Immigrant rights activists protest Met Council meeting, demand end to immigration enforcement on public transit
Saint Paul, MN – More than 70 immigrant rights activists and concerned community members packed the May 24 Metropolitan Council meeting at a protest called by the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAC). The Met Council oversees Metro Transit buses and trains as well as the Transit Police. The protesters held signs that read “Fire the cop,” “No more deportations” and “Metro Transit: Don't be Trump's anti-immigrant shock troops.”
The protest was called after an incident on Sunday, May 14 in which a transit cop on the Minneapolis Blue Line light rail train was video recorded by Minneapolis artist and activist Ricardo Levins Morales. In the video the transit cop asks a train passenger about his immigration status ( see video here)). The video went viral with more than a million views, spreading outrage about local police acting as immigration agents.
There have also been several reported incidents of groups of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officers carrying out operations on the light rail train. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is one of several agencies under DHS.
The protesters demanded that Metro Transit fire the transit cop who asked a rider about his immigration status on May 14; that they stop carrying out immigration enforcement on trains and buses; and that they stop cooperation with ICE and the DHS on the buses and trains.
About a dozen community members spoke out at the meeting, including Ricardo Levins Morales, who had filmed the viral video. Other speakers were with the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAC), Communities United Against Police Brutality and others. After community members finished speaking out, Metro Transit police chief John Harrington began to give his testimony to the Met Council about the May 14 incident. Part way through his testimony, community members began speaking out and challenging him. Community members then retook control of the meeting and began speaking out again until the Met Council members decided to adjourn their meeting. The group left their list of demands with members of the Met Council.
Many of the immigrant rights supporters at the Met Council meeting then left to go to the state capitol building to join in with the ongoing occupation of Governor Dayton’s office that is demanding that he veto an anti-immigrant bill at the legislature. The occupation began May 23 and will continue until Dayton vetoes the anti-immigrant bill that legislators are trying to push through in a special session. The occupation grew into massive protests throughout the day May 24 as many unions and other organizations converged on the capitol expressing solidarity and demanding that Governor Dayton also veto other bills that Republicans had attached anti-union language to. The chant of “Veto everything!” grew throughout the day.