Root & Restore St Paul

Feb 28, 2021

5 min read

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

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.

  • 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!

Taking us back to Jim Crow-era Black Codes

  • 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!