Yesterday’s march through downtown Minneapolis by the American Federation of Teachers in support of justice for Philando Castile specifically and victims of police violence in general, was a big deal and gave a much needed boost of solidarity from the labor movement to the movement against police violence.
Hundreds of teachers who are in Minneapolis for their annual convention helped fill the streets lifting their voices and joining locals including Black Lives Matter activists in demanding that the St. Anthony, MN cop who killed Castile be prosecuted.
Proving the protest was a step in the right direction Minneapolis police federation head Lt Bob Kroll and St Paul federation head Dave Titus, wrote a letter protest. “The one-sided message of blatant disrespect for law enforcement these educators are sending our young people is horrifying…Educators should demonstrate more common sense than rushing to judgment along with radical activists hell-bent on destabilizing our communities,” they complained.
Teachers left the Convention Center and tied up traffic for about two hours marching and chanting. Teachers were included among the 21 who were arrested for blocking traffic near US Bank headquarters in downtown Minneapolis.
The teachers targeted Wells Fargo and US Bank as well as police violence in the protest.
Chicago Teachers Union Recording Secretary, Michael Brunson addressed the crowd and made the connection between police violence and violence visited on the community by Big Banks.
“The highest and most sophisticated form of violence is the impoverishment of a community. That’s why we need to make everyone aware of the connection between high level finance and the low level violence that comes from jobs being lost, homes being foreclosed, schools losing resources, and investments being made in prisons because we have these financial “geniuses” and bankers that have found clever and ingenious ways to starve our communities, our government, and our schools. Follow the money and a path leads right here to U.S. Bank.”
More specifically St Paul AFT local 28 had written that, “It should not be okay for a bank like Wells Fargo or US Bank to give a few thousand dollars to our school foundation and be considered a good ‘partner’ while those same banks are foreclosing on our district’s families, and spending fortunes to lobby against adequate funding for our schools.”
Brunson continued, “Now they are trying to erase Black Lives Matter, by saying “All Lives Matter. I look at it like this: If the house on the corner is burning, you don’t call the fire department to hose down every other house on the block. You deal with the house that’s burning.
Our house is burning! Unarmed black men are being shot down by law enforcement officers in our streets: Philando Castile, Alton Sterling… Innocent black women are dying under mysterious and suspicious circumstances in the jails: Sandra Bland, Symone Marshall… Our house is burning! And if you don’t put out that fire it will spread and burn down the rest of the block.
Once everyone understands the importance of why we say Black Lives Matter, it goes without saying that all lives matter, just like it goes without saying that if you don’t deal with that burning house the fire will spread to the rest of the block.”
Kimberly Keiko White Colbert a St Paul Central High teacher,(pictured) who taught Philando Castile was one of those who chose to get arrested yesterday, showing her solidarity with her former student and those demanding that his killer be prosecuted. She is a beloved teacher and was showed with praise all over Facebook and social media by current and former students who say they aren’t surprised by her actions because she was always dedicated and compassionate.
“We really need to start building through the unions as the fights start to interconnect, which will allow us to become more confident and thus more stronger,” said one local protester.
Black Lives Matter organizer Kandace Montgomery said teachers are getting involved with the cause for some very practical reasons. “If we really want to push forward education, if we want to do all these things around closing the achievement gap, we need to actually address the systemic issues that are getting in the way of young students of color — in particular black students — from being able to learn, which at this point is being able to just live.”