Protesters interrupt, stop U regents meeting

  • Article by: JEFF SHELMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 7, 2007 - 12:54 PM

More than 100 protesters -- many of them students -- interrupted and forced adjournment of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents meeting this morning and five protesters were arrested by university police.

The protesters, supporting striking union workers at the university, entered the room about 9:30 a.m. and stood near the back, when regents chair Patricia Simmons asked members of the board whether they had any questions for university president Robert Bruininks.

At that point, one of the protesters shouted, "We want to know when there's going to be a fair contract for the workers at this university."

Simmons repeatedly pounded on her gavel and called the meeting to order. When the protesters didn't quiet, she called a recess of the board at 9:40 a.m.

That's when several protesters ran and sat arm-in-arm in front of the back door of the regents meeting room that members of the board were going to use to leave the room.

Those protesters were handcuffed by police and moved out of the way and all but one regent left the room. When protesters approached the door, university officers aimed pepper spray at them, but they did not use it.

At 10:25 a.m., the handcuffed protesters were led out of the room by university police.

Five people were arrested for interfering with public property. They were transported to the Hennepin County Jail.

Regent Steven Hunter, who is the secretary/treasurer of the Minnesota AFL-CIO, stayed in the room and listened to the protesters.

The regents' meeting was delayed for an hour by the incident, and when they resumed, Hunter gave his views on the strike for about 5 minutes.

When the regents attempted to return to their agenda, protesters who had remained in the room shouted, “Shame on you.”

The chair then adjourned the meeting for the rest of the day.

The university released an e-mail that said in part: "The Board of Regents adjourned its meeting today as a result of the illegal actions of a small, but highly disruptive group of people. The majority of these people were neither students nor employees of the University of Minnesota.

"Freedom of expression is paramount to the fulfillment of the university's educational mission. As citizens, these individuals were provided with the same opportunity to attend and observe the meeting of the Board of Regents as would be afforded anyone. Unfortunately, once afforded this opportunity, these individuals engaged in activities that transcend freedom of expression and were illegal. . . ."

At 11 a.m. today, a rally supporting the workers was held outside of the McNamara Alumni Center. U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken was expected to speak.

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