Local high school teacher Kaia Hirt has chained herself to a metal fence outside the Hennepin County Government Center in a protest pushing for police reform as the Derek Chauvin murder trial proceeds inside.
Hirt, who teaches 10th grade English at Champlin Park High School, said she was demonstrating to show her support for families of those who have been killed by police. She wants local politicians to do more to support police reform legislation.
“I’m frustrated by local and state officials’ failure to address racist policing in the community,” Hirt said, as she sat chained to a fence that authorities erected in Government Center plaza as part of security precautions for the trial.
Bundled in a sweatshirt, blanket, and gloves, Hirt said she was relieved that Floyd’s family has been treated with dignity by authorities, but she noted that other families of those who have been killed in altercations with police are still hurting. She said other people need to support them.
“We will not have justice until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are,” Hirt said.
When it comes to talking to students about racism and current events, Hirt said there is no such thing as political neutrality.
“When we say nothing about the things that are going on in our world … We are failing them as educators,” Hirt said.
She said she is hopeful that her school district will be supportive of her activism.
Behind Hirt and along some of the fence line in the plaza, activists have installed several padlocks with the names of people who have been killed by police as well as ribbons and other artwork. The activist group Good Trouble for Justice, which Hirt is part of, says the fence symbolizes “the city’s negative relationship with the community and their attempts to silence peaceful protests.”
Earlier this month, law enforcement removed locks that the group had placed on the fences, so they have decided to stay overnight to keep watch over the installation, group members said.
They plan to stay in the plaza until authorities meet their demands, which includes Gov. Tim Walz, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter agreeing to meet with some of the families of those who were killed in police conflicts, an end to qualified immunity for police officers and legislators moving forward on voting on police accountability bills.