For the past year, the Twin Cities have been nationally associated with impassioned demonstrations. However, protests near Minnesota’s metropolis are not the only ones in the upper Midwest.
On Sunday, April 11, a White Lives Matter rally, and a subsequent Black Lives Matter counter-protest were scheduled to occur in front of Fargo’s City Hall.
The rally was part of a coordinated nationwide series of marches on April 11, which, according to Newsweek, were organized by far-right extremists.
The counter-protest group, made up of upwards of 200 people, met in Island Park in Downtown Fargo and marched to the Fargo City Civic Center where the White Lives Matter Rally was being held. There, they were met by a sprinkling of White Lives Matter supporters, who hung on the outskirts of the larger counter-protest. At the Civic Center, the counter-protest organizers and attendees spoke on the need for diversified voices in Fargo and recent incidents of discrimination in the community, and offered encouragement to supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement.
A popular chant at the counter-protest was of “I am a revolutionary,” a phrase associated with Black Panther Party activist Fred Hampton and recently featured in the movie “Judas and the Black Messiah.”
Among the counter-protest crowd of community members were students from Concordia. One group of Concordia students attending the counter-protest, junior Liz Breckenridge, junior Ben Weinzierl and sophomore Dawson Lindahl, heard about it via the Instagram account @blmndsu, which, while not officially affiliated with Black Lives Matter, is run by students in support of the movement.
“(We are here) to make sure that white supremacists know they aren’t welcome within our community here in Fargo,” said Lindahl.
“It’s like the ‘BREW’ creating change in the world thing. We need to be vocal in our own communities,” said Weinzierl.
“We need to show we have a voice here. We’re not just going to be here for four years and leave without an impact,” said Breckenridge.
Concordia juniors Kacy Jiran and Jack Bulman also attended the Black Lives Matter counter-protest.
Jiran said she was disheartened by the lack of Cobbers at the event.
“Especially considering how big of a problem it is on campus, I thought people knew how big a problem it was and might come out and support,” said Jiran. “I think seeing more Cobbers here at a Black Lives Matter protest would make other people of color on campus feel better.”
Three men, standing opposite the Black Lives Matter crowd, did not agree with the enthusiasm about rallying for systemic change in the community.
“Black lives matter? Great. So do white lives. All lives matter,” said Brian Brown, a Fargo resident.
Brown pointed to the law enforcement following the counter-protest as they marched from the Civic Center towards Broadway. “There’s three cops. Two cop cars up front, one cop car in the back. That group right there? They’d turn on those cops in a heartbeat,” said Brown.
Faith Dixon, a leader of Black Lives Matter Fargo-Moorhead explained that the counter-protest was organized in a matter of days after posters for the White Lives Matter Rally were posted downtown midweek.
“We have our social media outlets and word of mouth,” said Dixon. “It was important for us to put it out there and ask people to come, and we had a beautiful turnout.”
Dixon urges students at local colleges like Concordia to attend events in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“These events are not always well-attended, but if you can attend the events, let your voice be heard,” said Dixon. “You might not be a person who wants to be on the front lines, but just walking in the background is support.”