Chanting “she is not alone,” more than 200 protesters gathered Saturday afternoon outside TCF Bank Stadium to support the woman involved in an alleged sexual assault that resulted in the suspension of 10 University of Minnesota football players.
The event, dubbed the “We Stand with Survivors Rally,” came hours after the team agreed to lift its boycott and play in the upcoming Holiday Bowl. The Gophers football team had threatened to boycott the remainder of the season, including the Dec. 27 bowl game, in protest of the U’s decision to suspend the 10 players. Five of those players also face expulsion.
After a short rally in the bitter cold, the group of mostly women accompanied by some men marched along University Avenue SE. while chanting “Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Rape Culture has got to go!” They briefly blocked an intersection before moving on.
At the start, rally organizer and U alum Sarah Super asked those who are sexual assault survivors to raise their hand. About a quarter of the group did, including some men.
Super, 27, founded the organization Break the Silence after being sexually assaulted in February 2015. She said she started planning the event early this week, in an effort to support the woman accusing the 10 players.
“I know that in the aftermath of sexual assault, the community plays a very important role in helping a survivor heal,” she said. “Before the football team boycotted, this was really a message to her.”
The idea gathered stream after the team’s announcement to boycott, which many demonstrators said they considered blind loyalty to protect teammates who may have committed sexual assault. “We need more men in this,” Super said of the movement.
Lauren Husting, a 35-year-old doctoral student at the U, stood heavily bundled with a Styrofoam sign supporting her fellow survivors. She said scars from her own sexual assault have left a profound effect on her life.
“[The players are] not kings of this campus and can’t do whatever they want,” said Husting, of Minneapolis. “I want them to respect women and make sure we’re training — and raising — good people.”
Dinkytown’s the Purple Onion cafe van arrived with trays of chocolate chip cookies, coffee and tea to serve frigid protesters waving signs like “I believe the survivor” and “My body is not a perk of your football scholarship.”
Katie Kim, 32, of St. Paul, said she hopes the incident continues shining a light on sexual attacks on college campuses and in professional sports. The brotherhood athletes develop with teammates, she said, should not supercede their ability to hold each other accountable.
“This is absurd,” said Kim, who identified herself as a rape survivor. “[Men’s] voices can have the strongest impact.”
Although the Hennepin County attorney’s office said there was insufficient evidence to charge players involved in the Sept. 2 incident, the University’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA) issued an 80-page report recommending the suspension of 10 players in connection with the incident.