Minneapolis, MN – On New Year’s Eve, authorities in Minneapolis attacked a crowd of nearly 100 without warning during a national night of noise demos held against the prison systems and in solidarity with incarcerated people. Police arrested three dozen and charged five people with felony second degree riot.
Over the last month, Unicorn Riot gathered statements from a handful of noise demo participants and arrestees. The testimonies paint a picture of a cold, traumatic night of aggressive police repression.
Minneapolis police continue to crack down on even the most modest eruptions of resistance these days—tonight they made arrests at the annual New Year’s Eve noise demo, a long-standing tradition of ringing in the new year outside jails all over. https://t.co/cVndaO0wN7
— The Minnesota Wild (@lets_go_wild) January 1, 2021
Minneapolis has seen numerous noise demonstrations in the last several years on different occasions, including on New Year’s Eve. The demos at incarcerating institutions are centered around the demand for an abolition of the prison system and supporting prisoners. The participants have typically showed their support to those incarcerated by having the demos outside of the Hennepin County Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) and the adult jail.
“I have a lot of passion and empathy for folks who are incarcerated. Being locked up that time of year has to be the worst, seeing everyone and everything pass another year without you. So I wanted to go out and show people that they are still part of society and we still think about them and they still matter.“– Anonymous participant #3 in Minneapolis NYE noise demo
The demos have featured marching bands, lit flares, fireworks, chants, banners, and participants banging on pots and pans or street signs outside of the institution. [View two videos from past noise demos at the Hennepin County JDC: 1, 2.]
Up to 100 people attended a noise demo downtown Minneapolis on the frigidly cold night of December 31, 2020. Fireworks were lit and when slogans like “free our kids” and “ACAB” were painted on the outside of the JDC, authorities attacked without warning.
“Our noise demo, with a crowd of about 50 people, had taken to downtown Minneapolis with fireworks following a nationwide call to action and a historic precedent of noise demos being used in solidarity with incarcerated comrades. That night we beat drums and set off fireworks outside the Hennepin County Juvenile Detention Center in a push for abolition. That morning cops made our case in point.“– Anonymous participant #1 in Minneapolis NYE noise demo
Participants in the demo said as they were leaving the JDC and starting to march, a large contingent of police forces attacked the crowd with no warning. Authorities from the Minneapolis Police, State Patrol, Golden Valley Police, Hennepin County Sheriffs, and aerial surveillance reportedly made up the multi-agency attack.
Around 100 in Minneapolis joined a NYE nationwide call for protest supporting those imprisoned by the state. After the jail was spray-painted Minneapolis Police, State Patrol, Golden Valley PD, Hennepin Sheriffs, & state aerial surveillance descended on the area to arrest dozens. pic.twitter.com/9jB49WPW8v
— daviss (@daviss) January 1, 2021
Many people were able to run and escape while upwards of 36 people were arrested. As police made arrests, some of the people were violently tackled and pepper sprayed. A large group of the prison abolitionists ended up trapped on a stairway near West River Parkway and were held outside in single-digit wind chills for several hours as police slowly processed them for arrest.
— 🖤❤️ (@_wolfsclothing_) January 1, 2021
Audio from the police scanner that night signified that police went from ordering the strike teams to “give a dispersal order for unlawful assembly” to explicitly ordering arrests without a dispersal order.
“No need for dispersal indiscriminate property damage, move in and make arrests as necessary.“– Minneapolis Police scanner December 31, 2020
Witnesses described the initial police rush as aggressive, surprising, and at some points, brutal. One participant recounted the story of their female friend who was tackled by police, kneed in the back, and suffered “deep contusions on her sternum.“
“Then the police came and swarmed. My friend tried to surrender and dropped to the ground. A male cop grabbed her, tackled her and shoved her down in the snow on her stomach. He treated her so rough, it was fucked up. She wasn’t resisting at all; she was totally complying and he just hurt her. Once she was on her stomach, he pushed his knee into her back and she really clearly started to be distressed, freaking out, having a panic attack. It was just so unnecessary and violent. Later when she went to the hospital, she had deep contusions on her sternum.“– Anonymous participant #2 in Minneapolis NYE noise demo
“…I was on my back on ice hardened pavement in cuffs. I had passed out from hypothermia.“
One of the arrestees recounted passing out from hypothermia while waiting in the cold. Later, they said the police accused them of faking it. The arrestee said some of them were “standing back-to-back to hold hands and keep each other’s fingers warm.“
“Eventually my memories get blurry. I can recall, after over an hour into the arrest, turning to a comrade and trying to lean on them saying I felt sick. The next thing I remember was feeling cold and confused, for a millisecond wondering if I had woken up from a dream before realizing I was on my back on ice hardened pavement in cuffs. I had passed out from hypothermia.”– Anonymous participant #2 in Minneapolis NYE noise demo
Those arrested all said the wait to get taken to jail was multiple hours. The jail sits just a few blocks from the location of the mass arrests.
Last night protesters were arrested during a noise demo against police and prisons. We were forced to wait in the freezing cold as we were processed. Most of us were cited and released but some comrades are still being held over “intent to start a riot”. #FreeThemAll #ACAB
— Twin Cities Encampment Responders (@TCparkresponder) January 1, 2021
A participant who was able to escape being arrested spoke about the aggressive nature of the police assault and said they continue to “see flashes of those moments” in their head.
