The Potluck

Med students protest, call for student’s expulsion after Floyd mural defacing

By: - August 27, 2020 2:34 pm

Medical students at the University of Minnesota hold a protest to speak out against former classmate Daniel Michelson. Michelson was caught defacing the mural at the George Floyd Memorial. Photo by Ben Hovland/Minnesota Reformer.

Minneapolis Police are not expected to pursue charges against the man who recently defaced the George Floyd mural, a spokesman said.

The police were not called about the vandalism, and a Minneapolis Police Department spokesman has said as far as he knows, no charges will be filed in the case. John Elder said Friday, “last I looked, no police report was filed.” He has not responded to subsequent requests for updates.

One of the volunteers at George Floyd Square who saw Daniel Michelson flee the area, teacher Marcia Howard, said she has no opinion on whether charges should be filed.

“Like in (George Floyd Square), a person should be held accountable by the community,” she said. “His peers at the U of M are attempting to do precisely that.”

She joined dozens of students at the University of Minnesota Medical School protest Wednesday, demanding that Michelson be expelled for defacing the mural on Cup Foods, near where Floyd was killed by police.

In a protest called “White Coats 4 Black Lives,” students in their white jackets spoke about why the school should take a stronger stand after Michelson acknowledged he was the one who spray-painted over Floyd’s face and then was caught by volunteer security guards.

So far, the school’s dean has only said Michelson was not enrolled as of one week ago and said the school has taken a strong stand against racism.

Howard spoke at the protest Wednesday, saying the “august institution” used “namby-pamby words” in response to the incident.

“We cannot let these people slide,” she said.

Bryan Leyva, a third-year resident at the school, was born in Colombia and moved to the U.S. at age six to a predominantly Black and Latino community in Rhode Island. He was in “complete disbelief” when he learned that one of his peers would walk five miles to deface the mural. Michelson told the Reformer he made the walk after drinking alone all day.

Leyva said expulsion is the right course of action.

“We don’t want to work with Daniel Michelson and our patients don’t want to receive care by Daniel Michelson,” he said. “Shaming someone for doing something shameful is not cancel culture, it’s accountability. It’s not about canceling nobody.”

The American health care system has a long and documented history of providing inferior health care to Black patients and other people of color.

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs. Before joining the staff of the Reformer in 2021 she was a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She and her husband have a daughter, son, and very grand child. In her spare time, she likes to play tennis, jog, garden and attempt to check out all the best restaurants in the metro area.