RICHFIELD, Minn. – Dozens of social justice warriors disrupted a Minnesota school board meeting on Monday, yelling at board members and forcing them to take cover, over the decision to terminate a local bilingual outreach worker.
Protesters with the group Social Justice Education Movement yelled “shame on you” and toted signs reading “Rehire Jessi now” as board members voted to fire Jessi Martinez, a bilingual outreach worker and Black Lives Matter advocate, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
The protesters alleged district officials retaliated against Martinez for pushing a plan for Richfield STEM School employees to wear Black Lives Matter shirts in January, but school officials contend that’s not the case.
“No members of staff have been disciplined formally or informally for advocacy related to Black Lives Matter, social justice or any other advocacy of our students or families,” Richfield Superintendent Steven Unowsky said in a prepared statement.
According to the Sun Current:
Martinez and her advocates claim months of harassment and intimidation occurred following their scuttled plan to wear the T-shirts. In a blog post, SJEM provided an alleged timeline of the events that led to her termination – an account that Martinez, who attended the chaotic May 15 board meeting, says is accurate.
According to SJEM, Martinez was terminated for communicating with a principal candidate at the STEM School who is also her supervisor at an after-school program where she works.
Many of the protesters at the Monday board meeting chanted in Spanish and repeatedly disrupted the board’s regular business before voting on Martinez’s termination.
Several activists spoke on behalf of Martinez, a 24-year-old who has worked in the district for five years.
One of the speakers even attempted to use a crying child in the raucous meeting to persuade board members to ignore administrators’ recommendation to fire Martinez.
“This kid is crying,” the speaker said, according to the Sun Current. “He needs Jessica.”
Board Chairwoman Christine Maleck was unmoved.
“I have reviewed the disciplinary documentation with the human resources department,” Maleck said. “After full consideration, it is clear this administration had followed board policies for discipline and termination.”
Once members officially voted to fire Martinez, the protesters became more aggressive, forcing the board to recess on two occasions and eventually take refuge behind closed doors when the agitators circled the dais, according to the Tribune.
The mob eventually left the meeting room chanting “We’ll be back.”
Board members returned after the social justice warriors left and adjourned the meeting.
Two police officers escorted board members to their cars afterwards.
School board vice chairwoman Crystal Brakke later took to Facebook to justify the board’s vote.
“Having asked many questions and spoken with multiple people to understand what has taken place, I do believe the recommendation before us is justified even as I understand and truly hear how deeply others disagree,” Brakke wrote.