In a strange twist of events, elected officials and some Black folks that the Minneapolis power structure have appointed as the leaders of the Black community, turned their focus away from the effort to get justice for Jamar Clark and called a press conference to beat up on, brow beat and talk down to the community, a community trying to bring attention to their cause the best way they know how, by occupying the Fourth Precinct.
These fine folks led by U.S. Rep Keith Ellison managed to make those who have been victimized the problem rather than the police who caused this encampment to come about in the first place, when they cold-bloodedly shot unarmed Jamar Clark point blank in the head.
What Congressman Ellison and the handmaidens of the City power structure failed to acknowledge is that this system they cherish so much has left folks little choice. This system on its own won’t — or refuses to — do what’s right and prosecute these cops. So left with little recourse within the system, people have to take to the streets to try and force the power structure to do what it clearly doesn’t want to do, and that is punish its own.
Instead of wasting time denouncing the encampment and victim blaming, it seems that the good representative should be in Washington advocating for justice on our behalf. During the press conference, Ellison proffered advice to the protestors, but we don’t need his advice, we need his advocacy on Capitol Hill, that’s why he was elected. We need him to stand up and say to the feds, the State, the mayor of Minneapolis, that these cops should be arrested and charged as any other citizen would be.
In fact, the mayor and her Democratic Party cronies, as our elected representatives ought to be putting pressure on their fellow DFLer Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman to prosecute the cops who killed Jamar Clark.
Ellison misrepresented the community’s wishes by implying that the community simply wanted a fair process. No, we want justice, which in this case would mean prosecution of those cops by the Hennepin County prosecutor as he has done thousands of times to Blacks and others suspected of crimes.
Incredibly, some of these master-appointed misleaders were downright angry. Strangely they don’t seem all that mad about Jamar Clark being shot down in cold blood. And there are so many real injustices in our community to be angry about.
The Minneapolis schools are only graduating half of their Black students, but I didn’t see any of those folks calling press conferences expressing their anger about that. Minneapolis has the worst — that’s right, the worst — unemployment disparity between Blacks and Whites, with Blacks almost four times more likely to be unemployed than Whites, but there was no anger.
A recent report came out that said that Black youth are arrested nine times more than White kids for marijuana possession, but there was no outcry by these folks. Black Minneapolis was hit hard by the foreclosure crisis, but there was no righteous indignation. A few years ago when young Terrance Franklin was gunned down there was silence.
Despite all this inequality, injustice and structural racism, there have been no angry words, no venom or vitriol aimed at the source of this inequality: the power structure. This is because many of the folks at the mayor’s press conference, in the words of Bob Marley, “bellies are full,” limiting their ability to identify with the plight of their lesser-off brethren. I suspect that many of the “appointed” Black leaders have been living off the largesse of the liberal foundation plantation, which is how Minneapolis rewards its good Negroes, those who toe the company line.
Real leadership was shown by Minneapolis NAACP president Nekima Levy Pounds, who took an unpopular position supporting the encampment and vowing not to leave. She let it all hang out, consequences be damned.
Ellison in his zeal to blame the victim, mentioned that the unintended consequences of the encampment is that the neighborhood is being inconvenienced, that smoke was in the neighborhood, traffic has been detoured around the encampment, and a city bus has to be rerouted a few blocks. But I suspect he isn’t telling the whole truth.
I believe that most of my neighbors are willing to put up with a little disruption for some justice. Every movement that advanced the cause of justice caused folks some disruption. You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.
Ellison also pointed out that the encampment was unsafe because domestic terrorists attacked it. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to him or Mayor Betsy Hodges that it is their job to keep their constituents safe!
There were indeed unintended consequences of the encampment, or what’s called the Northside People’s Village: the poor are being fed, winter clothes have been provided for my neighbors and their children who needed them, hope has been restored to the hopeless, dignity and confidence and a sense of purpose has been returned to some who had lost it.
Levy-Pounds said yesterday that, “Everybody that stood with Mayor Hodges is not part of the solution, they’re part of the problem.” Let me paraphrase one of the fine gentlemen who was sicced on the community like an obedient mutt: If you didn’t know that your press conference was divisive and hurtful to the community, now you know.
Mel Reeves welcomes reader response to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mel Reeves was the community editor at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder until he passed away on January 6, 2022. He had a long and storied history working at the MSR.
Find more about Reeve’s life and legacy here: spokesman-recorder.com/category/remembering-mel-reeves.