02 July 2020

An example of a protest that goes way too far

"Protesters apparently outraged by the killing of a popular singer in Ethiopia stopped traffic on Interstate 94 in St. Paul [Minnesota] during Wednesday evening’s rush hour. 
One protester told KSTP-TV they are telling the U.S. government to stop letting fake leaders run Ethiopia after the killing of singer Hachalu Hundessa. 
State Patrol spokesman Lt. Gordon Shank said after 8 p.m. the protesters had left the freeway, and no arrests have been made."


  1. Protesting what appears to have been his assassination shouldn't be characterized as being absurd. He wasn't just some pop star. He was a leading opposition figure who had spent a lifetime fighting for the Oromo ethnic minority in Ethiopia and he was even jailed for his political activities. The article you link is appallingly lazy garbage, alas.


    1. I'm not saying it's wrong to protest. I don't believe the protest should be conducted on an interstate highway in Minnesota. I would consider that counterproductive to generating support for the protest.

    2. We have a large number of people of East African heritage in Minnesota/Minneapolis-St. Paul, hence why people were protesting here (they can't/shouldn't all just fly back to protest in Ethiopia). It was someone from their community who was (likely) assassinated by the government and our government has a terrible history of supporting unjust (to put it lightly) foreign governments. But mostly, protests aren't just about generating support, they're about getting attention and disrupting the status quo, and blocking a freeway does exactly that. If they'd just shown up at the Capitol, made some speeches, and gone home, do you think they'd have gotten the attention they did, like three news helicopters flying over my neighborhood for hours? Nope! Glad they were able to bring broader attention to this murder!

    3. Z, I lived in two suburbs of the Twin Cities, and I read the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press online daily, so I'm quite well aware of the ethnic diversity of the cities, and if you've read my blog for any length of time you realize I am sympathetic to the problems of human suffering.

      But... I continue to maintain that blocking a highway in Mpls to protest an injustice in Ethiopia is not an appropriate response. By that logic a group of Muslims could blockade I35W at Saint Anthony falls to protest the imprisonment and ethnic cleansing of the Uighers by China, and others could block 494 at the airport to draw attention to child labor in Cameroon, or the 394/169 cloverleaf because of the deaths and abuse of migrants trying to get to Europe, or the use of child soldiers in Liberia, or sex for grades in Nigerian Universities, or domestic violence against women in Russia or Iraqi clerics facilitating "pleasure marriages," or even the plight of burned koalas in Australia.

      There is no end to the causes that need attention and there is a multitude of ways to draw attention to these causes, but a modicum of common sense and civility needs to be applied to each situation.

    4. I know your blog well and frankly, that's why I was pretty surprised you had this particular take on this matter. People protest things all over the world that aren't directly related to their geographical area. For example, protests for George Floyd's murder went worldwide. Are those also unjustified by your logic?
      Also, and perhaps we just disagree on this, but I see no lack of civility in blocking a highway during a peaceful protest. Again, protests are most effective when they get attention and blocking highways gets attention.

    5. Z, I think we'll have to wind up agreeing to disagree (which the world needs more of), but I'd like to clarify my view in light of your last comment.

      The traffic-disrupters in Minneapolis were protesting an event in Ethiopia. The George Floyd protesters in Marseille or Lima were not protesting racism and police brutality in Minneapolis, but rather racism and police brutality in France and Peru. I'm sure you would agree that if the Mpls problem had been solved instantly, people in Sacramento or Dresden wouldn't have said "oh, let's cancel the march - Minneapolis has been fixed now."

      As much as George Floyd's friends and family would like to view worldwide protests as being in support of George Floyd, in reality he is an icon for a principle that is widely applicable - a cause celebre. His death will truly change the world. But it will do so because it applies to a worldwide condition.

      Maybe the Ethiopian problem is a result of CIA activities, like the assassination of Mossadegh in Iran, but there's no way I can see standing on an interstate highway as being an effective counteractivity. If I had been in charge of the Ethiopian protest, I would have assembled information, set up public forums/lectures/podcasts, arranged newspaper and radio/TV interviews, and requested permission for a socially-distanced demonstration in a public park with signs and speakers and handouts and television coverage.

      Just my opinion.

    6. I appreciate that perspective and certainly agree that the protests around the Floyd murder spread because it represents a problem (white-supremacy) that is pervasive world-wide. I still don't quite understand your opposition to them protesting in MN about events in Ethiopia though. Especially when it involves events that (as I understand it) are related to reasons many of them ended up as refugees here in the first place. If you've been forced from your homeland, are you not allowed to care about or protest things going on there from your new home?

      Much of your described protest action had been done. There'd been a protest the day before at the State Capitol and I don't think it received much coverage. I also think in this case, much of what's happening is also more of an emotional response to the pain and sadness of losing a beloved activist.

      I'd argue that the following day, when they took to I-94, it was far more effective at bringing awareness to the murder. Most notably, would you have posted about this on your blog, positive or negative, had they not blocked the highway? That action received far greater attention, meaning far more people now know about what happened and have read about the background. I've certainly read much more about it and related history as a result of blocking the highway.

      I'm happy to disagree with you about highways as I said, but in general, my take is that roads and highways are simply public space (and in the case of I-94, public space with a terribly racist history). If people in the community can derive a value from that space (instead of the negative value and liability that a freeway generally brings with it), I'm not going to hold that against them and will defer to and center their voices and choices.

    7. Racist history of I-94 noted. I had forgotten to factor that into the equation.

  2. It's hard, isn't it? The only way to get the US government to change its behavior towards other countries is to make things uncomfortable enough so that many people put pressure. It's not like the US gov decided without a heck of a lot of pressure to quit supporting apartheid in SA. It took a LOT of pressure by a lot of people on the government, and especially on companies.

    It's uncomfortable if you're not someone who cares deeply about a particular issue, of course. But what would make you aware enough to write your representatives or whatever?

    1. Make me uncomfortable? No. Make me join the fight for your cause? No. What you'll do is piss me off, cause me to speak ill of your actions, and by extension your cause.
      Unhappy with the US government's inaction then go to Washington, the US Government is not in the twin cities. Want to rally the ethnic enclaves in the area then go to the enclaves not alienate people on the interstate.

    2. I hope that any inconvenience caused to you by demonstrators would not make you less sympathetic to encouraging the government to condemn human rights abuses. The irritation makes sense, but extending that to the cause is not right.

      There's perhaps not much the USA should be doing in this case of complicated instability abroad. Efforts at international intervention have typically been more destabilising in the long run.

      The trouble is that they're already involved. In many way this is positive. The USA is the largest contributor of aid to Ethiopia; its public policy of condemnation of abuse of power appears to have pushed improvement forward e.g. through the Ethiopian Democracy and Accountability Act in 2007. Significant impetus for this policy came from the Ethiopian diaspora in the US, by the way.

      However, the USA also has a close counterterrorism partnership with Ethiopia and has given them training and technology for surveillance. The problem is that the Ethiopian government has also been using this to arrest journalists and suppress dissent.

      It's complicated, and it's not clear who is the "right side", but the USA definitely has a horse in this race. I think it's therefore good that Americans in general, and not just Ethiopian Americans, should be aware of this.

  3. I don't think the protesters have a "limiting principle" (heard this from some commentator, and he nailed it). That's why Charles Blow of the New York Times could write that even statues of George Washington must go, since he owned slaves.

    I wonder if anyone even remembers George Floyd? Basically, ANYTHING that the protesters don't like, they are going to blame America, etc. I'm half-expecting flash mobs at churches eventually, since they espouse a symbol that the KKK uses.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...