Dozens of protesters shut down an Edina School Board meeting Monday night in a show of support for two Edina High School students who were suspended for using an antisemitic chant during a walkout for Palestine Oct. 26.
The students were suspended for three days for chanting “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” during a student-led walkout in October. Protesters say the students’ First Amendment rights were violated and want the suspensions expunged from the students’ records.
A large crowd of protesters gathered in front of the Edina Community Center before the school board meeting started, waving Palestinian flags and chanting “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” They also carried signs condemning Israel as an apartheid state. A sign that said “F–k Israel (Is-not-real)” was affixed to an American flag outside the meeting room, according to social media posts.
A large crowd of protestors gathered in front of the Edina Community Center before the school board meeting started. pic.twitter.com/XY5n4PVGZR
— Alpha News (@AlphaNewsMN) December 12, 2023
The protest was organized by Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAC) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). According to the MIRAC website, MIRAC “sees the U.S. immigration and criminal justice system as fundamentally unjust, racist, and white supremacist.” The group fights for “legalization for all, an end to immigration raids and deportations, an end to all anti-immigrant laws.”
The students who were suspended spoke at the rally and claimed they continue to be treated unfairly by the administration. Educators, parents, and union members also spoke at the rally.
At the outset of the meeting, the board voted to allow nine people three minutes each to comment. However, the meeting did not advance to the public comment portion.
Instead, the school board called a recess about 20 minutes after the meeting started when protesters insisted on addressing the student suspensions and began chanting “free Palestine” when the board refused to take off-topic comments at that time.
As the crowd became more disruptive and agitated, the school board members called a recess and exited the room amid shouts of “shame, shame” and “Free Palestine” from the protesters. The board eventually returned and voted to adjourn the meeting.
Several protesters, including parents and the students who were suspended, condemned Israel for bombing Gaza.
Jaylani Hussein, executive director for CAIR-MN, encouraged the protesters to return next month.
“I want every single one of you to make me one commitment and that commitment is that you’re coming back to this room another day. They (the school board) think somehow that now we’re going to be less. Now we’re going to come with even more people,” he said. “I did not think the school board would refuse to hear from the community so I am more worried for the students of this district … I am concerned for Edina students.”
CAIR filed a complaint against Edina Public Schools last week, claiming the district silenced Muslim students who expressed support for Palestine.
According to Mark Rotenberg of Hillel, the chant “from the river to the sea” is antisemitic and comes straight from the Hamas charter. The Jewish Community Relations Council also released a statement ahead of the meeting explaining why the slogan is antisemitic.
“It is also antisemitic, for it denies Israel’s right to exist and is heard by many Jews as calling for the destruction of Israel, the world’s only Jewish state,” the statement said.
While Edina Public Schools affirmed students’ First Amendment right to free expression in a statement, it said “students do not have unfettered First Amendments rights while on school property and they do not have a right under the First Amendment to engage in speech that is substantially disruptive or that violates District policies.”
Sheila Qualls is an award-winning journalist and former civilian editor of an Army newspaper. Prior to joining Alpha News, she was a Christian Marriage and Family columnist at Patheos.com and a personal coach. Her work has been published in The Upper Room, the MOPS blog, Grown and Flown, and The Christian Post. She speaks nationally on issues involving faith and family.