The MSR followed the action locally and nationally
The year 2016 was a year of protest both across the Twin Cities and across the nation. It began locally with two groups, holding to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Justice for Marcus Golden of St. Paul and Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, two groups totaling approximately 50 people, marched on both the St. Paul and Minneapolis sides of the Lake Street Bridge on January 18, Martin Luther King Day. The groups converged on the bridge, demanding that the case of the shooting death of Marcus Golden by police be re-opened. Golden, aged 24, was killed just four days before the protest.
On March 26, approximately 350 protesters held a rally at the Hennepin County Government Center demanding that Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman charge police officers Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze for the murder of Jamar Clark, killed on November 15, 2015. One week prior to the protest, Freeman announced that a grand jury would not be used in the Clark case. Instead, Freeman himself would decide whether or not the officers involved would be charged.
MSR photographer Chris Juhn was on the scene capturing images of both these protests.
On March 30 Freeman decided that there was not enough evidence to charge the police officers. MSR Staff Writer Charles Hallman wrote in the April 7 issue of the paper, “The Clark case, according to Freeman, had ‘much confusion and disagreement,’ including ‘the variety of witnesses all over the place with handcuffs’ in reference to the question of whether or not Clark had been handcuffed when shot.
Freeman was quoted as saying, “What is being lost in all of the press conferences and all the reviews…and legal misstatements by Professor Nekima Levy-Pounds, [is that] my job was to decide whether there was sufficient evidence to prove that the officers acted without justification in the killing of Jamar Clark.”
Hallman’s story continued quoting Freeman: “With Jamar Clark’s DNA all over the gun, hoister and the belt with no Clark DNA on the handcuffs…there simply [was] not enough evidence to go to a jury to suggest they [the officers] acted unreasonably… Many people are ignoring [what] the legal standard is, including a lot of folk demonstrating.”
At the April 11 Twins opener against the Chicago White Sox, MSR photographer Christ Juhn wrote, “A group of mostly White supporters disrupted the Twins opener against the Chicago White Sox at the intersection of 3rd Avenue North and North 5th Street to demand that the Jamar Clark case be re-opened as well as to bring attention to the racial inequalities in the Twin Cities and around the country. The purpose of the protest was to put White bodies on the line for Black lives.” Juhn’s copy and photos appeared in the April 14 issue of the MSR.
By mid-April, 55 people had been shot in North Minneapolis according to Minneapolis Police Department documents. Several of these incidents resulted in deaths. On June 4, the Minneapolis Chapter of MADDADS President VJ Smith coordinated a rally for the seventh annual “Stop the Violence March.”
In the June 9 issue of the MSR, Contributing Writer James L. Stroud, Jr. wrote, “The morning began with bus- and van-loads of people leaving the [Cub] grocery store lot to tour North Minneapolis sites where shootings have taken place. They were then dropped off at KMOJ radio station located at 2123 West Broadway Avenue North, where they rallied and marched back to Cub Foods.
“The organizers selected bright yellow shirts for surviving family members to wear that displayed the first and last name of the deceased along with a number that represented their age at the time they were killed. An estimated crowd of about 600 people marched, including drill and dance teams.
“Some held signs that read, ‘Honk for Peace,’ ‘Stop the Violence,’ ‘Put Down the Guns,’ ‘Mothers are Hurting,’ ‘I Miss My Son’ and ‘Enough is Enough.’ It began to drizzle, but the marchers continued marching unfazed,” wrote Stroud. MSR photographer Steve Floyd captured photos of the rally.
“Change ‘needs to come from the streets,’ stated former St. Paul NAACP president Nathaniel Khaliq in an MSR exclusive phone interview last Thursday morning,” wrote MSR Staff Writer Charles Hallman in the July 14 edition of the paper. “Khaliq was among those who spoke outside the Minnesota governor’s mansion in St. Paul in the aftermath of the Philando Castile shooting by a St. Anthony police officer in Falcon Heights. Castile, reportedly stopped late Wednesday, July 6 because his car had a broken taillight, was shot and killed while reaching for his identification.
“During his remarks, Khaliq said it might be a ‘long hot summer’ if nothing is done about another police-related shooting involving Blacks,” continued Hallman in the story. “The impetus must come from the streets,’ concluded Khaliq. ‘These politicians are not going to do anything on their own. I think when people start feeling uncomfortable and start being inconvenienced, you will see some change. I’m mad as hell!
“‘I’m a 73-year-old mad Black man,’ Khaliq continued. ‘We are still stuck in the same damn place — my son and my grandson still have the same risk that I [had] 50-60 years ago. That’s unacceptable. I’m mad as hell.’”
Protesters remained outside the governor’s mansion for over 20 days. On July 26, a press conference was held by St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell to address both the protest and the related arrests made by St. Paul police officers.
MSR Contributing Writer Ivan B. Phifer wrote in the August 4 issue of the paper, “Before the press conference, 10 protesters were booked in Ramsey County and 15 were cited and released. ‘This is the last resort for us,’ Axtell said. ‘This is the last thing we want to do is make arrests.’
