Macalester College President Suzanne Rivera is offering to help pay bail for unlawful student protesters. The offer is limited to students who attend her college in St. Paul, Minnesota. This came after a recent protest shut down traffic on Interstate 94 in Minneapolis and locked up the city. Police arrested more than 600 protesters.
After the disruptive event Rivera tweeted the following:
Contact Dr. Suzanne Rivera
President and College Professor of Public Affairs
Illegal Protesters in Action:
Reasons for the protest ranged from wanting President Trump to concede, to wanting President Biden to know protesters will be in charge, to drawing attention to the so-called war on Black people by police. But Rivera made it clear that if a student breaks the law for any reason they deem righteous, she and the ultra-liberal arts college will have their back.
The tweets from the Macalester College President drew public criticism. So she posted a letter on the college’s website to push the issue even further :
“From my perspective, offering to reimburse fines for civil disobedience is an equity issue. What I am emphasizing here is that if any students cannot afford the fines for peaceful protest then I would be willing to reimburse them because freedom of speech is not a privilege only our wealthy students should enjoy,” stated Rivera in the letter.
In case it wasn’t clear that any students, including non-citizens, should not be expected to follow basic laws, she continued:
“We have offered to reimburse transportation expenses incurred if students become stranded after curfew due to their participation in civil disobedience. We also have offered to work with students on setting up a way to reimburse any fines they may receive due to civil disobedience citations. And we are taking steps to make legal advice available to international students who want to participate in protests but worry about their visa status if they do so.”
Macalester College Newspaper Opines:
Students showed their support for Rivera in letters to The Mac Weekly student newspaper:
“I wholeheartedly support President Rivera’s decision on the matter of reimbursing fees students may incur while protesting,” Avery Cordingley ’19 wrote in an email to The Mac Weekly. “Protest is a right and not one that should only be reserved for those financially secure enough to cover any fees or fallout.”
“While she cannot do much to end things like cash bail, as the President of a private college, she is able and, I would argue, obligated to do what she can to protect her students,” Anni Clark ’21 wrote in an email to The Mac Weekly.
Noticeably absent from the ideas about how students can reduce bail charges was the suggestion not to break laws. Creating a ‘safe space’ on a busy highway is illegal for a reason. It is dangerous, and the police might arrest you. Not doing it guarantees no bail. But that’s way too simple and civilized these days.
There is no word yet if credit towards a degree in civil disobedience will be offered at Macalester. That may be coming soon.