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Students protest SCOTUS Justice Amy Coney Barrett

By Fa‘aumu Kaimana

Students wrap their arms around one another with mouths open, chanting. In the background a sign that has devil ears on a portrait of Amy Coney Barrett can be seen.

Minneapolis, MN – On Tuesday, October 16, a group of students and community members rallied on the steps of Northrop Hall at University of Minnesota. They were there to protest U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett at the annual donor-funded Law School public lecture.

The rally was covered by over a dozen local and national news outlets. Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at UMN and the Minnesota Abortion Action Committee (MNAAC) jointly organized the rally, where at least 250 people mobilized in support of abortion access, affirmative action, and the rights of marginalized peoples.

Justice Barrett is a key figure in the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority and played an instrumental role in striking down Roe v. Wade (1973) in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (2022). Roe v. Wade was a longstanding precedent for the Supreme Court which protected the constitutional right to an abortion. Since the Dobbs decision, 13 states have banned abortions, and many others imposed client and/or provider restrictions on abortions, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Abortion rights movements in the Twin Cities, especially MNAAC, are currently in the struggle to expand legitimate abortion clinics and shut down the nearly 90 illegitimate “crisis pregnancy centers” across Minnesota.

Barrett also voted with conservative justices to strike down affirmative action in SFFA v. Harvard (2023) and SFFA v. UNC (2023). Student movements in the 1960s and ‘70s called for affirmative action in efforts to increase Black and brown enrollment in U.S. universities. Though legal decisions have debated what affirmative action can look like, affirmative action remains an important tool to increase diversity in higher education. Alongside attacks on diversity, equity, and inclusion in states like Florida, Texas and Louisiana, where SDS chapters are currently engaging in struggles against university administrations, the SFFA decisions are certain to make higher education for Black and brown students even less accessible.

Florida members of SDS, the Tampa 5, were arrested on felony charges and are being put on trial for protesting similar attacks on education by Governor Ron DeSantis.

Rally speaker Maggie Moynihan of MNAAC spoke about the contradictions the UMN presents when they invite a Supreme Court justice with a track record of harming women and students of color. “As a white-majority school, the University of Minnesota has an especially important duty to provide its marginalized students with a diverse and inclusive educational experience,” said Moynihan. “Amy Coney Barrett is a threat to all working-class and marginalized people in the United States and the university administrators have invited this threat to spread her hateful ideology to students on this campus. The message this decision sends is clear. The university does not value the safety of the women, people of color, immigrants, or queer people on this campus.”

Speaker Bryce Riesner of SDS reminded the UMN administration that when they invited Barrett to campus, they had invited “a representative of bigotry.” Speaking against the fallacy of “free speech,’”Riesner pointed out that the university has the power to draw the line at hate and intolerance. “I have so many conservative family and friends who have no hatred in their heart for anyone. [Barrett] does not represent them,” said Riesner. “Her fundamentalist beliefs are not conservative. What she practices in her home is her business, but when she takes a seat as a Supreme Court justice, her beliefs affect all of us!”

During the rally, a handful of experienced UMN SDS members disrupted Barrett’s lecture inside Northrop Hall, where over 1500 attendees sat. Video of the interaction posted to the chapter’s @umnsds Instagram account shows protesters chanting “Not the court! Not the state! The people must decide their fate!” and “When affirmative action is under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!”

In their rally speech, Sasmit Rahman recounted the experience of being removed from the lecture, stating that the removal was a cowardly act by Barrett, who apparently refused to acknowledge the protesters. “You’re so comfortable stripping us of our rights,” Rahman said of Barrett, “but too scared to face the consequences of your bigoted decisions! Shame on you Amy, you fucking coward!”

Over a dozen rally speakers represented progressive grassroots organizations across the Twin Cities. These organizations include the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee, Young Democratic Socialists of America, Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar, Students for Climate Justice, Anti-War Committee, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, and local trade unions.

Progressive organizations agree that giving Barrett a platform is a disgrace to the UMN and that we must fight back.

Abortion is a human right!

Defend affirmative action and queer rights!

No to Amy Coney Barrett!

#MinneapolisMN #Minneapolis #AmyConeyBarrett #SDS #MNAAC #UMN #ReproductiveJustice #Abortion #SupremeCourt #AffirmativeAction #RoevWade