Episode 70: The day after Election Day

The “In The Know” team covers the post-election protest that shut down 1-94 last Wednesday.

Ava Kian, Megan Germnudson, and Yoko Vue


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INTRO MUSIC

MEGAN PALMER: Hey everyone, and welcome back to “In The Know,” a podcast by the Minnesota Daily. 

Last week, we covered the presidential election. When that episode aired, the election had not yet been called. After several days of ballot counting, the Associated Press projected on Saturday that Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election. In local races, Senator Tina Smith was reelected, along with District 5 Representative Ilhan Omar

This week, we are bringing you into one of the biggest post-Election Day reactions we have seen in the Twin Cities—last Wednesday’s protest that shut down I-94. At the protest, the “In the Know” team spoke with protesters, business owners, and organizers about why they chose to march despite not yet knowing election results. Here’s Megan Germundson, Ava Kian and Yoko Vue on the ground at the protest. Please be advised that this episode contains strong language.

MEGAN GERMUNDSON: All right. So, it is a little bit after 6:00 PM on Wednesday, the night after the election. And I’m walking down Riverside Avenue to meet up with a protest on the West Bank, put on by Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar.

NAT SOUND   ORGANIZER VIA AIR HORN: “Hi everybody, thank you for being out here. How’s everybody tonight? I don’t think that Donald Trump or these capitalist politicians can hear you. How are you doing tonight?” — FADE OUT

DJ HOOKER: It’s fucking bullshit. This is why we need community control of the fucking police. Get some fucking accountability.

My name is DJ Hooker.

PALMER: DJ is a member of Justice 4 Jamar. 

HOOKER: I am 26 years old, and I’m a youth worker, and I do this for hopefully a better future. And it’s just hard when we have things like the election coming up. I’ve been scared the last couple of days, not because I’m scared of either of the candidates winning, but just the backlash that’s going to ensue after one wins. And, you know, a lot of youth of color feel that same fear too. And they really don’t even understand it completely. They just know they can feel it coming from all the adults in their life. And they don’t know all the details, but they can feel like something could happen or pop off at any moment.

And we’re just here protesting because it really doesn’t matter who wins because America actually didn’t have a real choice between two different styles of racism. It’s the difference between systemic and complicit racism and overt racism.

We’re asking for the police chief to be stripped of his power and to be given to this board of elected officials where they would have hire/fire power and power to charge people and prosecute them, the cops, and be able to hold them accountable. Because the only way you get things like George Floyd or someone is kneeling on someone’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds is when you know you work for a system that’s going to back that up and there is no punishment. 

GERMUNDSON: One thing I’m noticing is almost everybody, I haven’t seen one person not wearing a mask. 

HOOKER: We definitely understand the risk of COVID that is in play, and a lot of us have decided that fighting this unfair, rigged election and fighting racism and just doing like a lot of international solidarity work has a lot of risks, but we feel like it’s very important and I am appreciative that everyone cares enough that they’re wearing a mask and actually taking it seriously.

NAT SOUND  — RALLY MUSIC AND SOUNDS FADE UNDER TRACK BELOW 

MIKE MEEHAN: My name is Mike Meehan. 

I am 42. I actually am still a student at the U yeah, I’m studying history.

GERMUNDSON: And so, can you talk about why you’re here tonight and what you’re doing?

MEEHAN: I am here tonight to support the organizations that are leading. I’m working as a marshal helping to provide security and make sure that the whole crowd is safe and that all the organizers are safe and that nobody gets hurt tonight.

There might be like 20 or more of us right now for this event.

We look out for agitators coming in and cars coming too. We just try to stop cars from hitting people. And that’s our main job.

GERMUNDSON: And so how are you feeling tonight? You know, obviously the election is still going on. There’s votes still being counted.

MEEHAN: I don’t know, I am feeling better than I felt last night. And I’m really happy to see all the people out here and it makes me feel way better.

