The evening of June 25 in downtown Golden Valley was punctuated by frequent beeps from car horns. The honking was directed at the crowd gathered at the Highway 55/Winnetka Avenue pedestrian bridge. Armed with signs, the all-ages crowd had met to honor George Floyd, the Black man killed at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis.
The event was organized by two Hopkins High School sophomores, friends and residents of Golden Valley Maia and Charlotte. They enlisted the help of Bekah Noble and Abby Schrader, two St. Louis Park residents who have helped organize several suburban protests in their towns as well as in Eden Prairie, Eagan and Richfield.
“We can’t pretend that this is only a Minneapolis issue,” said Noble. “Anti-blackness is in the suburbs, and this movement has seeped out of the Twin Cities and across the nation.”
Noble and Schrader decided to start organizing suburban protests because they saw the interest, but no one stepping up to make sure they were successful.
“We went to one that was kind of put together ... creakily, and we knew we had to do something,” said Schrader.
The turnout was good for an event that had been rescheduled from the previous week due to rain. Across Winnetka Avenue, a donation center was set up by Project Rose to benefit students of LoveWorks Academy, a Golden Valley charter school that serves many low-income families in north Minneapolis. The student organizers are also athletes and asked participants to wear their favorite sports attire to represent youth sports in the BLM movement.
Children busily scribbled on cardboard at the sign-making station or held signs that had been made at home.
Schrader and Noble said their protests are catering to families with children from toddlers to young adults. They hope to foster a “youth voice” in political issues.
“No one ever models how to protest, at least I’ve never seen it,” said Schrader. “I have teenagers and they need to see that action matters. They are our future voters and future policymakers.”
The two have gotten good feedback from their events. Not even an hour into the Golden Valley gathering, Noble said she had already had conversations about organizing additional events in two other cities.
That’s how the Hopkins students had gotten their event started. Noble praised the girls’ resourcefulness in finding her and Schrader. The four created an event on Facebook to invite the community and shared it to several local community groups. Before the event, 139 people had indicated they would attend and 740 people indicated they were interested in attending.
“I hope adults can take notice of what teenagers care about because these teenagers do an amazing job of actually finding the resources to do things like this,” Noble said. “They find them and they learn. They are so willing to challenge the status quo, learn and unlearn belief systems, be reflective, and bring people in with them.”
Schrader agreed. “It is so important we hear their voices, hear their message.”
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