Even though the outcome of and reaction to the elections is uncertain, we are certain about the power of nonviolence. With your support, Nonviolent Peaceforce has been working with a broad coalition of organizations to mobilize nonpartisan teams of "Democracy Defenders" for the U.S. elections in Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN. Over the past few weeks, Nonviolent Peaceforce has trained 100 poll captains in deescalation, nonviolence, and unarmed civilian protection. On November 3, you supported hundreds of volunteers who mobilized across the Twin Cities, MN to have a proactive and deescalatory presence and prevent harm or threat of harm to voters.
We’ve been working around the clock to train people, because we know what a difference it makes when people respond thoughtfully and with intentionality. Supporting democracy and community safety can't wait any longer. Thank you for your commitment to keeping people safe and secure.
Snapshots from November 3
What do cattle herders in South Sudan and voters in Minneapolis have in common? Today, the answer is the Nonviolent Peace Force, a nonprofit protection agency that usually works in international conflict zones. But when I went to vote this morning at my polling place in the Near North neighborhood of Minneapolis, there were the Nonviolent Peace Force volunteers, wearing blaze orange vests with the words “Democracy Defenders” on the back.
They were there largely because the NPF’s U.S. office is located here, said Marna Anderson, NPF’s US director. After a police officer killed George Floyd this summer, the agency decided that it wanted to bring its work close to home, using volunteers from the community, just like they do elsewhere.
But distrust and tensions are running high in this city. When I got home from voting, my neighborhood listserv was blowing up with folks who were worried the Democracy Defenders were there to disrupt or intimidate voters. And that, too, is familiar to Anderson. “It’s just the nature of what happens in a conflict. When you have a lot of tension between groups and political polarization there’s a lot of suspicion,” she said.
So far, Anderson said, it’s been a perfectly boring day in Minneapolis. But there was an incident at the polling station where she was volunteering that really highlighted the need for peaceful conflict resolution in the face of partisan suspicion. A pickup truck with two Trump flags and an American flag pulled up outside Loring Elementary, sparking anxiety in this heavily Black part of the city. But it turned out the two men inside were just there to vote. When a poll worker asked them to move their car further away from the polling place, they did. “That could have easily been a problem,” she said. “In this environment it’s easy for rumors to get started and people to react without thinking.”
"I am here because every voter has the right to vote free of harrassment and intimidation. As a community, we get to refuse the erosion of norms and denying people's rights."
- Emily Oliver (volunteer)
"Teaj Fox here was dancing on stilts to raise peoples’ spirits, while Democracy Defenders (through Nonviolent Peaceforce) watched over Powderhorn Park’s voting center"
- Nicole Neri on Twitter
"Outside of Loring Elementary was a new group from the Twin Cities called the Democracy Defenders. They were legally sitting across the street from the school on the lookout to prevent voter intimidation. Group volunteer Marna Anderson said they are trained to de-escalate situations and distract the person who might be causing trouble. The group said they didn’t see any trouble on Tuesday."
- Kare 11 News
"Thank you for sending some poll helpers into my neighborhood (Seward) yesterday. [...] Thanks for your role in making voting peaceful and tranquil."
Quiet in Cedar-Riverside in Minneapolis. Observers from nonpartisan Nonviolent Peace Force have a snack table across the street (250 volunteers out today mostly in TC, say they'll deescalate if needed). Also ran into international election observers from https://t.co/3RsJtPRPNg pic.twitter.com/94WWyhq3kF— Jon Collins (@JonSCollins) November 3, 2020