Macalester president repeats offer to cover bail, fines for arrested student protesters

Activists held a press conference Thursday demanding an apology from Gov. Tim Walz and that all charges against protesters be dropped
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Dr. Suzanne Rivera

Dr. Suzanne M. Rivera, president of Macalester College

The president of Macalester College in St. Paul has offered to cover bail and any other fines for students arrested for "civil disobedience" and who can't afford to pay.

Dr. Suzanne Rivera made the pledge to her students in the wake of protests in Minneapolis on Wednesday evening, which closed down I-94 and saw Minneapolis Police Department officers using chemical irritant.

Police surrounded protesters on I-94 and then carried out a mass-arrest of more than 600 people, including journalists, Wednesday night. Multiple organizers co-hosted the protest, dubbed "Don’t Let Trump Steal the Election," which called for all votes to be counted in the presidential election, while also demanding social justice. 

Most were arrested, cited and then released; some remain in jail, including a 19-year-old woman who is being held on probable cause fourth-degree assault on an officer for allegedly aiming a laser pointer at an officer, Unicorn Riot reports. 

Journalists at the scene say protesters spent the majority of their time on I-94 surrounded by police, waiting to be arrested, with some waiting over two hours. 

Rivera, who began her tenure as Macalester's president in June, tweeted Thursday that currently enrolled Macalester students arrested during the protest can email her for assistance paying bail or other fines, if they are unable to do so themselves.

"I care deeply about both the wellbeing of our students and their right to practice civil disobedience," she said on Twitter, noting that students have the "support" of Macalester.

This is not the first time Rivera has made such an offer – in a June email to the campus community in the wake of the George Floyd protests, she announced that Macalseter would, among other efforts to support protesters, reimburse students for civil disobedience citations or transportation expenses incurred because of their participation.

Rivera repeated this offer in October, when students were among those arrested during protests against former MPD officer Derek Chauvin's release from jail. 

“Peaceful protest is a time-honored tradition in the US and I fully support our students’ rights to assembly and freedom of expression,” Rivera wrote at the time.  

The Macalester student newspaper also reports that Rivera reiterated this commitment in a community conversation webinar last month. 

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The Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar Clark, one of the organizers of the protest, is demanding that all charges against protesters are dropped and to free any protesters still being held in jail. 

Activists held a press conference calling for an apology and response from Gov. Tim Walz outside the Governor's Mansion Thursday afternoon. He did not make an appearance. 

One speaker criticized the actions of Minneapolis police and the Minnesota State Patrol, which they say employed "kettling" tactics in response to the protest march.

"It was absolutely absurd to have hundreds of law enforcement officers out on the freeway when we were steps away from the exit .. as we were attempting to exit the freeway, people in the front line of cars saw state troopers run across the freeway and deliberately block the exit," they said. "It was a violation of our First Amendment right to free speech." 

Marchers were protesting several things on Wednesday, with some taking part in an "anti-Trump" march as the president made demands to stop votes being counted in certain states he could potentially lose to Joe Biden, while others were calling for racial justice and an end to police brutality.

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