The cry for answers from community members has only intensified in light of the announcement Tuesday that police shooting victim Jamar Clark has died. More than anything, many are resolved to remain camped outside the entrance of the Fourth Precinct police station in North Minneapolis until all pertinent details involving the shooting are made public.
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“We know we can’t bring back Jamar,” said local civil rights attorney and NAACP-Minneapolis president Nekima Levy-Pounds. “What we can do is to demand accountability on the part of the officers and on the part of our government leaders. That’s why we were out there on I-94 [Monday night],” Levy-Pounds explained Tuesday from outside the police station on Plymouth Avenue N., a few blocks west of where Clark was shot by police early Sunday morning.
Levy-Pounds was among the 51 persons arrested and charged with unlawful assembly after their protest forced traffic to be rerouted off the freeway.
“Being Black in Minneapolis, and being Black in Minnesota, is a daily inconvenience,” she said of those who complained about the I-94 protest. “We are constantly treated like we are inferior, second-class citizens. Ever since these protests started, we said enough is enough! We demand that our humanity be recognized in the city of Minneapolis and in the state of Minnesota.
“If they don’t want to hear us, we are going to make them hear us,” continued Levy Pounds. “We are going to keep protesting and keep demonstrating and keep shutting down business as usual for the justice that our community deserves.
“We want the police to restore trust in the community and be transparent by being honest, and by rooting out problem behaviors and problem officers,” stated Levy-Pounds. “It’s clear that the family is grieving right now. They want answers, and they are glad that there will be a federal investigation. They are thankful that the community is rallying around Jamar and seeking justice on his behalf.”
Members of the Clark family were in attendance at Wednesday’s press conference at the Minneapolis Urban League (MUL) but declined to speak with the media.
Clark’s sister Javille Burns spoke for the family, saying, “I’m not angry at them [the police officers]. I pray for their souls. We don’t want revenge. We want justice.”
“We understand that Jamar was not perfect — none of us are,” added Kenya McKnight, a Clark family spokesperson. ”But we are not going to allow either his past or the circumstances that brought him into contact with law enforcement distract from the issue at hand. Nothing he did warranted him being shot down in the street.”
MUL Interim President Steven Belton pointed out that “two narratives” are being reported by the mainstream media, with City and police officials’ account of what happened being more dominant, including reports of Clark’s past background.
Belton listed four key points of the community narrative: 1) Clark was unarmed; 2) he did not resist; 3) he was on the ground; and 4) he was restrained by two Minneapolis police officers and emergency attendants called on the scene.
As a result, Belton reiterated the call for the U.S. Justice Department to fully investigate the case and for City and police officials to stop putting “piecemeal information” out to the public. “If public officials can’t say anything, then don’t say anything,” he advised.
Beginning Thursday from 4 pm to 7 pm, the MUL’s Northside headquarters on Plymouth and Penn Avenues will be open for anyone who has information on what happened to come forward, Belton announced. “This is a safe place where you can make a statement,” he promised.
McKnight added that too many community members are in a “don’t tell” mode when it comes to such matters. She encouraged people to come to the Urban League or go to the NAACP.
Different strategies, same goals
Some suggested during the press conference that “a wedge” is being created between the protesters outside the police station, led by Black Lives Matter (BLM) Minneapolis and others, and other community leaders concerned over the Clark shooting.
BLM’s Lena Gardner stressed, “There are many Jamar Clarks out there. We are raising attention [to this]. This is why we are out there…to get justice for Jamar.”
“We have no problem with Black Lives Matter,” said Burns.
“There is no division,” stated Belton to the MSR after the press conference. “Black people are united on this. There is no riff in our leadership. It is going to take all of us working together.
“We are simply doing different things at different times for justice for Jamar,” continued Belton, adding that the mainstream media might be practicing “the old thing of divide and conquer” in their coverage of the incident.
The local media “must tell the community narrative and challenge the status quo. It is important that this is what the community is saying,” said McKnight to the MSR.
“It’s a good thing to have diversity in voices in Black leadership. We are just one of those voices,” said Gardner to the MSR afterward, adding that BLM “carries a specific message and a specific goal, and we all want justice and we all want things to change in Minneapolis for Black people.”
Voices outside of the Fourth Precinct police station
BLM Minneapolis spokesperson Kandace Montgomery told the MSR, “We will occupy this space” for as long as it takes.
“People are tired, but people are glad we are there,” added Gardner. “This movement is also about healing, and we need healing of our community.”
Nyijaah Monn, a protester, told the MSR, “We are fighting for freedom [and] justice, and we are fighting for answers. We are not fighting for violence.”
“It’s refreshing to see people of all colors come out here in support — they understand the struggle,” said Adrian Thompson, who volunteers with the Council on Crime and Justice.
Corey Johnson, 31 and a father of eight, said he suspects the Minneapolis police are covering up what really happened to Clark. “They are trying to hide it. But they did it in front of so many people that you can’t hide it,” he said.
Releasing the involved officers’ names is only one of the “small steps” City officials must do to make things right, contended Gardner.
The protest is “phase two of the Civil Rights Movement,” said Levy-Pounds. “We are sick and tired of the oppression Black people face in the City of Minneapolis. We’re tired of police abuse. We want justice for the community and not just talk. We want to see action.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.