Protesters take to the streets of Edina to demand police accountability

Protesters took to the streets in Edina, Oct 22.
Protesters took to the streets in Edina, Oct 22. (Chris Juhn/MSR News)

Over 100 protesters rallied Saturday to protest racial profiling by police, and specifically the treatment of a Black pedestrian by an Edina police officer last week.

On Oct. 12, Larnie Thomas, a Black man, was videotaped being stopped and grabbed by the back of his jacket by White Edina police officer Tim Olson while walking on the side of the road in Edina.

Olson, who was not in uniform, said Thomas was walking in the traffic lane of a busy city street with headphones on. Thomas contended that he was avoiding sidewalk construction. The video, shot by Janet Rowles and uploaded to YouTube, went viral on social media, gathering national attention. Many cited the incident as yet another example of racially-charged police overreaction and bias.

Protesters took to the streets in Edina, Oct 22.
Protesters took to the streets in Edina, Oct 22. (Chris Juhn/MSR News)

 

Saturday’s march was attended by people of various ethnicities, including a few residents of Edina. The march started at the Edina City Hall Police Department and continued down 50th Ave. where marchers shouted “Hey hey, ho ho, Lt. Olson’s got to go,” “Black Lives, they matter here!” and other chants. Many of the protesters wore shirts stating “I Am A Man” in reference to signs and slogans used during the Civil Rights Movement.

At the intersection of 50th and France, the march was stopped and traffic was blocked for protesters to speak to the crowd and call for justice. Some of the men took off their shirts in solidarity with Thomas. “They took Larnie Thomas’ shirt off! They dropped him off at work with his shirt off!” said organizer Pastor Danny Givens, Jr. of Above Every Name Ministries.

Protesters marching shirtless in solidarity with Larnie Thomas, Oct. 22.

“Bill English came and spoke with city council, [stating] if I have to come take my shirt off and march down the middle of the street to let people know I am a Black man, and I matter, that’s what I’m going to do,” Danny Givens, Jr. (far left) said of fellow protester Bill English (center) of Northside Funders Group. (Chris Juhn/MSR News)

The protest comes on the heels of Tuesday’s Edina City Council meeting where concerned community members took turns testifying before the council about experiences of racial bias in Edina. The mayor and City Council apologized for the incident, publicly acknowledging the need to do better.

A protester holding a sign at the Oct 22 rally.
A protester holding a sign at the Oct 22 rally. (Chris Juhn/MSR News)

The Minneapolis NAACP also issued a list of demands for police accountability last week, which included implementation and adoption of best practices from the report by the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

In a statement, Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds noted that the incident fits a pattern of racial bias and abuse by the police, and pointed to a systemic problem of racial profiling in Minnesota. “It is sad to say, but that man in the video could easily have been the next #PhilandoCastile or #JamarClark, two unarmed Black men who were killed by police within the last year. When will we say #EnoughisEnough?”

The march remained peaceful and there were no arrests reported. The protesters stressed that as they stand up for the rights of Thomas, they are also standing up for humanity as a whole. “We know this isn’t just a Black and White issue — at the end of the day this is a human issue,” said activist Mel Reeves.

“As long as they don’t give [Thomas] justice, they’re saying he’s not even a human being.  Justice means, that Lt. Olson is either fired, or suffers severe consequence,” he said.

(See more photos from Chris Juhn below. Click on a photo to begin the slideshow)

Ivan B. Phifer welcomes reader comment to iphifer@spokesman-recorder.com.