Protesters rally, march, vow to keep up the pressure
Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau’s resignation Friday at the request of Mayor Betsy Hodges marked a dramatic end to an intense week.
In a released statement, the mayor said that she had “lost confidence” in Harteau’s leadership and “it is clear that she has lost the confidence of the people of Minneapolis,” following last weekend’s fatal police shooting of Australian native Justine Damond.
Then, as the mayor attempted to hold a press conference at City Hall later that evening, protesters called on her to resign and interrupted her remarks with chants of “Bye, bye, Betsy!” until she was escorted out of the room.
Damond was shot and killed July 15 after calling 911 to report a possible sexual assault near her residence. She was fatally shot by Police Officer Mohamed Noor, who responded to the call. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) is investigating the shooting, and the killing has placed a national and international spotlight once again on the Minneapolis Police Department.
Then-Police Chief Harteau was away on vacation at the time of the incident; she gave her first public remarks five days later. She condemned Noor’s actions based on the BCA’s investigation, saying, “Justine didn’t have to die.”
Harteau was criticized by some City Council members Friday afternoon for the length of time it took her to respond to the incident. Others, such as Minneapolis mayoral candidate Nekima Levy-Pounds, said Harteau’s remarks were rooted in “White supremacy,” as she didn’t extend the same sympathy to Black victims of police violence, such as Jamar Clark who was shot by police in November of 2015.
Friday evening Levy-Pounds, city council candidate Samantha Lee Pree-Stinson, Michelle Gross of Communities United Against Police Brutality, activists Mel Reeves, Cathy Jones, Chauntyll Allen and Corydon Nilsson of the New North, organized a solidarity rally and march at Loring Park in Minneapolis.
The aim of the gathering was to unite people of all backgrounds around the issue of police violence and to demand police reform and accountability. The march came after a week of vigils and marches following Damond’s shooting.
Harteau’s resignation was met with cheers and applause as it was announced at the start of the rally. Levy-Pounds didn’t attend the march, but had Allen relay remarks to those in attendance, including the announcement of the birth of her baby girl, named Assata, earlier that day.
Various speakers addressed the crowd, including Pree-Stinson, who called for a change in leadership from the top down, and John Thompson, a former co-worker and friend of Philando Castile, who was fatally shot by former St. Anthony Police Officer Jeromino Yanez on July 6, 2016. Yanez was acquitted of all charges June 16, 2017.
(John Thompson speaking to the crowd at Loring Park)
Thompson implored those in attendance who were first-time protesters to stay involved and keep protesting. “The ladies from the Women’s March organization — Don’t leave us,” he said. “We need your White voices. We’ve been needing your White voices!” He closed his remarks by encouraging everyone present to hug one another. “Together we stand and divided we fall,” he told the crowd.
Reeves also addressed the crowd and warned those present against falling for “tricks” by Mayor Hodges and other officials. He said the resignation of Harteau was a sign of progress, but now “they’re going to hand the baton to the Black man” to be the fall guy, referring to current Assistant Police Chief Medaria Arradondo. The mayor said she would nominate Arradondo to replace Harteau. Reeves stated that although Arradondo may be a “nice guy,” he will head an oppressive institution, just as Harteau had.
(See Mel Reeves’ remarks below)
After the rally, marchers took to the streets of downtown Minneapolis, blocking intersections en route to City Hall where Mayor Hodges had planned a press conference. City Hall was locked when the protesters first arrived, but they eventually found their way inside.
Hodges cut her press conference short as protesters filled the room with chants. After the mayor left, the protesters took turns giving remarks at the podium. It was reported that Mayor Hodges returned 30 minutes later to address members of the media. She told those present that she would not be resigning as mayor.
On the steps of City Hall after interrupting the mayor’s press conference, Reeves encouraged the crowd. “You just saw what can happen when people take power into their own hands! Just think what can happen if we get our neighbors involved and if we get our friends involved,” he said to cheers.
After leaving City Hall, the marchers made their way back to Loring Park and vowed to keep the pressure on officials to bring change in leadership and an end to police violence.
Paige Elliott welcomes readers’ comment to firstname.lastname@example.org.
See more photos below by Chris Juhn.