Power to the People, Not the Police: Say No to Jim Crow in St Paul

Root & Restore St Paul
5 min readFeb 28, 2021


As a coalition of St. Paul organizers and groups, we call on St. Paul residents to tell the city council to vote NO on the proposed ordinance 21–6.

The St. Paul City Council is considering an ordinance that enhances the power of police by increasing regulations targeting protesters and has echoes of Jim Crow-era Black Codes that criminalized gatherings of Black people.

This ordinance threatens First Amendment rights by dramatically increasing regulations targeting protesters in our city without addressing the dangers that police pose to protester safety. It also opens the door to even more police targeting of Black and brown protesters.

On the eve of Derek Chauvin’s trial for the murder of George Floyd, it is appalling that city officials are bringing forward legislation allowing police to subjectively criminalize free speech.

This ordinance:

  • Includes unrealistic, unsafe, and unfair rules about what kinds of objects protesters can bring to protests, but does not restrict police violence or conflict-escalation tactics against protesters
  • Doesn’t allow protesters to practice community defense or self-defense but continues to allow armed police wide latitude in use of force and intimidation tactics against protesters

Our Demands:

  • The City Council must vote NO on Ordinance 21–6.
  • City officials must clean their own house! We demand that city officials investigate racism in the St. Paul Police Department and hold racist officers accountable.
  • The St. Paul Police Department must implement stricter policies regarding police use of force at protests and impose consequences on law enforcement officers who attack protesters without provocation.
  • The existing Chapter 366A of the Legislative Code must be amended to remove Sec. 366A.02. (f), which currently defines any gathering, rally, or parade with 25 or more participants as a public assembly that requires a permit.

Week of Action!

Join with community to protect our right to come together against injustice!

Monday, March 1, 7–8 PM
Virtual Town Hall
Live Community Town Hall and Testimony Session to make your voice heard

Tuesday, March 2, All Day
Call & Email Day of Action
Contact city leaders and demand they vote NO! Script and contacts below!

Thursday, March 4, 2–4pm
Rally & Press Conference
Come together at St. Paul City Hall for a rally and press conference

Taking us back to Jim Crow-era Black Codes

As written, this overly broad ordinance would drastically restrict free speech and public assembly rights in the Capitol City and expand police discretion to target Black and brown people.

  • The ordinance would subject public assemblies with as few as five attendees to a whole host of new restrictions on everything from what objects people are allowed to carry to what kinds of materials signs can be made from. This kind of restriction is a giant step back toward Jim Crow-era Black Codes that criminalized gatherings of three or more Black people and obstructed Black people’s right to protest.
  • This ordinance greatly expands police officers’ discretionary power against protesters — a discretionary power that already impacts Black and brown community protesters more harshly than it impacts white protesters.
  • The ordinance does not clearly specify what charges or penalties police could impose on people that officers decide have violated the ordinance. This vagueness allows the police far too much latitude to harass, detain, search, cite, and arrest protesters. Data shows that police in St. Paul disproportionately use force against and injure Black people, especially young Black people. Giving the police still more excuses to stop and detain Black people will only increase the likelihood of harm to Black community members.
  • The amendment would increase the over-policing of communities of color in St. Paul and strain already frayed trust and relationships between city officials and communities of color.
  • Officials are attempting to justify this legislation as a way to protect against white supremacist violence like the attack on the U.S. Capitol. But experience and data show that expanding police power and reach always impacts Black and brown people far more harshly. For instance, post-9/11 anti-terrorism legislation harmed Muslim people far more than it impacted white nationalist extremists.
  • With its long list of restrictions, the ordinance imposes excessive, unrealistic, and burdensome limitations on people exercising their rights to free speech and public assembly. It’s absurd to claim this ordinance would enhance public safety when it gives police the authority to crack down on protesters for sign materials yet allows white supremacists to brandish guns while spouting threatening messages of hate.
  • As written, this ordinance upholds the current law requiring permits for protests as small as 25 attendees. Requiring permits for such relatively small free-speech public assemblies is already problematic, even without the new changes being proposed, as it reduces people’s ability to take spontaneous action based on timely situations, forcing them to work with an often slow, unresponsive city bureaucracy in order to exercise their rights to free speech and assembly. It gives police too much say over who can and can’t protest in our city, and it also costs money that many people who need to protest don’t have to spare, due to longtime racist economic inequities in Minnesota that have led to higher average wealth for white families than families of color.

Take Action!

The St. Paul city council will vote on this ordinance on March 10. Tell them to vote NO on proposed ordinance 21–6. Click here for a call and email script!

City Council
Don’t know who represents you? Look here!

Ward 1- Councilmember Dai Thao, 651–266–8610, ward1@ci.stpaul.mn.us

Ward 2- Rebecca Noecker, 651–266–8620, ward2@ci.stpaul.mn.us

Ward 3- Chris Tolbert, 651–266–8630, ward3@ci.stpaul.mn.us

Ward 4- Mitra Jalali, 651–266–8640, ward4@ci.stpaul.mn.us

Ward 5- Amy Brendmoen, 651–266–8650, ward5@ci.stpaul.mn.us

Ward 6- Nelsie Yang, 651–266–8660, ward6@ci.stpaul.mn.us

Ward 7- Jane Prince, 651–266–8670, ward7@ci.stpaul.mn.us

Citywide leaders

These leaders say that they are committed to building relationships and trust with community, promoting racial justice, and making St. Paul safer. Please call or write to them to let them know this ordinance does not make St. Paul safer, it does not build trust or relationships, and it does NOT promote racial justice in our communities!

Mayor Carter
651–266–8989 or Melvin.Carter@ci.stpaul.mn.us

City Attorney Lyndsey Olsen
651–266–8710 or Lyndsey.Olsen@ci.stpaul.mn.us

St. Paul Chief of Police Todd Axtell
651–266–5588 or Todd.D.Axtell@ci.stpaul.mn.us

Click here for a call and email script!



Root & Restore St Paul

We are a citywide collaboration of individuals and organizations working to advance police accountability, community-defined safety, and racial justice.