Students stage a ‘die-in’

A Sunday demonstration in front of TCF Bank Stadium was the latest piece of visible unrest regarding police behavior.

Nick Wicker

About 50 people lay down on the pavement outside of TCF Bank Stadium around noon Sunday pretending to be dead.

The group was protesting against police brutality before and during the Minnesota Vikings football game against the New York Jets, orchestrating the “die in,” as well as chanting and waving signs.

The game-day demonstration was part of a larger movement of unrest that has swept the nation and the Twin Cities, including an event Thursday in which local protesters temporarily shut down I-35W by lying down across the highway.

Some of the people involved in the I-35W protests joined the wide range of demonstrators gathered outside the stadium on Sunday. The crowd included area residents and their children, University of Minnesota students and some activists who were involved in recent Ferguson, Mo., protests.

Environmental science sophomore Bailey Shatz-Akin, who is also a member of the University’s chapter of the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, joined protesters Sunday and said the group wanted to express its disapproval of recent grand jury decisions.

Late last month, a grand jury said there was insufficient evidence to indict Darren Wilson, a Ferguson, Mo., police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black man.

Further protests erupted nationwide last week when a grand jury in New York did not indict a police officer who used a chokehold on a black man he was arresting for allegedly selling cigarettes on the street. A video of the incident, in which the man ultimately died, showed him surrounded by officers as he gasped for breath.

“It’s not right to sit back and let that happen any longer,” Shatz-Akin said.

The officer testified that he meant to take down the man rather than choke him, and he didn’t think the man’s life was in danger.

Shatz-Akin said the protesters outside TCF hoped to disrupt the daily activities of sports fans.

“We’re hoping to reach folks that come in for the game and don’t usually see us or notice us other times,” she said.

Minneapolis Police Inspector Kathy Waite was at the scene on Sunday to greet demonstrators and ensure a safe protest.

“We sat down at roll call and talked to all the officers about the planned protests for today,” Waite said. “We of course met up with the group here … and offered support to them.”

Although many protesters, including Shatz-Akin, proposed “disruptive” actions to halt traffic and shut down surrounding roads, the group made its way to the cement pavilion in front of the stadium without incident.

There they met Vikings and Jets fans who were crossing University Avenue Southeast with chants of “I can’t breathe,” “Hands up, don’t shoot” and “Black lives matter.”

Responses from the game’s attendees were diverse, ranging from raised hands in solidarity to shouts and murmurs of dissent.

Political science and sociology of law, criminology and deviance senior Matthew Van Grinsven was among the protesters. He said he hoped Sunday’s event, despite some flaws, increased campus visibility for the anti-police brutality cause.

“It was pretty spontaneous. I just got an invite last night,” he said. “Maybe it could have been organized better.”

Van Grinsven said though the demonstration was impromptu, the stadium’s size and the number of event-goers made the stadium an ideal protest site.