We scheduled a trip on Saturday to a downtown Minneapolis restaurant for a birthday dinner. We had made reservations hoping that the unrest in the Twin Cities wouldn’t cause the restaurant to close. Our son’s football game was canceled Friday night due to the curfew and possibility of violence, so we knew it was a possibility.
Saturday came, and we made our way to the Cities. As we drove into Minneapolis, I noticed several businesses with their windows boarded up. Caribou Coffee had written on their boards that they were still open. Many had BLM signs on their boarded up windows. National Guard vehicles were parked at every corner. We drove by one road completely barricaded as a home base of sorts for the Guard.
This was comforting and unsettling at the same time. After parking our car, both my husband and I thanked them for their presence. I witnessed others, of races different than our own, doing the same.
But apparently, not all people feel as we did.
Last week, union members ousted the National Guard from the St. Paul Labor Center.
State Representative Sondra Erickson (R - Dist. 15A) reported on Thursday, April 15: “My colleagues and I are appalled by this treatment and have asked these union members to apologize. We [the Republicans] have offered to these extra law enforcement officers our office space, conference rooms complete with treats and any other provisions we can provide – all donated by us individually.”
Stated in a Pioneer Press article dated April 16 and titled, “Union activists boot MN National Guard from St. Paul Labor Center. Walz says this is ‘unacceptable,’” the National Guard, consisting of approximately 50 uniformed soldiers, exited the Labor Center on Wednesday evening, April 14, after chants of “Don’t come back!” and “Whose house? Our house!” and “Na-na-na-na, goodbye!” were shouted by a dozen or more labor advocates.
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R - Dist. 31A) called for an apology and resignation of the union leaders involved in the incident. At least one democratic leader, Rep. Dave Lislegard, also called on an apology of the union leaders.
“The treatment of our National Guardsmen stationed at the St. Paul Labor Center this week was nothing short of appalling,” said Daudt in a written statement. “These are citizen soldiers who left their families and jobs this week to keep us safe. They deserve better than this.”
Rep. Dave Lislegard, who represents an Iron Range district, stated on Twitter: “While I am a proud John F. Kennedy labor Democrat I’m not proud of and do not support the actions taken against the men and women in uniform who are serving us all. An apology is in order.”
Cliff Willmeng, a member of the Minnesota Nurses Association’s board of directors, who took a video which is featured in the referenced Pioneer Press article, said of the reasoning behind their action, “Our position, especially as members of organized labor, is it’s critical that we side with the people on this issue — not the politicians, not the bank owners and not the armed forces that are defending both. Our position has always been, especially in light of another killing of an unarmed Black man, that we are unequivocal in our support of that community’s right to protest. The infrastructure of labor is not for rent to the people who are suppressing that protest.”
And soon after, Gov. Tim Walz (DFL), having served himself in the Army National Guard for almost 25 years, stated on Twitter: “Let’s be clear: The brave men and women of the Minnesota National Guard are our neighbors. They’re teachers, health care workers, and business owners who live in communities across our state. This is unacceptable. They can’t ‘go home’ — this is their home.”
I applaud Gov. Walz for supporting our armed forces who are people and are there for the people. After all, business owners, bank owners, residents living in neighborhoods being tormented night after night during rioting, destruction and looting, and the police officers defending the innocent are “the people.”
Perhaps these union members would feel differently if their own lives, homes or businesses were threatened by those bent on doing harm.
Sunday morning we learned of the shooting that took place against the National Guard in Minneapolis. The behavior on part of the union members no doubt contributed to creating this hostile and potentially deadly shooting. The union members involved in the hostile actions toward and ousting of the National Guard should not only issue an apology but should resign immediately.
The Pioneer Press story on the labor union incident can be found here.
Traci LeBrun is the editor of the Messenger.