BY ED FELIEN
Kieran Knutson held onto the door to the meeting with Medea Benjamin, threatening to disrupt the meeting. Members of Vets for Peace stood behind the door blocking his entrance. Dave Bicking asked him to leave. At least six officers and an MPD sergeant showed up. Eventually, Knutson left.
According to Code Pink, the organization begun by Medea Benjamin, “The most aggressive protester, Kieran Knutson, was screaming at Medea Benjamin that she was a Putin apologist and then grabbed her cell phone while she was attempting to film the situation. She called on members of Veterans for Peace for help to retrieve the phone. One of the vets, a man in his 70s, came to assist and was pummeled to the ground by Knutson. Knutson’s assault resulted in the veteran being taken to the emergency room with a dislocated shoulder and a black eye.
According to Kristin Dooley, director of WAMM, “Longtime Minneapolis anti-war organizations Women Against Military Madness and Veterans for Peace Chapter 27 invited Medea Benjamin, co-author of ‘War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict,’ to speak at 4200 Cedar Ave. on Friday night, May 19.
“A small group of 12 to 15 protesters gathered at 5:30 p.m. in the blocked-off street in front of 4200 Cedar with signs and handouts opposing Medea’s point of view.
“When Medea arrived, she chose to engage in conversation with the protesters, which has been her practice at previous events. At that point one protester moved from the street onto the sidewalk and shouted repeatedly at Medea. As she stood silently filming him, he grabbed Medea’s phone and put it in his back pocket.
“One of the hosts, an elder veteran, attempted to retrieve the phone and fell to the ground in the street. The elder was then attacked by two younger male protesters who punched him in the face and ribs repeatedly. Medea retrieved her phone and went inside. Other hosts were able to end the assault and assist the elder, who was taken to the emergency room for treatment and will need surgery to recover. An elder female was elbowed to the ground by a male protester as she tried to grab his hand. At least two people attending the event called 911 independently.
“A small group of the protesters then moved onto the entry sidewalk at 4200 Cedar and spent the next half hour shouting loudly at the hosts and demanded to be let into the building. The hosts stood quietly at the door allowing people to enter the building. Dave Bicking, owner of the building, informed the shouters that they would not be allowed in.
“The police arrived and stood near the shouting protesters. At about 6:45 p.m. the protesters left the entry sidewalk and either left the event or went back into the street. Dave Bicking neither called the police nor encouraged them to act once they arrived.
“At 7:00 p.m. Medea’s event began with 55 attendees and was undisturbed. At least two known protesters of Medea’s position attended the meeting, one of whom engaged in discussion with her.”
In her talk, Medea Benjamin said the Russian invasion of Ukraine was “illegal and immoral” and “must be condemned.” But she also said the “NATO aggressive alliance has moved right up to Russia’s border” and “we keep arming Ukraine, to what end?”
We asked Medea Benjamin, “To initiate a ceasefire and bring an end to the war in Ukraine, would you support a proposal that the U.S. and Poland should agree to dismantle MIM-104 Patriot air defense systems installed in 2004, and Russia should agree to withdraw from the Donbas and Crimea. The Donbas must become part of Ukraine, and Crimea must become an independent and neutral country with an international free port.”
She responded, “The U.S. is not interested in genuine peace. There would be too much blowback for Biden in an election year. It would be politically impossible.”