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Judge Dismisses Charges Against Water Protectors In The Interests Of Justice

As three Native women Water Protectors prepared for trial next week in Aitkin County, Judge Leslie Metzen dismissed all remaining criminal charges against Winona LaDuke, Tania Aubid and Dawn Goodwin late Thursday afternoon, September 14, 2023.  The nearly three-year-old charges stemmed from a peaceful and prayerful gathering on the banks of the Mississippi River on ceded Anishinaabe land as Enbridge began construction of its Line 3 tar sands pipeline.  Joined by several dozen other Water Protectors, the three women wore ceremonial jingle dresses, and sang, danced, and prayed for the water as heavy construction equipment tore into the earth.  

Prisoners Strike At Oak Park Heights Canteen

Oak Park Heights, MN — Just days after prisoners at the Stillwater prison staged civil disobedience actions by refusing a staff lockdown, incarcerated workers at the nearby ‘level 5’ MCF-Oak Park Heights prison canteen have staged a work strike, according to activists who regularly stay in touch with prisoners. The use of segregation, or sending prisoners to ‘the hole,’ has increased in recent years. Oak Park Heights administrators sent prisoners there 694 times in 2018, according to state Department of Corrections (DOC) data. The Twin Cities branch of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) sent out a press release on the Oak Park Heights work stoppage.

Helicopter Footage From Mass Arrest Reveals State Trooper Surveillance

Minneapolis, MN – High-tech surveillance video and audio communication from a Minnesota State Patrol helicopter, obtained and first published by Unicorn Riot, reveals some of the planning and tactics behind the largest mass arrest in recent Minnesota history. On Nov. 4, 2020, a multi-agency law enforcement operation kettled and arrested at least 646 people during a post-election-day protest calling for then-President Donald Trump to not ‘steal the vote.’ In an exclusive release, viewers are taken inside Minnesota State Patrol’s Bell 407 helicopter, N119SP, to see and hear the operations of authorities as around 700 peaceful protesters marched onto Interstate 94 in Minneapolis.

How Immigrant Warehouse Workers Took On Amazon And Won

"I've never been an organizer,” Khali Jama says, “but I’ve always fought.” As a single mother, a Muslim, and a Somali-American worker living in Minnesota, Jama has always had to fight for the life she, her family, and her fellow workers deserve. And earlier this year, after bringing that fight to the Minnesota state legislature, Khali and her coworkers achieved a major victory. “On May 16,” Lisa Kwon reports in PRISM, “Minnesota lawmakers passed the nation’s strongest Amazon warehouse worker protection legislation with the Warehouse Worker Protection Act, which ensures that workers can take breaks during the workday and have access to relevant quota and performance standards and data on how fast they’re working.

Limited Funds Stunts Minnesota’s Conviction Review Unit

Minnesota’s Conviction Review Unit (CRU) has received nearly 1,000 applications of wrongful incarceration to review but with only a couple paid staff and four grants in two years, impacted families complain about lengthy waits while the CRU say they lack capacity and funding. Created to prevent, identify, and remedy wrongful convictions, the state’s first-ever CRU began accepting applications in August 2021 — after the first quarter of 2023, it had completed only one official investigation. Seeking transparency on the unit as time continues to pass, advocates and families of many wrongfully incarcerated people languishing in Minnesota prisons have publicly confronted the CRU, complaining of inaction.

Creating America’s First Native Public Housing Complex

During the second half of the 1960s, on the heels of the civil rights movement and in the midst of a steadily growing urban Indian community, American Indian community members in Minneapolis and Saint Paul began to meet to discuss the many issues urban Indians across the Twin Cities were facing. These community gatherings eventually became the foundation for the politically minded American Indian Movement, widely recognized as AIM. It would not be long before “AIM and its leaders saw the need for a native-oriented housing development to help American Indians transition from the reservation to the city without losing touch with their traditional values” researcher Robert G. Style writes.

Minnesota’s Community Solar Program

Minnesota was one of the first states to enable community solar and became an early leader as its program flourished. The original policy, passed in 2013, established a community solar program bound to the state’s largest investor-owned electric utility, Xcel Energy, and was noteworthy for allowing for unlimited development. A 2023 policy (HF 2310) has expanded the program, while also introducing new rules and limitations. Community solar is still only available to customers of Xcel and will be administered by the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Under the new rules, a qualifying community solar garden may have no more than five megawatts of generation capacity, must have at least 25 subscribers per megawatt, and no consumer may subscribe to over 40 percent of a garden’s capacity.

