That’s how you do it


Protesters shut down I94 for about 5 hours last night, in a peaceful protest. I’m sure a lot of people were inconvenienced. It probably made people late getting to movies and parties and dinner reservations. Drivers were probably cussing about having to take detours.

It was still better than getting pulled over and shot.

It’s good, though. This is how you get attention for an important cause, not by being meek and staying out of people’s way, but by standing up and making people aware that these things matter.


  1. martha says

    DH is a science professor in UW system visiting family in St. Paul. They did have to detour last night which provoked the phone conversation we had this morning. I bet lots of white people have this conversation, the one that goes ‘I want to do something, but I don’t know what and I don’t want to be a condescending interloper’. I imagine there are a lot of ways to answer that, but this edition of the conversation came around to the handful of minority students who had flunked or dropped out of his classes in the past year and what could be done to increase institutional support for first generation/low income/minority students. PZ, since you occupy a similar position, what do you find you can do to support such students or to get your institution to support them?

  2. fakeemailaddress says

    I’m going to have to disagree with you there. My bet is that the majority of the people who were prevented from going wherever they were trying to go neither know why the road was blocked nor particularly care. If they know that there was a protest on the road, all they saw was a bunch of punks blocking the road to protest something or other. If they think about it at all, it’ll be something about how they aren’t responsible, so why are they being targetted?

    Governments, organizations, and other people can do all sorts of crazy things, but while people may talk about them, they don’t really care until it stats affecting their daily lives. Then they either get happy or get mad, depending on how they were affected. In this case, interfering with people’s evening plans just *reduced* BLM’s legitimacy in the eyes of those people: they may once have seen BLM as a movement to make positive changes in society (or not); now they see it as a mob who tie up traffic.

  3. dorght says

    I wouldn’t categorize shutting down highways as peaceful protest. Even with all drivers being self-assured of their above average driving abilities, traffic being abruptly halted from highway speeds is likely (and eventually) deadly. Immediately potentially deadly to the protestors or to the police trying to keep protestors and drivers safe. Further down the road, miles from having any protest message communicated, some nice young family could be inconvenienced by the semi that couldn’t stop in time and plowed into the them accordioning their small car.

  4. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    all they saw was a bunch of punks blocking the road to protest something
    and completely missed that very large sign declaring their intent? yeah, typical commuters…

  5. says


    The same wqs said during MLK’s march over a bridge I am sure. Protesting only in ways that dont make the priviledged and powerful ucomfortable is pointless. Amd saying that a movement fighting for their basic human rights to not make too much of a fuss or people wont like them is a shit thing to do.

  6. rq says


    I wouldn’t categorize shutting down highways as peaceful protest.

    Do tell, then, what do you categorize as a peaceful protest?

  7. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Some people in that crowd could be there only because they heard about the protest when checking road conditions. Not everyone is an uncaring asshole.

  8. Tethys says

    There is a significance to the section of 94 they closed down. It is the highway that destroyed the vibrant black Rondo neighborhood, and turned it into a ghetto. On the other side of the highway is Crocus Hill and the Governors mansion on Summit Avenue, which is where the protest started and happens to be one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in St. Paul.

    Westbound vehicles had to detour over a bridge, and thus got an excellent view of why the road was closed. Many of those people proceeded to park their cars and spontaneously join the protest. (sometimes I love my state so hard) The highway was closed for three hours, and then police announced that the road had to be reopened and the protest had until 10 pm to move. Some protesters decided that they would prefer to be arrested, some returned to the Governors mansion, and some went home. The people who decided to be arrested were being pretty pragmatic about it, and the police let them choose who was getting arrested.

    On the negative side, some jerks threw chunks of concrete, rocks, and shot fireworks from the pedestrian overpass, down onto the officers who were working to keep the traffic detouring and the protest contained, and cause quite a few minor injuries.

    Most people seem to be very upset about the murder, and especially angry about police shooting into a vehicle that also contained a child and her mom. People are especially outraged that even when splattered with her boyfriends blood, she still called the officer “sir”, had her daughter forcible taken from her, and was hauled in to the station while Philando died. That’s simply unacceptable on so many levels, and I hope she get’s herself an excellent lawyer and a huge settlement for being subject to that level of horror.