“The initial response I remember is seeing bright lights in my face and hearing an officer shout “Get ‘Em!” As I ran down the stairs. The tone of his voice was very aggressive and it scared me. I ran and there was a person running next to me, and a cop tried to grab him. I was able to pull the guy away at first, but then the cop got both hands on him and started taking him to the ground.
I remember hearing the cop yelling at the guy, “Did you try to swing at me?” all aggressive and shit, and I looked back and it looked like the cop was hitting him. It’s been weeks now and I still see flashes of those moments in my head.“– Anonymous participant #3 in Minneapolis NYE noise demo
Twenty-one people were cited and released after being arrested and 15 of the 36 people arrested were booked on probable cause (PC) riot charges. Many of the participants believe the 15 held were targeted for riot charges because they had gas masks.
From KSTP: “According to officials with the city, 15 people were booked for probable cause riot and 21 people were cited and released.”
— daviss (@daviss) January 1, 2021
Five of the 15 booked on PC riot were later given felony charges of second-degree riot-armed with a dangerous weapon. One of the five had a permitted firearm, three had pocket knives on them, and one had fireworks.
A person uninvolved in the noise demo but arrested and given a felony charge because they had a pocket knife on them said they were “simply out with friends and got swept up with the crowd” and are now having to prove their innocence.
“I am finding myself having to prove my innocence when they have no evidence against me. since I didn’t know about anything or the people that planned this, I’ve been focused on just providing any proof to show what I was actually doing that night and that I ended up there unintentionally.“– Uninvolved in the noise demo and yet arrested and charged with a a felony
The felonies have drawn criticism from the legal community. Defense attorney Jordan Kushner stated he felt the charges were “politically motivated” to “suppress the protest movement challenging police abuse.“
One of the prison protesters who shared their experience, compared the “unevenness” of “felony charges for things like a pocket knife” to the heavily armed right-wing protesters from Stop the Steal, Hold the Line and Bikers for Trump events.
“This felt like a complete escalation by the police and I can’t help but think of this as an omen for what’s ahead. Serious, felony charges for things like a pocket knife? For a legally carried firearm?
And think of the unevenness right? Almost every person at a Stop the Steal, Hold the Line, Bikers for Trump type event is carrying. But these charges never happen for them, even when they do things like knock phones out of reporters hands or act threatening while drinking in the middle of the street.“– Anonymous participant #3 in Minneapolis NYE noise demo
The second degree riot charge with a dangerous weapon is the same felony that Hennepin County prosecutors are using to go after 19-year-old Amina McCaskill, who was part of the 646 people mass arrested during a post-election day protest in Minneapolis. Many in the community have voiced that she’s been overcharged in a political move to attempt to stifle protest activities.
In the complaints for the five given NYE demo felonies, the prosecutors are using the content of social media postings as pretext for their crackdown. The complaint noted that officers learned of the demonstration that day from a posting that declared: “BURN THE PRECINCTS & THE PRISONS!” and “Drop the charges. Free them all! #Fuck12” and “instructed participants to wear black and mask up.”
The prosecution’s complaint states that after graffiti was sprayed on JDC and the Medical Examiner’s Office, authorities moved in to make arrests. They list what they found on the dozens that they arrested, including protective materials and medical supplies.
“The messages included: “ACAB” “DOWN W AMERICA” “Fuck12” “Kill all Kops” “Crimewave 2021” “AMERICA’S LAST YEAR?” “DEATH TO AMERI[KKK]A”
At approximately 11:38 pm, the order was given to officers to move in and detain the group in order to stop further riotous behavior. The group scattered as officers approached. Officers were able to detain approximately half of the group as they fled.
During the course of these detentions and investigation, officers recovered a handgun, knives, three cans containing a suspected wax and fuel substance, a green laser, mace, improvised spike balls, a taser, fireworks, gas masks, body armor, helmets, and 2-way radios. Additionally, it was learned that the group had a designated “emergency medical technician.” Individuals detained by officers were processed at the scene and transported to the Hennepin County Jail.“– Complaint of felony arrestee
Participants spoke about the need to have body armor and other safety and medical equipment because of the rising threat of right-wing violence. One person said a few of them were anticipating a possible attack on their demo by a group like the Proud Boys and were concerned about the safety of the crowd, so they had a security and medical detail ready.
The five people charged with felonies have all pled not guilty and have future court dates set. Below are accounts from two participants and an uninvolved arrestee swept up in the mix.Accounts-from-Participants-of-Minneapolis-NYE-Noise-Demo
A sense of community support has developed since the police attack on the demonstration. A protester said “there’s a general sense that what happened that night was unusual and strange and traumatic” and that solidarity from the outside world and cohesion amongst participants has helped.
Police marked an end to 2020, a year that featured the biggest anti-police movement in history, with an aggressive couple days in Minneapolis. The police attack on the NYE noise demo came a day after Minneapolis officers fatally shot 23-year-old Dolal Idd during a sting at a very public and open gas station. The discussion around police reform that reached a fever pitch last year will continue through 2021 as actions of violence and repression against the community and protesters continue.
Cover image and image with text aside via Chad Davis.