Police break up 'large disturbance' at anti-critical race theory conference in Moorhead

One person was cited and others could be charged.
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Police responded to a "large disturbance" at a conference in Moorhead on Tuesday evening, resulting in one person being cited. 

Police say they responded to the Courtyard by Marriott hotel around 5:30 p.m., where a private organization was hosting a conference and "several individuals" were being disruptive. 

The conference, which was sponsored by conservative think-tank The Center of the American Experience, was about stopping critical race theory from being in schools. According to the organization's website, they've been holding a "raise our standards tour" in Minnesota cities to discuss how critical race theory "advances a leftist, anti-American agenda that radically changes how our children learn about their country."

When police arrived at the conference, they saw "several isolated arguments" where officers stepped in "to allow space between individuals in an attempt to prevent any criminal activity from occurring."

Police cited Vanessa Renee Clark, 35, of Fargo, North Dakota, for misdemeanor disorderly conduct. She was released from the scene.

Police say a report is being sent to the city attorney's office for review for potential charges against others.

The Center of the American Experiment in a post on Facebook claims "protesters aligned with Black Lives Matter tried to disrupt the meeting."

There's no indication as of yet that the protesters were aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement. However, at least one group has been outspoken against the "raise our standards tour."

The Duluth NAACP commented on the tour stop scheduled for Duluth on Thursday, calling the Center of the American Experiment a "racist organization" that is "preaching white supremacy" the week of Juneteenth.

Bill Walsh with the Center of the American Experiment told Bring Me The News on Wednesday the NAACP in Duluth "is pressuring venues to cancel our event there tomorrow. They are afraid of ideas and dialogue." And in a news release, the organization's president John Hinderaker said the Duluth stop will be "rescheduled as soon as we find a venue with the courage to host the event.”

What's this all about?

Critical race theory is a complex idea, but essentially is the academic study of racism's pervasive impact, and how policies and laws perpetuate systemic racism.

But there's a debate going on across the U.S. on whether lessons on systemic racism and other themes of critical race theory should be taught in K-12 classrooms. 

It should be noted: the term critical race theory is often used as a catchall for all lessons about diversity and inclusion, including racism and LGBTQ+, as well as movements like Black Lives Matter and culturally relevant teaching, even though they are not all part of critical race theory. 

Some Republican politicians and parents across the U.S. are seeking to ban critical race theory in schools, despite at least some of them not having an understanding of what it is. Meanwhile, others stress the importance of teaching students about history accurately by discussing racism's systemic impact and that it's embedded into American society. 

NBC News on Tuesday published an expose about the push to ban critical race theory and how "well-connected conservative activists, and FOX News, have ramped up the tension in fights over race and equity in schools" in towns and school boards across the country. Ballotpedia on June 14 reported a total of 126 school board members nationwide have faced recall campaigns so far this year, more than any other group of elected officials (in Minnesota, there are reportedly eight elected officials targeted for recall). 

The Center of the American Experiment is among the groups seeking to end the "indoctrination" in schools, claiming "in the name of ending white supremacy and systemic racism, school districts are indoctrinating students with a new radical vision of American society." 

The conservative organization launched its "raise our standards tour" earlier this month, noting they'll stop in 17 Minnesota cities to teach parents how they can "push back against the politicizing of our schools" and learn about the revisions to Minnesota's social studies standards that are in progress. 

The Minnesota Department of Education is currently in the process of reviewing and revising social studies standards, as is required by law. It released an initial draft of the standards on Dec. 1, 2020, with another draft expected this summer. According to the Minnesota Reformer, the first draft proposes adding new topics to make standards more "culturally affirming," including benchmarks related to LGBTQ+ history, systemic inequity, and learning more about Indigenous tribes. You can read the draft here

“Between critical race theory and the draft social studies standards, Minnesota schools are being inundated with a leftist, anti-American agenda that radically changes how our children learn about their country,” Catrin Wigfall, American Experiment education policy fellow, said in a statement.

The origin of the fight against teaching critical race theory in K-12 schools started when teachers last summer started looking for ways to teach their students about the racial justice movement stemming from George Floyd's murder, NBC News explains. 

Related [March 12]: Fallout from Minnetonka school's morning announcements highlights deeper tensions between districts, parents

The movement has led to public records requests and lawsuits against school districts, including the Hopkins Public School District in Minnesota by the group conservative group Parents Defending Education, and dozens of states proposing or advancing legislation to restrict the teaching of critical race theory themes. 

Want to know more? Check out this Washington Post story on why Republicans want to ban critical race theory in schools or this Education Weekly article on why critical race theory is under attack.

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