  9. throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble says

    Yeah… I’m sure a semi could have plowed into a family due to this.

    But some diabetic could have died if they didn’t get some orange juice from the deli because some black men were sitting where they shouldn’t be.

    I’m sure lots of people looked unfavorably upon that inconvenience.


  10. speed0spank says

    Hmmph. I’m very tired of concerned citizens whining about blocking traffic, especially when I can’t seem to find them condemning black death anywhere. Can’t help but be suspicious of those folk’s priorities.

  11. Excluded Layman says

    I think there’s some semantic confusion regarding “protest”. The common understanding is akin to “beggar”: A pathetic display for passersby to think “Aww, I sympathise” before carefully stepping over it to keep their hems clean. Of course nobody wants highways shut down by hordes of beggars, the stains would never come out!

    Rather, in my reckoning, a protest is a punishment. An unpleasant experience is the entire point — It’s only as useful as it is hard to ignore. The reaction is likewise a chorus of, “BUT IT’S NOT FAIR!” Indeed, why should we be punished? We aren’t the ones hurting them! We haven’t even looked at their blogs or whatever…

  12. Derek Vandivere says

    #4 / dorght: Traffic jams happen, you know?

    I think it was a valid point about the efficacy of the protest as a protest (i.e., did it raise people’s awareness or just piss them off at the delay), but it sounds like the protest’s design accounted for it.

    Obviously there is some overall economic cost to such a protest, but I assume the protestors would have let, say, an ambulance through if need be.

  13. snuffcurry says

    Collective action works–strikes and protests–which is precisely why it frightens people and why those people have to try to discredit it. If causing delays in traffic is “violence,” so is collective bargaining and unionizing. And if you feel that way–or pretend to loudly–you’re a lost cause.

  14. gmacs says


    Further down the road, miles from having any protest message communicated, some nice young family could be inconvenienced by the semi that couldn’t stop in time and plowed into the them accordioning their small car.

    Yeah, have you ever driven on 94 through The Cities? You get a lot of sudden stops just in holiday traffic. Trucks can handle it.

    I’ve driven in The Cities. I’ve seen my own car get accordioned moments after I got out (in Iowa)*. I’m not any more worried about protest blocks causing these crashes than I am the constant fucking construction, or gajillion people who just have to go through Minneapolis with their goddamned boats.

    *It was dark, my car was black, there were few cars around, and a deer immobilized my car. I was fine, the semi driver was shaken. Oh, and guess what the sheriffs had to do for a couple minutes: close the road.

  15. Tethys says

    Before it was I-94, it was Rondo. It was the main street through the black neighborhood in 1956. Extensive information and photo documentation of the historical racial significance of that stretch of interstate can be found at the MSHS.

  16. Matt Cramp says

    The whole point of protesting is to gum up the works so that your concerns can no longer be ignored. A protest that does not bother people is not an effective protest. The people who are being kept in their cars, who have their evenings ruined, are among the targets of the protests – after all, if you’re protesting a systemic problem, every single person in those cars are supporters of the problem merely by condoning it. The standard you walk by is, after all, the standard you accept.

  17. Nick Gotts says

    I wouldn’t categorize shutting down highways as peaceful protest… [lots of crap about how, possibly, someone could die as a result] – dorght@7

    Then driving your car is not a peaceful activity – every vehicle on the road could cause deaths.

  18. dorght says

    rq @7 An extensive listing of everything I would consider a peaceful protest does not, in any way, logically address why I’m wrong about this not being a peaceful protest.

    throwaway @10 Would black man sitting in a deli steadfastly refuse a plead for orange juice for a diabetic, showing no concern for the life and safety of others?

    derek @13 Traffic jams happen and they are a source of secondary collisions. Higher speeds and shorter sight distances drastically increase the danger from the secondary collisions. There is a question of agency here. Protestors voluntarily create the jam but do they show any degree of concern for the dangers by attempting to control for these factors?

    gmacs @15 An example of your sustaining property damage hardly counters my argument that this is not peaceful.

    Nick @18 Just crap argument.