(All photos above by Chris Juhn)
During the season’s first snowfall, a female protester using her feet wrote a message in the street with her feet — “Shut it down.” When asked, the young woman told the MSR her three-word demand was about the city’s Fourth Precinct station.
She and other protesters at present aren’t heeding the call of a “coalition” consisting of Mayor Betsy Hodges and 21 others, including U.S. Representative Keith Ellison, former mayor Sharon Sayles Belton, and former City Council member Don Samuels, who on Monday called for the nearly three-week encampment in front of the Northside police station to end.
The group cited safety concerns, including the fact that the block in which the police station is on “has been barricaded, impeding access to emergency vehicles and snow plows,” said a released transcript. “We believe that the need to keep everyone safe at the Fourth Precinct…and the need to take the protest and our quest for equity to the next level are both served by ending the occupation at the Fourth Precinct immediately.”
Local community activist Jason Sole told the MSR, “I think they [city officials] want to send a clear message that they are done tolerating our efforts. We’ve been peaceful and will continue to be peaceful. I think it’s about dominance and control, to show how powerful they are. But we are stronger than what they know.”
“I don’t know what that press conference was all about,” said Black Lives Minneapolis’ Miski Noor. “If Mayor Hodges is really worried about safety, and really cares about the safety of our community, they would be working with the community, and see what the community needs, and keep us safe from police brutality. They actually would be down here with us rather than telling us to leave,” she contended.
Noor estimated 100-150 people were outside Monday night as the snow fell, a few hours after the mayor’s announcement, seemingly more determined as ever to stay until action is taken on issues, including releasing any videos in the Jamar Clark case.
“We [are] assembling in front of the Fourth Precinct in the snow and in the cold, continuing to stand for justice,” noted NAACP-Minneapolis President Nekima Levy-Pounds, a criminal and social justice advocate who has been involved in the protest since Nov. 15, the day Clark was allegedly shot by police just a couple of blocks down from the station. “The people are sick and tired of being abused by the Minneapolis Police Department and having our government leaders rubber stamp their conduct. We just can’t take it anymore.
“We’re out here sending a message to our government leaders that we are not going to stand for business as usual in the city,” she continued. Levy-Pounds also told the MSR that she is calling for federal intervention, namely from President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch. “The Minneapolis Police Department should be placed under a federal consent decree to properly monitor the conduct of this department,” she said.
The way city police treat Blacks in Minneapolis “is the biggest open secret in the state of Minnesota,” declared Levy-Pounds. “I think it is a shame that the so-called African American leaders, who I call the Black mis-leadership class with Mayor Hodges today [Monday]. If their leadership was really effective, we wouldn’t have to be standing outside the precinct protesting and fighting for change.”
Levy-Pounds also called for “domestic terrorist charge[s]” be filed against the four men charged by Hennepin County for shooting five protesters last week. “We feel their conduct was pre-mediated,” she pointed out.
One man was charged Monday with one count of rioting while armed with a dangerous weapon, and five counts of assault with a dangerous weapon, while three other men each were charged with rioting. Noor said she felt the four men should have been charged at least with attempted murder. “Apparently when White people shoot [Blacks], there is no deadly intent,” she said.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Monday in a MSR phone interview that a hate crime under Minnesota law is a misdemeanor, but second-degree assault and second-degree rioting, if convicted, is subject to seven-year and five-year prison sentences, respectively. “All those crimes are more serious than any hate crime under Minnesota law,” said Freeman. “The charges that were levied were more serious than any hate crime.
“I think it was a hate crime but I charged the individuals with more serious crimes than any hate crime on the Minnesota books,” stressed Freeman.
Finally, despite city officials and Black leaders’ expressed concern, the Fourth Precinct protests continue. Levy-Pounds said a “paradigm shift” is needed in who are considered leaders in the Black community.
“It is time for the voices of the people of this community to actually be heard and not be silent,” she said. “We need new leadership… It’s time for our young people to be given a chance to grow as leaders and make decisions on behalf of the city they love.”
“The Black community here actually is unified. We are continuing the fight for justice for Jamar,” concluded Noor.
Look for more updates from the MSR as the story continues to develop.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.