- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Star Tribune, Aug. 31

Insensitive chant marred an otherwise peaceful State Fair protest

Credit law enforcement officers, Minnesota State Fair officials, Black Lives Matter protesters and patient fairgoers for the peaceful demonstration that took place Saturday in St. Paul. All parties did what was needed to balance the free-speech rights of the demonstrators while maintaining public safety.

No violence was reported, and no arrests were made, as several hundred demonstrators walked from Hamline Park to the fair gates, escorted by police on bikes while a drone flew overhead. Police shut down Snelling Avenue to northbound traffic and temporarily closed some State Fair gates, and fair officials canceled a daily parade.

There were a few testy moments. Some fairgoers who were forced to use other entrances or exits shouted at demonstrators. One man shook his cane at demonstrators during a confrontation, and marshals stepped between protesters and a man who yelled “All lives matter.”

But the clear lowlight of the march came when some protesters chanted that “pigs in a blanket” should “fry like bacon.” That kind of senseless rhetoric has no place in any protest, but especially one in which police did an exemplary job protecting both protesters and onlookers. It was especially insensitive just days after suburban Houston police officer Darren Goforth was shot and killed while filling his gas tank in what Sheriff Ron Hickman said was a “clearly unprovoked” attack. “Our assumption is that (Goforth) was a target because he wore a uniform,” the sheriff said.

It’s dismaying that Black Lives Matter St. Paul lead organizer Rashad Turner didn’t condemn the chant when it became a national news story Monday, and instead told the Star Tribune that it was not meant to threaten officers. “It was a chant,” he said. “I think that the crazy thing is that there’s all this uproar about rhetoric but there isn’t uproar about the facts. … Just because they provide us with their self-appointed escort does not mean it erases the fact that they are the deadliest police department in the state.”

Using facts, the Black Lives Matter movement can add much to the national debate about the need for change within some police departments, as well as bring heightened awareness to racial disparities and poverty. Clearly, Democratic presidential candidates are paying attention. Hillary Rodham Clinton met briefly with a Black Lives Matter protester who had tried to interrupt one of her campaign events. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’ Malley issued a new criminal justice reform position. And Bernie Sanders hired an African-American criminal justice advocate as press secretary and has issued a statement on racial justice.

Polls show that Americans are listening to the Black Lives Matter message and are increasingly agreeing that change is needed in many police departments. Why jeopardize that progress with ready-for-YouTube moments like “pigs in a blanket … fry like bacon?”


St. Cloud Times, Sept. 1

Treaty dispute appears headed to court

It’s hard to believe a treaty settled in 1855 would be back in the news in 2015.

Yet 160 years later, several members of the 1855 Treaty Authority challenged the limits of the treaty last week by paddling their canoes out to harvest wild rice at Hole-In-The-Day Lake in east-central Minnesota.

The 1855 treaty covers fishing, hunting and gathering rights within lands deeded to American Indian bands in the state. However, the treaty doesn’t cover the rights of the bands in off-reservation areas.

The 1855 Treaty Authority, which is independent of the state’s tribal governments, wants to exercise rights it believes its members hold under the agreement.

To avoid a confrontation, the Department of Natural Resources granted the group a one-day permit to allow the unlicensed harvest of the wild rice. The DNR said the agency could grant the permit for educational or exhibition purposes.

One of the protesters ripped up the permit and said the DNR didn’t have the authority to grant rights to members of the tribes because they never gave up the rights. It appeared the special permit was a way for the DNR to avoid a legal confrontation.

However, it would appear that the 1855 Treaty Authority wants a legal showdown.

If the DNR thinks granting a special one-day permit makes the issue go away, think again. Activists who feel passionately about an issue don’t see a one-day permit satisfying their concerns.

People have the right to challenge citations, treaties or laws they oppose in the legal system. If they have the patience and funding to mount the legal challenges, the DNR won’t be able to stop it.

The DNR’s effort to issue special permit brings into question why the agency has not tried this path in previous disputes on treaties, including decades ago with native bands on Mille Lacs Lake?

On Friday, authorities say conservation officers gave citations to two tribal members who attempted to net fish on Gull Lake. They too were trying to assert rights they believe are available under the 1855 treaty. The action came one day after the confrontation on Hole-In-The-Day Lake.

The 1855 Treaty Authority appears to be motivated to force an action that will result in a case that can be used to clarify off-reservation rights under the treaty.

Our advice to the DNR and to the activists is to avoid any actions that could inflame the situation. If the group wants to take a case to court, so be it.


The Free Press of Mankato, Sept. 1

Making room for the grain trains

Moving grain, in the main, will not be a pain.

That is the outlook for the 2015 harvest season, and a welcome one after years of saturated rail capacity that snarled attempts to move the bounty of the farms of Minnesota and surrounding states.

Even with the prospect of record corn and soybean harvests in the offing, the Associated Press reported this weekend, the grain trains are expected to move more smoothly and predictably this time around.

Credit goes in as many directions as the grain itself: to the farm state legislators who leaned on the railroads; to the railroads themselves, who say they have spent billions to expand their networks; and to the expanded pipelines out of North Dakota’s Bakken fields.

That last is a crucial point. It’s not that North Dakota’s oil producers are slowing production because of the lower price of oil. Indeed, production has been stable, about 1.2 million barrels a month. It’s that less than half that production is leaving by rail now.

Shipping oil by rail was at the root of the massive problems afflicting grain shipments the last two years. The issue reached from Montana to Illinois and south as far as Kansas. Trains arrived at elevators as much as four weeks late, with grain piled on the ground outside overstuffed elevators.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe, a major rail carrier in North Dakota, says it has spent $1 billion on capacity in that state alone since 2013. While the proof of improvement awaits this autumn, the signs out of North Dakota, where the spring wheat harvest is in full swing, are positive. Trains are on time, if not early.

It’s just another example of an argument this space has long and often made: Investing in transportation pays off.

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