“In an ironic twist of events,” continued Phifer, “this writer was conducting an interview with one of the coordinators of the [Black Lives Matter] movement” when he found himself among those being arrested. “Preceding the press conference, 20 more people were arrested. I was mistaken for a protester, arrested, and taken on the bus, which was specifically parked for protesters who were being transferred to Ramsey County Jail.
“Protesters stuck together, sharing water to prevent dehydration from the heat. Twenty-three more protesters were arrested later that night as they congregated again in front of the governor’s mansion.” Phifer reported.
While local protests were held in response to police and gun violence, Native American tribes and their allies demonstrated in neighboring North Dakota to protect natural resources and sacred lands. Juhn wrote, in the September 15 issue of the paper, “Across the country, cities including St. Paul are standing with protesters who oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline. ‘They wanted to originally run the pipeline through Bismark,’ said Kathy Hollander with MN 350. ‘But because it posed such a hazard to the people of a leak happening, they decided to go through the Standing Rock Indian Reservation instead’
“This writer went down to Standing Rock a few weeks ago to learn about what was going on,” continued Juhn. “What the people made clear was that if the pipeline runs underneath the Missouri River and it leaks, it would be catastrophic to the people of Standing Rock and to many of the cities south of the reservation. They want to do everything they can to protect their way of life. For over two years the people of Standing Rock have been trying to prevent the pipeline from going through their land.
“Tribes from across the country have sent people to stand against the pipeline, and currently around 4,000 people are at the camp near Cannonball, North Dakota.”
Juhn also captured the images of the September 17 march and protest of approximate 200 people in front of May Day Books on Cedar Avenue in Minneapolis against Donald Trump and Islamophobia. The protest was “part of a national call to action issued by Stand Together Against Racism and Islamophobia,” wrote Juhn.
“Over 100 protesters rallied Saturday, October 22 to protest racial profiling by police and specifically the treatment of a Black pedestrian by an Edina police officer last week,” wrote Phifer in the October 27 edition of the MSR. “On October 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, attracting national attention. Many cited the incident as yet another example of racially charged police overreaction and bias…
“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.”
On November 8, after going against 17 possible Republican candidates, some with years of experience as elected officials such as Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Senator Lindsey Graham (SC-R), Governor Mike Huckabee (AR-R), and Governor Chris Christy (NJ-R), Donald Trump, with no experience as an elected official, gained not only the Republican nomination but the presidential election against two-time presidential hopeful, previous First Lady, U.S. senator and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. Most Americans were shocked by the results, and possibly more than half were disappointed.
Contributing Writer Julia Johnson wrote in the November 17 issue of the MSR, “In response to results of the November 8 presidential election, over the past week protests have occurred both across the Twin Cities and the nation. Around 5,000 protesters gathered near the University of Minnesota campus at 7:30 pm on November 11. They were marching to protest President-Elect Donald J. Trump. The march went into the Cedar Riverside neighborhood and eventually made its way to Highway 94 where they blocked traffic and shut down the freeway.
“Earlier that day, high school students across the Twin Cities walked out of classes in the afternoon to gather downtown as a sign of unity and to take action against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and the recent election of Donald Trump. Students from Southwest, Washington, Roosevelt, and Perpich Center for Arts were among those present.
“Asked how he feels about the people who could vote but chose not to do so this past presidential election, [Collin] Robinson said, ‘It upsets me because not all people have that privilege, and I know people in my family who were incarcerated and recently got the right to vote again.
“‘I am friends with Jason Sole,’ Robinson continued, ‘who recently led the walkout for restoring the vote of the 57,000, and to see people not vote after those efforts is disappointing.’”
The year ended with two somewhat positive outcomes on both a local and national level. First, in regard to the Philando Castile case, “Ramsey County Attorney John Choi announced November 16 that second-degree manslaughter charges will be filed against St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez in the shooting death of Philando Castile,” according to a story by Phifer in the November 24 MSR edition.
“I know my decision will be difficult for some in our community to accept. But, in order to achieve justice, we must be willing to do the right thing — no matter how hard it may seem,’ Choi said.”
The second positive note was the Dakota Pipeline decision as described in “Sioux tribe and Dakota Pipeline still at impasse,” by Chris Juhn: “The Standing Rock Sioux celebrated a victory on Sunday, December 4 when Jo-Ellen Darcy, the U.S. Army’s assistant secretary, announced that they would not be approving the easement that is required for Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) to tunnel under the Missouri River. Darcy mentioned they plan on doing an Environmental Impact Survey as well as ‘explore additional routes for the pipeline crossing.’
“Shortly after this announcement, Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind DAPL, announced that they planned on continuing the drilling, stating that the Army announcement was ‘purely political.’ They said they will pay the $50,000-a-day fine and continue work on the pipeline.”
Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder writers and photographers were on the scene when history was made in the Twin Cities and elsewhere as one protest against injustice followed another over the course of 2016. Our staff and contributors will continue that presence in the coming year. As it is spoken, so we will record.
Vickie Evans-Nash welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vickie Evans-Nash is a contributing writer and former editor in chief at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.