John Kriesel objects to pro-Occupy mural at South High featuring image of Brother Ali

Students say the mural shows Ali spreading "hope" over distressed homes.
Students say the mural shows Ali spreading "hope" over distressed homes.
KSTP screengrab

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Last week, Minneapolis' South High School unveiled a 1,700 square-foot mural designed and painted by students.

The mural is an impressive piece of work, especially considering it was painted by a bunch of high school students. But its subtle pro-Occupy message has drawn the ire of retiring Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, who tweeted over the weekend that "Political views should not be forced on kids" at a public school.

A KSTP report provides some details about the mural, which was financed by an anonymous $10,000 donation:

A larger look at the mural.
A larger look at the mural.
KSTP screengrab
There is a line of homes and an image of Wall Street painted on the mural which is in a stairwell leading up from the common area at the school. Brother Ali, a local rap artist who was arrested in June for trespassing during an Occupy Homes protest, is also pictured on the mural. His hand is open, shining what the students call "hope" over the homes on the mural.

"We have seen him in his song lyrics; he's really involved in what's going on today," said South High Junior Lamia Abukhadra...

"It's really not about politics for us here. It's about school and how to live life," said South High Principal Cecilia Saddler.

On Saturday, Kriesel -- a decorated war veteran who is probably the state's most outspoken pro-gay marriage Republican -- tweeted a link to the KSTP report, along with a bit of commentary: "This sets a pretty crappy example for kids. Keep political views out of schools."

During an exchange with a liberal follower, Kriesel asked, "Would you see something wrong with it if it were a Tea Party mural on a school wall?"

"For the record, I'd be just as against the school mural if it were a Republican view on it," he continued. "Political views should not be forced on kids."

But South art teacher Denny Sponsler said he wasn't interested in steering the mural's student-developed political theme in a neutral direction.

"We weren't trying to be overtly political but I also really didn't believe that it would be good at all to stifle where this kind of exploration would go," Sponsler told KSTP.

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