Minnesota SDS protest confronts war criminal Condoleezza Rice
Minneapolis, MN – Hundreds of students and community members gathered outside of Northrop Auditorium at the University of Minnesota (U of M), on the evening of April 17, to protest an appearance by Bush White House National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. Rice was speaking as an invited guest of the University’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
The crowd of over 250 protesters, led by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), heard speakers including professors David Pellow and August Nimtz, AFSCME 3800 President Cherenne Horazuk, Welfare Rights Committee member Deb Howze, Anti-War Committee member Sabri Wazwaz and representatives from other student groups such as Whose Diversity and Students for Justice in Palestine.
Speakers condemned Rice as a war criminal whose misconduct during the Bush administration included direct responsibility for the use of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques.’ This torture was systematically implemented by the CIA and used at Black Sites around the world as well as prisons like Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.
Protesters gathered in front of Northrop exercised their rights to ‘free speech’ by defying police orders banning the use of amplified sound.
In the weeks before Rice’s appearance, SDS worked with several professors on a University Senate resolution, modeled after a similar one passed at Rutgers University, condemning the visit of Rice. Though the resolution failed, over 200 professors signed a petition opposing her visit, her receiving of $150,000 to speak, and condemning her role in the Bush administration.
Speaking to the rally, Stephanie Taylor of SDS stated, “Condoleezza is advocating for the erasure of history and the covering up of crimes committed.” Sociology Professor David Pellow spoke about how Rice’s ‘humanitarian’ work was done in places like Iraq with F-16 jets. He reminded the crowd that Rice was a board member for the Chevron Corporation which has been responsible for a long list of environmental disasters around the world. For her efforts, Rice had an oil tanker named after her. The name of the tanker was changed in the run up to the war on Iraq. Speaker Maggie Kilgo pointed out, “The illegal invasion of Iraq was predicated on the lie that Iraq had WMDs to disguise the fact that a great economic incentives provided a lucrative bounty to the American invaders and the private corporations that they brought with them.”
In addition the record of illegal wars, occupation and systematic torture under the leadership of Rice and the Bush administration, SDS and other protesters highlighted that Rice, who was to speak about the Civil Rights Act of 1964, was bad choice to speak on the subject. In his open letter to Condoleezza Rice, U of M Humphrey School Roy Wilkins Professor of Human Relations and Social Justice Samuel Meyers, Jr. stated, “the argument is that you are black and a woman and even though you have expressed opposing views long held by the mainstream supporters of equal opportunity and fairness, and you are not an academic expert on the topic, your visit should be supported because, well, you are black and a woman!”
Professor August Nimtz stated, “Hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of others” could have spoken to the “narrative about how a particular black family coped with, and refused to be broken by, that system” of white supremacy in the Jim Crow south. Nimtz himself grew up in the Jim Crow south in New Orleans and highlighted the fact that Rice was “missing in action” while some “90% of her cohorts made the decisive contributions for the victory, the Children’s Crusade, when the masses took to the streets.” Nimtz also highlighted her absence from struggles against apartheid in South Africa.
Deb Howze of the Welfare Rights Committee told of the hypocrisy of Rice speaking on behalf of Civil Rights when Rice oversaw wars abroad that took billions of dollars to murder Iraqi’s including women and children while the women and children of the U.S. suffered and starved at home.
After speaking in front of the auditorium, hundreds of protesters marched around the building and across campus. They returned to the side entry of Northrop where guests entered and were expected to exit from. Inside, during Rice’s speech several members of the audience wore orange jump suits and black hoods to protest her contributions of torture and crimes against humanity.
Upon exiting the speech from Rice, hundreds of people were confronted by the protesters waiting outside the doors. Exiting guests had to walk through a canyon of loud protesters chanting slogans like “This is what democracy looks like, Rice is what hypocrisy looks like!”
The protest led by SDS made it clear to Rice and the University of Minnesota that “War criminals are not welcome on our campus.”