High school students in Minneapolis and St. Paul walked out of class Friday morning to join a May Day rally organized by Black Lives Matter. They marched peacefully through the streets of southwest Minneapolis, chanting and singing, and even staging a brief "die-in" at 50th Street and Lyndale Avenue.
The protest joined a larger demonstration at Martin Luther King Park, then moved down Nicollet Avenue to link-up with another group assembled at Lake Street. Hundreds strong, they marched into downtown Minneapolis for another rally, with police officers clearing the streets for a safe and peaceful demonstration.
'Beautiful step toward justice for Freddie Gray'
The overtones of Baltimore were certainly apparent, with news breaking Friday morning that 6 police officers are charged in the death of Freddie Brown -- a sign to many that protest voices are being heard.
"I think that it's a beautiful step toward justice for Freddie Gray," said Asha Long, who participated in Friday's march. "I do believe that the actions that Black Lives Matter held across the country helped to push that."
Schools support right to assemble
"MPS respects students' First Amendment right to peacefully assemble," the district said in a statement. "We will not discipline students for the act of protesting as long as the protest remains peaceful. However, if students walk out of school, they will not be able to return to the school for the remainder of the day and they may receive an unexcused absence." Full statement below
Hundreds of highschool aged kids marching on Nicollet heading North now near 46th. Shutting down traffic. pic.twitter.com/r3LDmzrstE— jonathan choe (@choefox9) May 1, 2015
MOA protesters in court
31 people charged in connection with the Mall of America case made a court appearance Friday morning in Edina, calling for the charges to be dropped. Organizers say the mall worked with Bloomington police prior to the demonstration, including monitoring social media, in a case of "political prosecution."
At Friday's hearing, a Hennepin County judge denied prosecutors' request for a gag order on the Black Lives Matter defendants, and moved future hearings to downtown Minneapolis – a win for supporters who have made two trips to the Southdale courthouse in Edina.Mall of America has said it would not pursue any civil action for cleanup and lost revenue during the busy Christmas shopping season. The city of Bloomington was also hit with extra costs of police overtime, but the judge won't require the city to make an immediate decision on whether or not it wants to seek restitution.
Minneapolis Public Schools statement
On Friday, May 1, a peaceful walkout and protest has been coordinated as part of the Black Lives Matter movement. The citywide walkout was planned by the group Black Lives Matter Minneapolis and more information about their event can be found online.
We anticipate that MPS high school students, and perhaps some middle school students, may decide to participate in this protest. MPS respects students' First Amendment right to peacefully assemble. We will not discipline students for the act of protesting as long as the protest remains peaceful. However, if students walk out of school, they will not be able to return to the school for the remainder of the day and they may receive an unexcused absence.
To be clear, students who walk out of school will receive an unexcused absence unless a parent or guardian follows the school's protocol for excusing an absence (written note, calling the attendance line, etc).
Typically, students with an unexcused absence may not participate in after school activities and events. However, today we are making an exception. Today, students may participate in after-school activities and evening events. MPS is making an exception to allow students to participate in after school activities in support of May 1 being National Law Day, when our nation officially recognizes the importance of the Constitution and the law as the foundation of our democracy. Secondly, we recognize that this protest is reflective of a broader, national issue and movement concerning civil rights.
Students, their families and our staff have many different perspectives about recent events involving communities of color and law enforcement's response. Through our schools we strive to provide students a safe place to express their opinions and talk through their feelings without fear of judgment. In some cases, teachers may use current events like these to teach lessons on peaceful conflict resolution, the role of protest in society, or creating change in the face of tough societal events, always with the developmental age of students in mind.
If you have concerns about your child's participation, please talk with them about the event and share your views with them. If your child plans to walk out on Friday, ensure that you have a way to stay in touch with them. According to Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, the walkout is planned for 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. that day, culminating at Lake Street and Nicollet Avenue in south Minneapolis. School principals have been notified of this potential walkout. Be advised that this is not an MPS-sponsored activity and students who leave school will not be supervised by MPS staff at the event.