Minneapolis Continues Encampment Evictions, Displacing Hundreds In May

Minneapolis, MN — During the month of May, the City of Minneapolis has been busy evicting encampments of unhoused people, displacing hundreds and throwing away many people’s only belongings. Minneapolis Police (MPD) displaced about 80 unhoused people on East Franklin Avenue in South Minneapolis on May 10. Each week since, they’ve evicted several smaller camps erected from those displaced from the Franklin Ave. sweep, continuing a punishing and deadly cycle. “This is what he touts as his great success,” said American Indian Movement member Mike Forcia about Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and homelessness.

In 49 States, Your Boss Can Hold You Captive

This week, state legislators in Minnesota passed a package of pro-labor measures that instantly makes the state the envy of workers everywhere. The new laws include paid sick days for everyone, banning noncompete agreements, a crackdown on wage theft, and a wage board to set pay in the nursing home industry. All a big deal. But let’s talk briefly about one in particular: a ban on captive audience meetings. As you know if you have ever hung around union people who are in the process of getting extremely mad, ​“captive audience meetings” are when the boss calls a mandatory meeting for employees, and then proceeds to lie to them about how bad unions are.

UN Visits Minneapolis To Investigate Human Rights After Pressure Campaign

Minneapolis, Minnesota - United Nations human rights investigators visited six U.S. cities that have been in the spotlight in recent years for police-involved killings of African Americans. The Minnesota visit comes after Twin Cities based activists organized petitions and letters to get the human rights panel to include Minneapolis in its tour. On May 2, the Urban League in North Minneapolis hosted two United Nations’ (UN) panelists and a room full of members of the Twin Cities Black American and African communities, along with the press, for a community listening session. At least 80 people were in attendance.

‘Driver’s Licenses For All’ Bill A Model For Data Privacy Protections

An attorney who worked with Minnesota Democrats to craft the new ‘Driver’s Licenses For All’ bill, recently signed into law, spoke to Unicorn Riot about the bill’s privacy provisions that reportedly prevent driver data from being shared with the feds. On March 2, the Democrat-controlled Minnesota state legislature passed the “Driver’s Licenses For All” bill, restoring driving privileges to all Minnesota residents regardless of immigration status. Democratic Governor Tim Walz signed the bill into law on March 7. This legislation comes after a 20-year struggle. In 2003, GOP Governor Tim Pawlenty unilaterally revoked the right of some Minnesotans to obtain a driver’s license by mandating proof of legal residency in the United States, such as a Social Security Number from applicants.

Focus On What’s Strong, Not What’s Wrong

Everyone has a gift. That gift is a talent or passion. But not everyone gets to use their gift, talent or passion. Sometimes, people are not invited to share their gifts. We see this a lot. There is a problem. It could be big or small. Some people or groups are labeled as the source of the problem. They are called a nuisance, incorrigible, incurable or worse. They get cast aside, then forgotten. And the problem never gets solved. That doesn't mean the problem no longer exists. It just means "it's not our problem anymore." We may choose not to see it, but it's still a problem. This way of thinking is how we get unsolved problems and why we have the same longstanding issues that don't change.

Police Accountability Leaders Discuss Minneapolis Policing Agreement

Minneapolis, Minnesota – A new, court-enforceable settlement agreement sets a road map for policing changes in Minneapolis, authorities said during a press conference on March 31. A week later, police accountability movement leaders held a press conference in City Hall to speak on what the agreement means to the everyday people of Minneapolis who’ve endured the violent, racist practices of the police. Speakers at the press conference included Michelle Gross, President of Communities United Against Police Brutality, Jaylani Hussein, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN), Myon Burrell, who spent 18 years incarcerated for a murder he didn’t commit...

What’s Fueling The Graduate Worker Union Upsurge?

The Twin Cities saw one of its biggest-ever snowstorms the week of Presidents Day. But for labor activists the snow was overshadowed by the launch of the University of Minnesota Graduate Labor Union. In its first 24 hours, the new union—affiliated with the United Electrical Workers (UE)—gathered more than 1,700 authorization cards representing nearly half the entire bargaining unit. Eight days in, they had a strong majority. And this week they filed for election with 65 percent support. Such a first day bodes well for the success of the campaign, despite five—count ’em, five—previous election losses in graduate union drives at the University of Minnesota.

‘Tiny Ripples Of Change’: An Interview With Tara Houska

Minnesota - Through her kitchen window, just outside of Ranier, Minnesota—a tiny town east of International Falls—water protector Tara Houska gazes out at Rainy Lake. Called Gojijiing in Ojibwe, the 360-square-mile lake straddles the border between Minnesota and Ontario, Canada. Among the many islands, capes, and peninsulas around the lake is Bald Rock Point, the site of a sixteen-acre former resort built almost a century ago. Bald Rock Point is also now home to a longtime dream for Houska, a member of Couchiching First Nation. It’s the future location of a “long-term resistance camp” where she intends to raise her infant daughter, host Ojibwe language classes, conduct trainings, hold retreats, and nurture other activists.
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