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Human Rights Day car caravan rolls through Minneapolis

By Wyatt Miller

Minneapolis, MN – Nearly 100 cars stretched for over a half mile, honking horns in unison and shouting protest chants from rolled-down windows as they slowly drove through the Cedar-Riverside and Seward neighborhoods on December 12. The occasion was Human Rights Day, with car-caravanning protesters demanding respect for human rights at home and abroad from the U.S. government.

The action was organized by the Minnesota Anti-War Committee (AWC), which has held annual Human Rights Day events for decades. This year it took place during a dramatic spike in infections of the COVID-19 pandemic. A short-range FM radio broadcast allowed participants to listen to the program and honk along with protest chants from the safety of their cars.

Misty Rowan spoke on behalf of the AWC. “I know that we are all ready to leave 2020 behind, but let’s not pretend that our current predicament is some kind of fluke, or random bad luck. Our leaders are bought and paid for by the 1%, and our communities are left without resources or recourse in the face of injustice. It is up to us, regardless of who is president, to continue to struggle for better conditions for all.”

“The truth is, the U.S. is shit when it comes to human rights,” Rowan continued. “It’s hard to believe that some people can still uphold a version of this country as the ‘leaders of the free world’ when we don’t even have basic health care in this country.”

The car caravan started at May Day Plaza, which one month earlier, on November 4, was the starting point of a large Black Lives Matter protest at which over 646 protesters were kettled by police for hours on Interstate 94 before being mass-arrested.

One of those arrestees, Jae Yates of Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar (TCC4J), connected the mass arrests to the struggle for human rights, demanding charges dropped and “a future where we don’t have to worry about being murdered by police.”

Yates added, “That’s a future where the absolutely insane amount of money spent on kettling us on a highway – that we were already going to leave within five minutes – can go to actual programs that help people. It can go to giving people houses. For free! It’s a human right! People deserve to have homes. People deserve to have healthcare. This shouldn’t be a debate anymore.”

Speakers connected other movement issues to human rights as well. “Climate justice runs through all kinds of different struggles,” said Austin Dewey of the Climate Justice Committee (CJC). “The global climate crisis is an existential threat to us as individuals, as a community, and as a species. Both the Democrats and Republicans want to shift blame for this climate crisis onto anyone and anything but the system that created this mess. Rather than shifting blame, we need to start here at home.”

In addition to AWC, TCC4J and CJC, participating organizations included the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee, Students for a Democratic Society at UMN, Women Against Military Madness, Minnesota Peace Action Coalition and the local Veterans for Peace chapter. Demands included stopping U.S. wars, especially recent U.S. aggression on Iran; an end to U.S. aid to Israel; legalization for all people in the U.S. regardless of immigration status; community control over police, and respect for environmental and treaty rights as human rights.

The AWC will next be holding an online book club discussing The Hundred Years' War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonial Conquest and Resistance by Rashid Khalidi, on January 14, 2021 at 7 p.m.

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