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Despite threats, Nelson Mandela’s grandson makes important visit to Minneapolis

By Wyatt Miller

Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela speaking in Minneapolis.

Minneapolis, MN – “Today, I call on you and all freedom-loving people of the world, and boldly say to all of you, do not speak in hushed and muffled tones about the more than 7 million Palestinians in the diaspora who are being denied their right of return. Today, we call on all freedom-loving people of the world to support the global call for their return to Palestine,” said Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela, grandson of South African revolutionary Nelson Mandela, to a crowd of over 200.

Mandela’s May 16 visit to Minneapolis came as part of a nationwide tour to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Nakba – Arabic for catastrophe – when Zionist settlers violently forced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to leave their national homeland, during the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

The tour was organized by US Palestinian Community Network (USPCN) and the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (NAARPR). Affiliated local groups, the Anti-War Committee and Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar (TCC4J), put together the Minneapolis tour stop.

In his speech, Mandela made connections between the anti-apartheid struggles in both South Africa and Palestine, as well as the Black liberation movement in the U.S.

“Today, as we commemorate the 75th Nakba year, we are reminded of our own struggle against the racist apartheid regime in South Africa,” he said. “Israel is an apartheid state, and it has been practicing racism, repression and brutality against innocent Palestinians since the day it was created.”

Mandela highlighted the local Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the Israeli occupation. “For supporters of the Palestinian struggle in the USA, one of the most critical tasks is lobbying to end U.S. aid to apartheid Israel,” Mandela explained. “I am told that the Minnesota State Board of Investments has over $800 million invested in entities carrying out or complicit in Israeli apartheid systems. We must intensify the BDS campaign to end these investments in apartheid Israeli crimes.”

The event originally had been set to take place at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. But just one day beforehand, the university abruptly canceled the talk, allegedly due to an anonymous threat of violence posted on social media.

The cancellation was criticized by human rights groups, who in a press release said it “emboldens those who seek to intimidate.” Organizers quickly relocated the event to the nearby meeting hall of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and increased security precautions. Ultimately, no threats materialized.

Before the talk, Mandela visited George Floyd Square at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, where in May 2020, George Floyd was murdered by white police officer Derek Chauvin, sparking a worldwide uprising against racist police. Mandela met with Floyd’s aunt at the square along with other local Black liberation movement activists.

In his speech, Mandela told the diverse crowd: “It is no coincidence that you have come out in support of this Nakba 75 tour, because you have experienced firsthand the evil of racism and repression. You have experienced the evil that dehumanizes and denies you your fundamental human rights. You have experienced the brutality meted out against an innocent person. You have experienced firsthand that victims have names, just as the 530 villages that were destroyed had names, and the 15,000 people massacred on Nakba Day on the 15th of May, 1948, all had names. His name was Jamar Clark. His name was Daunte Wright. His name was Andre Hill. His name was Manuel Ellis. His name was Philando Castile. His name was George Floyd.”

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