As a graduate social work student, advocacy is a big part of my work. I recently read a MinnPost article, “The fence restricting access to the Minnesota State Capitol isn’t coming down anytime soon after all,” written by Peter Callaghan, and it raised some concerns for me. The fence around the Capitol is an impediment to the people and it is keeping us out of our own house. I understand that precautions are necessary at this time due to the global pandemic to reduce risk for personnel who work in the Capitol building and the public visitors. However, I find the fence to be a very literal barrier for the citizens of this city to feel that they are involved in their government.
This is a time of civil unrest since the killing of George Floyd, and to be honest, it has been for quite a few years. The continuation of this blockade against the public, though not intended to separate us from the officials, is very harmful to the trust that the citizens place in their elected officials. I have attended many rallies at the Capitol and a typical chant that we use during said rallies is “Whose house? Our house!” This idea of the Capitol building belonging to the people is not being represented by the literal barrier around the building.
Along this point, I understand the concern of damage to the building. Our Capitol building is a historical monument that has recently been given a much needed face-lift. It is a point of pride for many people living in this city. If this is our house, as we like to say it is, the possible damage to the property would be committed by the “owners” of the building. While I do not agree with destruction of property, I can see the anger and frustration that has built for generations to get us to this point. The Capitol building is a place of advocacy for the people of St. Paul. The erection of this fence in response to a movement that advocates for Black lives to be equal and valued sends a harmful message to a group of people who already are underrepresented in our government.
I am in favor of the removal of the fence. I am in favor of precautions being taken with capacities on occupants of the building due to COVID-19. The people need to be heard and not feel that they are being blocked out of the legislative processes.
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