Suzanne Rivera, president of Macalester College, announced on Twitter and in a subsequent statement on the university’s website that she will pay the bail of students who are arrested for “peacefully” protesting.
“I care deeply about both the wellbeing of our students and their right to practice civil disobedience,” she tweeted on Nov. 5.
I care deeply about both the wellbeing of our students and their right to practice civil disobedience. I affirm that our students have the support of @Macalester in various ways including:
— Macalester President (@MacalesterPres) November 5, 2020
“I affirm that our students have the support of @Macalester in various ways including: Any currently enrolled student who participates in civil disobedience and needs help with bail or a fine they cannot afford can seek reimbursement by emailing me. Any currently enrolled student who needs help after business hours should please call Mac’s Public Safety 651-696-6555.”
In a statement on the school’s website following online criticism of her tweets, she reiterated her stance.
Rivera’s Nov. 5 letter to the Macalester community of about 2,098 students described protesting as “a time-honored tradition in the U.S.,” and likened it to the free exchange of ideas, something she feels is “one of the cornerstones of a liberal arts education.”
In the hours following Rivera’s release, 646 people were cited and released by police for blocking Interstate 94 with a “count every vote” protest dance party in nearby Minneapolis, Minnesota, the original site of numerous George Floyd protests earlier this summer.
Police began arresting protesters on the highway at around 9 p.m., and the highway did not reopen until 1 a.m., according to bringmethenews.com. Twelve Macalester students were reportedly among those cited during the protest.
A protest demanding every vote be counted and calling for community control of police started festive, but was trapped on I-94 by a massive State Police presence. Nov 4, 2020. Produced by @hannah_catlin. pic.twitter.com/JWhfX2yyb8
— The Mac Weekly (@themacweekly) November 7, 2020
Rivera’s announcement this month is a follow up to a previous statement made in June following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, reaffirming the school’s support of protesters.
“And to our Black students, staff, faculty, and alumni, let me be absolutely clear: Macalester values you and stands with you. A fair response to these statements is: prove it. In fact, students have said these exact words to me,” reads Rivera’s message to the Macalester community.
“The senior leadership team has been working on new ways that Macalester can contribute to the creation of a more just and peaceful world,” the message continues. “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.”
The College Fix requested a comment from President Rivera who replied explaining “I don’t have a comment other than [the] memo posted on my website.”
Commenters on Rivera’s Twitter thread on the issue were concerned with the move, believing the announcement to be an encouragement of dangerous behavior.
“Great… so glad to know that my kid would graduate from your school with not only massive debt, but also a Macalester sanctioned arrest record… that will be great for them when applying for their first job,” commented one parent of a Macalester student.
“If you truly care about them, help them to understand that there [are] consequences one must face for their own actions. We are a society of laws and there are consequences for breaking those laws…we’ve wasted too much time mollycoddling those that would destroy the work of others,” advised another.