Student, community protesters confront Gov. Walz at campus event

About 30 to 40 protesters showed up at the event on Friday.


Brooke Sheehy

Gov. Tim Walz speaks at the University of Minnesota on Friday, Feb. 21.

by Brooke Sheehy

A number of protestors demonstrated to a full auditorium at the University of Minnesota Friday during a visit by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz.

About 30 to 40 protestors, including members of University student groups and community members, showed up to protest Walz’s stance on prosecuting police shootings and action on the Line 3 pipeline. The governor visited the Humphrey School of Public Affairs to discuss progress and challenges after his first year in office and his 2020 legislative session priorities.

Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar Clark members were the first to protest, asking if their elected official would prosecute “killer cops” in the state and how he will address systemic racism.

“I am the governor. I am doing the job. So give me the opportunity to answer,” Walz said in response to protesters. He said as governor, he does not have the power to grant pardons in the state.

After about five minutes of “Black Lives Matter” chants, police approached protesters and escorted them outside of the auditorium.

Student groups present at the event included Students Against Pipelines and MN Youth Climate Strike at UMN. Both groups declined to comment on the protest or the governor’s response to their objections. 

Walz addressed the controversial Line 3 Replacement Project, which entails replacing an existing 34-inch oil pipeline with a new 36-inch oil pipeline for 337 miles in Minnesota and between 13 and 14 miles in both North Dakota and Wisconsin.

Community members and student groups stood at the front of the auditorium holding up hand-painted protest signs against Line 3. There, they voiced their concerns about Walz’s involvement with the project and its impact on the environment.

“Do you want me to stop the pipeline tomorrow? Under what authority?” Walz said, saying that he was being asked to sidestep the laws in place around implementing the pipeline.

“Here’s what you should fear, what about a governor who decides they want to build a pipeline and they don’t care about any of the process?” Walz said.

Walz said he recognizes that climate change is real, and that he is doing everything in his power to implement legal action to reduce carbon emissions in the state. Protestors chanted “Stop Line 3” for about five minutes before police officers escorted them outside of the auditorium. 

“There were very passionate people in the room that were asking very, in my opinion, needed questions, and I think that they are at their rope’s end with the other forms of communication that they might be trying to use,” said HSPA graduate student JT Kruger. “They saw this as the platform that they needed in order to get attention from the governor’s office.”

Among the heated protests and debates at the event, HSPA staff say they are disappointed with the lack of constructive discussion at the event.

“An opportunity for open dialogue and conversation was missed,” said Melanie Sommers, HSPA communications manager, in a post-event statement. “The ability to have open dialogue is foundational for a working democracy. We hope more conversations are able to take place at future events.” 

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the group that protesters belonged to. They belonged to Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar Clark.