Officials carry on despite protests

Branden Peterson

Despite a sit-in protest in the hallways and the noisy clanging of pots and pans outside, administrators in Morrill Hall have tried to continue with business this week.

Pro-union protesters have been nonviolent, and police, activists, administrators and the building’s staff said although the protests have been distracting, they have not made building employees feel unsafe.

University president’s office secretary Rachel Hartreeve said the protests have been disruptive, but she keeps trying to work.

Hartreeve said the students do not make her worry about her safety. While students have talked with University President Bob Bruininks in the office, they “have never come in with an appearance of being angry,” she said.

The University general counsel’s office added a “please knock” sign to its third-floor door through which people normally enter and exit freely. The sign is there to keep hall occupants outside the office, but General Counsel Mark Rotenberg said he and other office employees are not worried protesters might become violent.

“I just want to make sure when there are a lot of disgruntled and angry people, we can make sure people in the office can continue to do the work of the University,” Rotenberg said.

Jessie Strader, executive secretary for the Budget and Finance Office, said protesters have remained “fairly polite” and have not blocked normal business practices inside the building.

“I think it’s part of Minnesota nice,” Strader said.

Several police officers stood near doorways and inside Morrill Hall on Thursday. Morrill Hall administrators and staff had to use their keycards to enter the building Thursday, and doors remained locked to people who did not have University business, said Greg Hestness, University assistant vice president for public safety.

University officials said 18 students were allowed to stay in the building Thursday. However, other strikers and protesters were locked out.

On Wednesday, students sat in the first-floor foyer, and others sat in a stairwell.

“It’s been a very cordial working relationship with students who feel strongly and are impassioned,” Hestness said. “They’ve been cooperative and willing to discuss issues with us.”

Strike activist and law student Nick Woomer said student-protesters have committed to remaining nonviolent in Morrill Hall protests.

“Nobody has any intention of being violent,” he said. “This is a symbolic political act.”

After spending each of the last nine days supporting striking workers, Woomer said protesters and administrators are starting to recognize one another, making them more courteous.