NAT SOUND  FADE IN: “Alright you guys, we’re going to hit the streets! But as we do, here’s what we’re going to chant ‘Trump, Biden, no retreat! Keep your ass out in the street.’”

NAT SOUND — RALLY CHANTING

PALMER: At this point, Megan, Yoko and Ava are walking down the street alongside the protest.

KIAN: We’re at the intersection of cedar and fourth street, marching west bound.  

NAT SOUND — RALLY CHANTING

PALMER: While following the protesters, our reporters spoke with Ali Ali, the general manager of Wadajir Grocery & Halal Meat who was watching the demonstration from outside of his store on Cedar Avenue.

ALI ALI: This is what democracy looks like, exercising people’s rights. That’s, that’s what we want. That’s what we want to see.

We want to hold on to democracy. Democracy is hope. We don’t want to lose that.

NAT SOUND — RALLY CHANTING

ALI : That’s, that we brag about, you know, as Americans, we usually say, okay, we live our lives, we live in a democratic country where law prevails. And so we really want to see that, we want things to go back to normal. And then, you know, some things we want change. But overall, we want democracy intact. 

This is our home, you know, home away from home. So we want to  be here, we want to prosper. We want to contribute. 

We work every day, sometimes seven days a week.

From sunup to sundown, we work every day. That’s how you make America great. Not by scheming, not by not paying your taxes like Trump does. You know, we do everything the way we’re supposed to, and we contribute on a micro level, but it makes a difference.

And we want to keep putting into it to make the country grow and ourselves grow. And we want to see democracy intact like I said, I cannot reiterate that enough over and over again. Because we know where we come from. So we don’t want to see that here. This is our last hope… where we feel optimistic, and we’re gonna keep it that way. So yeah, that’s why we’re anxious.

NAT SOUND — RALLY CHANTING

PALMER: Our reporters followed the protesters past Cedar and Seventh Street as the group marched onto the entrance ramp of highway 94 East.

GERMUNDSON: Ava, Yoko and I are in the back of the crowd right now. It looks like everybody is gearing up toward getting on 94E, and we saw some cops up there, shining lights, already prepared. 

NAT SOUND — RALLY CHANTING

NAT SOUND  DJ HOOKER VIA AIR HORN: “Try to stay together, make sure they don’t grab anyone. But in order to do that we need you to keep marching and stay together. Let the marshals do what they do best.”

PALMER: After about 20 minutes of marching down the highway, a line of state police and National Guard officers blocked the protesters from exiting. Cops were blocking oncoming traffic so there were no cars on the road. Protesters and press were left trapped and confused without an opportunity to exit the freeway. The police began arresting protesters without giving warning or an order for dispersal. 

NAT SOUND  QUICK FADE IN POLICE: “You are all under arrest – you are all under arrest for public nuisance, sit down and do it now.”

NAT SOUND: QUICK FADE UP DJ HOOKER VIA AIR HORN: “Everybody do not be intimidated you are here with the people, you’re amongst the community, you are safe amongst the community. Do not be intimidated. Do not be scared, do not be afraid, do not be afraid, do not be baited. You are amongst community — stick together, stick together.”

NAT SOUND  QUICK FADE IN RALLY CHANTING

LORETTA VANPELT: It’s Loretta …

PALMER: Loretta is a member of Justice 4 Jamar.

GERMUNDSON: How are you feeling right now? We’re on the highway…

VANPELT: Well, I’m feeling a little nervous, but I’ve done this before so I feel a little nervous. But it’s like they say, we do this all the time. So, I don’t know why there’s riot cops, we’re getting off the freeway. So, we weren’t even gonna stay on the freeway, they’re keeping us here on purpose.

FADE OUT UNDER TRACK

PALMER: As the night went on, additional law enforcement arrived at the site and protesters remained barricaded by a combination of police, national guard and state patrol. 

GERMUNDSON: So, there’s this confrontation going on with like a small group of protestors. Really, really close to the cops. 

