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“We Got Your Back”: Student Protest in Solidarity with Teachers Strike

Students organized a march and sit in in solidarity with Minneapolis educators.

Tatiana Cozzarelli

March 16, 2022
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Photo by Luigi Morris

We ain’t shy.
We ain’t timid.
We are angry.
We are livid.

Student chant

Dozens of Minneapolis public school students organized a march and a sit-in to stand in solidarity with public school educators who entered their second week on strike.

The students gathered at North High School and many held homemade signs, as well as some of the union signs speaking about the need for smaller class sizes, hiring more BIPOC teachers, and more.

The action had been called the night before — a rally called at 5 p.m. for an action at 11:30 a.m. A student walkout in solidarity with teachers had been called and then canceled before the strike began. “We just had to do something for our teachers,” one student explained.

After a crowd of a few dozen gathered, they took to the streets, walking on the road, crossing puddles of melted snow, and chanting into megaphones as a sound car followed. The chants were reminiscent of the Black Lives Matter movement:

“You can’t stop the revolution!”

“Ain’t no power like the power of the people, cuz the power of the people don’t stop.”

“Black Lives, they matter here. Teachers, they matter here. Students, they matter here.”

“Whose schools? Our schools!”

Markeanna, a senior who helped organize the march, said, “We hear politicians talking about the strike and saying, ‘You’re harming the students!’ And we say, ‘Bullshit.’ We are behind our teachers! Teachers’ working conditions are student learning conditions!”

The students were marching toward the Davis Center, where negotiations have been stalled for weeks. Outside, over 50 teachers were picketing, with chants and even a marching band.

The students approached, chanting “We got your back.” The teachers — many of whom didn’t know the students were coming — exploded into applause and cheers. They stopped the picket lines, took out their phones, and recorded the students.

It was absolutely electric.

Many teachers began chanting, “These are our students!” It felt like an explosion of joy and pride. One teacher ran out of the crowd and took a picture with some of the students — those were her students!

The students then went forward into the Davis Center, entering the building and chanting in the halls with megaphones. The mood was defiant; we are here, we support our teachers, and we want the whole building to know.

The educator’s negotiation team came out of a conference room and joined the students in chants.

Afterward, students sat down and listened to multiple speeches. You can watch the entire livestream here.

The first speaker, Khadejah, explained that her school had experienced loss. Deshaun Hill, a 15-year-old student from North High School, was murdered by a 29-year-old-man in February. It was a deep loss for both teachers and students — and teachers act as both therapists, parents, and teachers.

“Teachers don’t ask for much. They do their job. They love their job, and in the end, if they are asking for something, why not give it to them? They are the ones who are educating the next generation.”

She went on to say, “When it comes to teachers, it’s like their pen is broke. … You want to invest in more police, but you don’t want to invest in teachers.”

All speakers expressed a deep admiration for teachers and Educational Support Professionals. “Teachers made me who I am today,” said Saturn, a middle school student.

After about an hour of speeches, the rally ended, music came on, and the kids started line dancing: the cupid shuffle, the wobble, and more. These powerful students laughed, joked, and acted like the kids that they are.

But don’t be mistaken. These kids aren’t like other generations. They were molded by the complete failure of the state in the pandemic and by police violence, the murder of George Floyd, and the subsequent uprising.

Emi, a senior and co-student council president, ended the rally saying, “It doesn’t end today. We’re gonna be back tomorrow. We’re gonna be back the next day. We’re gonna be back every single day. If an agreement is reached, we’re still gonna be out here because there is still change that needs to be made in the city and the students have to show up.”

I have no doubt that they will.

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Tatiana Cozzarelli

Tatiana is a former middle school teacher and current Urban Education PhD student at CUNY.

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