Minnesota AFL-CIO calls on Bloomington to drop charges against MOA protesters

mnaflcioMinnesota’s largest labor federation today added its voice to the chorus of community, faith and progressive groups calling on Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson to drop criminal charges against 11 Black Lives Matter members arrested at the Mall of America in December.

The Minnesota AFL-CIO, which represents more than 1,000 local unions with 300,000 members statewide, made the stance official after members of its executive board voted to pass a resolution against prosecution.

Two of the defendants, Todd Dahlstrom and Kandace Montgomery, are members of the Communications Workers of America, an AFL-CIO affiliate. Dahlstrom is organizing director at the Minnesota AFL-CIO, and Montgomery is an organizer for the progressive group TakeAction Minnesota.

Both are members of the Minnesota Newspaper and Communications Guild, TNG-CWA Local 37002.

Meanwhile, in Hennepin County Court this morning, the 11 defendants pleaded not guilty to unlawful assembly, trespassing and other crimes that, Bloomington authorities allege, occurred during a peaceful demonstration against police brutality and racism that drew thousands to the mall Dec. 20.

As the activists appeared inside the courtroom, a vigil and rally outside drew supporters from the labor movement:

Although Johnson, the city attorney responsible for prosecuting the MOA protesters, is an appointed official, Bloomington Mayor Gene Winstead and several members of the City Council, including Cynthia Bemis Abrams, Tim Busse and Dwayne Lowman, have sought and received labor endorsement in their most recent campaigns, according to the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation website.

Minnesota AFL-CIO President Shar Knutson released the following statement regarding the executive board’s resolution:

“Peaceful protest is a cornerstone of social change in our democracy. From the Labor movement, to the Women’s movement, and the Civil Rights movement; major change in this country has always included peaceful demonstrations.

The #BlackLivesMatter movement is pointing out the structural racial inequalities that persist in our society. Much like other social movements, #BlackLivesMatter is engaging in non-violent protest to help point out these inequalities.

By prosecuting protest organizers, local authorities are sending a message that a minor inconvenience trumps the right to peacefully assemble. Minnesota’s Labor movement is urging Sandra Johnson to correct this wrong by choosing not to prosecute these peaceful activists.”

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