARTENS – President, Protect Minnesota
SHAR KNUTSON – President, MN AFL-CIO