This is Megan in the studio, I just wanted to take a second and explain the situation you’re about to hear. This was a young protester standing right in front of a line of around 20 police officers with batons, shouting through an air horn. It was an emotional and vulnerable moment for her and protesters around her. 

PROTESTER: Killing ass cops. Y’all want to arrest us? Y’all should be the ones arrested. Killing unarmed minorities. For what? For what? For what? Sir, sir, why do we have to step back? What, are you going to kill us? You going to kill us for not stepping back? We’re unarmed. You’re the only ones armed. What you got riot gear on for? We ain’t started no riots. We’re just using our voice. Do we offend you? Do we threaten you? Does our voice hurt you? You scary motherfucker. You’re scary as hell. Motherfucker. You look like you want to shoot me, you want to shoot me? Another black girl dead? You want to shoot me?

FADE OUT 

PALMER: The cops stood and watched this protester, until another protester came up and told her to back away.

NAT SOUND — GENERAL HUM AND ENERGY OF THE PROTEST

GERMUNDSON: How are you two feeling?

KIAN: I’m a little confused. We’re trapped in and the option to get out is not there.

I don’t even see where it ends.

YOKO VUE: Yeah, I think they’re all around us at this point. And it’s weird that they’re not letting us off. It’s like, so what are you supposed to do, you know?

FADE OUT 

PALMER: The protesters were stuck on the highway for around three hours as police began arresting them one-by-one, zip-tying their hands and processing them further down the road.   

NAT SOUND  — FADE IN — ELECTRIC SLIDE MUSIC 

PALMER: As the night went on, the protesters passed the time by dancing and celebrating their community. But the sentiment of the protest was not lost, as chants continued throughout the evening. 

NAT SOUND  — ELECTRIC SLIDE MUSIC — FADE OUT UNDER TRACK

NAT SOUND  LEAVING THE PROTEST

PALMER: Eventually 646 protesters on 94 East were arrested, given citations and let go by police. Protesters were kept on the bridge for nearly five hours. The last protesters were released after midnight, and most of them were either bussed or walked to different locations in the area. Two individuals were arrested and taken to Hennepin County Jail.

NAT SOUND  — LEAVING THE PROTEST — FADE OUT

PALMER: On the day after the election, two assertions of power were on display: the power of the vote and the power of the people in the streets. Wednesday’s protest has been described as being about ‘counting the vote’ or being ‘anti-Trump,’ but the group’s deeper message was about keeping the political power in the hands of regular people through protest and grassroots organizing — no matter who won the election. Ali, the grocery manager, said he felt positively about the state of our country after hearing the election results.

ALI: Very pleased. Optimism kicked in high gears, everybody was filled with joy and a sense of relief. 

KIAN: How do you feel about this happening in America? 

ALI: A bit scary because it feels like your past is catching up with you, because look at the country that we come from, we want this to be, you know, lead by example, so the others can move better, like my birthplace of Ethiopia, right now on the brink of civil war. So, seeing democracy diminish over there, and then also diminish over here, that’s scary. That’s double jeopardy, especially for us. 

KIAN: And what about Vice-President Kamala Harris? 

ALI: Oh, she is just an inspiration to you know, like to a lot of young black and color woman or or any kind of woman for that, for that matter. You know, a woman having the woman in that position also tells you that gender equality is also taking one step forward… It adds to that optimism. 

PALMER: This protest seemed different from usual protests, just as this election felt different from other elections. There was uncertainty and tension amplified by the presence of police in riot gear, the threat of COVID-19 and the votes still being counted. People took to the streets to use their voice, just as millions of people asserted theirs at the ballot box the day before. And in the end, as Joe Biden became the president-elect, protesters vowed to continue to apply pressure on the future administration just as they have with the current administration. 

OUTRO MUSIC

PALMER: In other U news: Governor Walz has announced new restrictions on restaurant dining and group gatherings to help curb Minnesota’s resurging number of coronavirus cases; the Gopher men’s basketball team has halted practices due to positive COVID cases; and a new student group called Code the Gap is striving to diversify STEM fields. We’ll see you next week.