The killing of Jamar Clark by police was indeed political

MellaneoussquareThe broken record that is police violence that sometimes leaves someone dead has reached a crescendo in Minneapolis with the police shooting and killing of 24-year-old Jamar Clark. Lots of things have been asked for — the feds, an independent investigation — but there is only one demand that’s required in this instance, and that is the prosecution of the cop(s) who shot Jamar Clark November 15, for no apparent reason.

As is usually the case in police killings, this defies logic. Jamar Clark was unarmed and police had him on the ground and were apparently in control when one of two officers on the scene shot and killed him. Making things even more incredulous is the fact that over a dozen of my neighbors and people in an adjoining club say he was handcuffed. A few young children witnessed the event, as well.

What followed the shooting was equally outrageous, as police piled into the neighborhood and threatened the irate crowd. Police on social media video can be seen with mace and tasers in hand threatening folks and yelling at them to go back into their homes. Several people were maced in the confusion. For a few hours that portion of Minneapolis looked like what it sometimes is: an armed camp.

As is usually the case, various opinions are floated about as to what to do next. Some segments quickly call for independent investigation, some call for the feds to come in. The mayor of Minneapolis, in an attempt to look like she was doing something, called for the Justice Department to investigate whether the shooting was a civil rights violation.

“This isn’t a political meeting,” shouted a young brother during a press conference that included the family of the victim, as things got a little testy between the press and those present.

He couldn’t be more wrong. The shooting of an unarmed Black man by law enforcement is about as political as you can get in this country. If politics is the art of getting what you want, then yet another Black person got the wrong end of a pistol.

The very presence of Black folks in the U.S. is political. The fact that we are still here is a testament to political will. The fact that there are segregated ghettos in the U.S.— Black people on average are about three times poorer than White folks, and Black people are denied equal access to goods and services in their own neighborhoods where they have to pay more for less — is all about politics.

Blacks are given a second-class education, they are denied loans easily accessible to Whites, they lost wealth because they were sold adjustable-rate mortgages even when they qualified for prime mortgages, they are denied job opportunities, they are arrested more and thus have more black marks on their record. They are pulled over by the police more and imprisoned more. In Minneapolis, Black young people are nine times more likely to be jailed than Whites who statistics show smoke as much, if not more, dope than Black folks.

And as this case drags on, the system will use all of its apparatus — its media, its politicians, and even members of our community — to derail any real united effort to get justice for Jamar Clark. Oh yes, this is political all right!

What will follow in coming weeks, months and maybe years, will be a test of political wills. Will Black people and allies and the community in general be good students of history and employ a variety of tactics that keep the issue in the forefront? What will absolutely have to happen is protest, which is one of the few political tools the normally voiceless and powerless have to push back against injustice.

The die has already been cast. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) in 83 cases justified all but one, and that case was dismissed. The only way we have to change that history is to protest. And that can take several forms, but all have to be applied.

Someone suggested that people not shop downtown after Black Friday, until justice is delivered. There will have to be large marches and protests by a united front of everyone, every faction, every leader, every political and religious persuasion. And the protest will have to be taken to the seat of political power in this town: the mayor’s office, the City Council and maybe even the governor.

And it won’t matter if they are home or not. If you get at least a thousand folks in the street they will know. Truth is, considering the history of this city, which knows how to fight, there is no reason that we should not be able to get at the very least two thousand people marching on City Hall.

People in this city turned out and up in large numbers in support of Trayvon Martin demanding a conviction of George Zimmerman. People have showed up in large numbers in solidarity marches in support of justice for Mike Brown, Rekia Boyd, and Freddie Gray. This happened on our doorstep, surely we can turn out.

I can hear the naysayers saying protests don’t work, but history shows that they are wrong. Determined, concerted, lasting protest is one of the only things that has worked for those with little political power.


Mel Reeves welcomes reader response to