Obama confronted by immigrant rights, anti-war, and environmental protesters in Minneapolis
Minneapolis, MN – Protesters confronted President Obama during an electoral-season fundraising swing through Minneapolis on June 26-27. Immigrant rights, anti-war and environmental groups protested together outside a big-money fundraiser where Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appeared on the evening of June 26.
Obama’s handlers wanted the media to focus on public relations events that make him look folksy—like a man of the people, instead of Wall Street’s man. So Obama ate lunch at Matt’s Bar in South Minneapolis with a woman who previously wrote him a letter. Then Obama spoke at a tightly-controlled, invitation-only town hall meeting where he repeated key election-season talking points and took limited questions. But the main reason for Obama’s visit to Minneapolis was reportedly to raise half a million dollars in one night. Hosted by Democratic Party fundraiser and former Ambassador to Morocco Sam Kaplan, entrance ran between $10,000 and $32,000 per person and goes towards fall election campaigns.
Outside the fundraiser, Minnesotans gathered to confront President Obama for his policies of continuing wars in the Middle East, torture at Guantanamo, mass deportation of immigrants, and environmental destruction. Chants alternated between the themes, with all groups supporting each other.
As protesters gathered at 5:00 p.m. on West River Parkway and North 4th Avenue around the corner from the fundraiser, the police quickly penned them in and pushed them away from the street. Police were apparently under orders to get the protest out of eyesight or hearing range from where Obama’s caravan would drive by, and where the wealthy donors were arriving. The police surrounded protesters with yellow tape reading ‘police line – do not cross’, leaving no way out except into the Mississippi River. Some people trying to get to the protest were stopped two blocks away on North 2nd Street, as helicopters hovered menacingly overhead.
Yet as Sarah Martin of Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) said, when the President’s caravan drove by to take him to the fundraiser, “Obama could clearly see and hear our message of ‘No more war on Iraq.’” Chants of “Money for housing not for war – hands off Iraq!” rang out loudly right as Obama’s caravan drove by. Minnesotans for Peace organized the anti-war presence, which included members of WAMM, the Anti-War Committee, and other groups.
Members of the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAC) also protested, with a message of “No more deportations.” The Obama administration is responsible for deporting over 2 million immigrants – more than Bush or any other president in U.S. history. There is a humanitarian crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border as tens of thousands of children are fleeing rampant violence and severe poverty in Central America and México. Obama’s response is to speed up deportations of these children, sending them back to the uncertain and dangerous situations they are fleeing from. According to Julio Martinez of MIRAC, “We are marching because we need urgent action from President Obama. He has the capacity and the power to end the suffering of our families who have lost a member due to deportation.”
Environmental groups also protested, including MN350 and others, focusing on environmental dangers with the Keystone XL pipeline and Enbridge’s Alberta Clipper pipeline. A nine-year old girl inspired the crowd when she spoke about why it’s important for President Obama to stop the pipelines and support the environment.