'Because the system is broken': Bemidjians hold daily 'knit-in' protest

From left: Bradi Kirkpatrick and Melody Kirkpatrick host a knit-in while Amelia Thiem joins them on Thursday in Paul Bunyan Park. Bradi and Melody have been at the waterfront location from 2 to 4 p.m. everyday for almost two weeks. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- Bradi and Melody Kirkpatrick have spent the past ten afternoons holding a "knit-in" to passively protest social injustice -- and they plan to continue doing so “until hell freezes over or Donald Trump is out of office,” -- according to Melody.

“...or until we freeze over,” Bradi added, laughing.

The mother-daughter duo don’t claim to be knitters, but that’s what they’ve been doing. The two have been spending every afternoon from 2 to 4 p.m. sitting in lawn chairs in Paul Bunyan Park, knitting 7 x 7 inch squares, surrounded by a rotating collection of signs.

“She knits when she’s frustrated. My brother was in basketball in high school,” Bradi said of her mother, “She knit a scarf and it just kept getting longer and longer, because she didn’t like what was happening on the team. The scarf just got longer and longer and longer. Then she would unravel it the next year and do it again.”

“She’s not a great knitter, but she’s a prolific knitter,” Bradi added.


Melody is certainly frustrated, and found herself unable to continue doing nothing about social injustices.

“I knit when I’m really frustrated because it gives me something to do and I feel like I’m accomplishing something,” Melody said. “I was sitting at home one day and I just thought, I can’t sit here anymore.”

The signs surrounding the knitters are often rotated as they keep a stock of additional signs in the car. On Thursday, signs were displayed for Black Lives Matter, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, system reform, anti-Trump -- and the list keeps growing.

“We’re out here because the system is broken,” Melody explained. “This is a cause that spans the gamut.”

“Every time we hear of a cause, we make a new sign,” Melody added, laughing.

“We are done not saying anything, and it has been wrong for so long that we haven’t said anything,” Bradi said.

The two invite others to join them, and one woman, Amelia Thiem, has joined now for a number of days. She said sitting out in the park gives them a good reading for how Bemidjians feel about current issues.

"We get in touch with the barometer of how people are feeling here in Bemidji by sitting out here, we really do,” Melody said. “People stop by, people give us the finger, we get the whole gamut.”


The two invite anyone who wishes to join them -- either in-person or virtually -- as they welcome knitted or crocheted squares to be added to their finished products. The end goal right now is to make a blanket or two, auction them off and donate the proceeds.

They plan to be out in the park from 2 to 4 p.m. every afternoon, rain or shine.

“We have made a commitment to be here every day,” Melody said. “Come join us if you want.”

Hannah Olson is a multimedia reporter for the Pioneer covering education, Indigenous-centric stories and features.
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