Mitchell Hamline School of Law Interim President and Dean Peter Knapp released this statement to the school community on Friday, May 29, on behalf of himself and Incoming President and Dean Anthony Niedwiecki, encouraging further action toward justice in the Floyd case and more broadly now that charges have been filed against one of the officers involved.
“The Mitchell Hamline School of Law expresses deep sadness in the senseless killing of Mr. George Floyd. We stand in solidarity with those demanding swift justice and join that call. We also call for reform and change to end the unjust treatment of citizens of color, particularly Black men, by Minnesota law enforcement. We are committed to diversity, equity and inclusion in our law school and in our training for our law students. There is a deep systemic injustice of racism in Minnesota that must be dismantled, confronted and changed, and we are committed to addressing that injustice.”
Dean Knapp also included a statement released Thursday by the president and vice president of the school’s Student Bar Association (below). He said he and Dean Niedwiecki will be working with the SBA to address the requests made in the statement.
Dear fellow SBA members, students, faculty, administrators, and the greater legal community:
As President and Vice President of the Student Bar Association at Minnesota-based Mitchell Hamline School of Law, we are sad, angry, and grieving for George Floyd, his family, and the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul Community.
We both believe that George Floyd’s murder was intentional, racist, and a stark reminder of who is protected by the law in America. A year from now we will both swear an oath to become lawyers and follow the Constitution. We will be responsible for choosing a side of the law to be on. Today we are deciding that we must choose to stand on the side of justice for George Floyd and his family. We can not be silent.
Our law school is in a city right down the highway from Minneapolis, but this could have been any city in America. If you go down the highway a different way from our law school you will see the exact place where Philando Castile was murdered by the police live on film with his girlfriend and baby daughter screaming for help in the backseat.
As future lawyers who are currently being taught about the Constitution, criminal procedure and about the court system, we know what happened to George Floyd was wrong and illegal. As a Black woman from Texas and a white woman from Northern Minnesota, we also know far too well how the law, legal systems, and society treats us differently. The color of our skin determined how we were treated by society going into law school, and could be the deciding factor in which one of us would survive a traffic stop outside of law school.
Today, we join with the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers in their call to immediately charge the police officers involved in the inhumane and horrific death of George Floyd with homicide. While we understand the immediate question involves a legal issue of what to charge the officers with, we know that the law can only provide a small sense of justice for what George Floyd and other Black people in America are going through. To that end, we know many law students at Mitchell Hamline reside in Minneapolis and the greater St. Paul area. We will update our website to reflect new resources and ways lawyers can show up for the Black and other marginalized communities this week.
We have both been honored to attend our law school, and have the opportunity and privilege to always have an open and honest dialogue with the administration. This week, we will request the Mitchell Hamline School of Law faculty, administration, and Student Bar Association the following:
● A quarterly school-wide symposium on race, class, and the law taught by lawyers and current students with the lived experience of systemic racial issues in America.
● In addition to the required Diversity and Inclusion trainings, required opportunities from local grassroots organizations in Minneapolis to provide anti-racism training to all faculty and students matriculating through Mitchell Hamline School of Law.
● Additional grief counselors trained specifically on indigenous, Black, Latinx, and other marginalized communities.
We believe in the power of the law, but we also believe in the power of those whose voices the law has not included. We join and stand in solidarity with the people choosing to use their first amendment right to protest. We will continue to support our student body who is reeling from this and many other unlawful and unjust murders in America.
Lawyers are the “pillars of society” and now more than ever we want to empower our fellow law students to ensure your morals and your true self align with your professional work. No matter what area of law you pursue, remember you have the power to break down systems that have caused harm to people in our community.
The law was built by people who didn’t look like either one of us, but it’s up to us to be the legal leaders who demand that systems are fixed, challenged, or changed.
Amber Goodwin, Mitchell Hamline School of Law Student Bar Association President 2020-2021
Kirsty Hanson, Mitchell Hamline School of Law Student Bar Association Vice-President 2020-2021