New report declares ‘enough is enough’
This year, the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) celebrated 150 years of policing. However, a new report that examines the department’s past and present offers “a practical pathway” in hopes of its dismantling in the near future.
MPD150 is an independent community-based initiative that wants a “police-free” Minneapolis, say its members. The group last Saturday released Enough is Enough: A 150 Year Performance Review at the nonprofit CTUL workers center on Chicago Avenue in South Minneapolis.
CTUL is shorthand for Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha, which describes itself on its website as “an organization led by low-wage workers, dedicated to building the power.”
“There will be skeptics” about the report, Ricardo Levins Morales told an estimated 250 persons who attended last weekend’s event. “This report is not venting, but for real change,” he declared.
“There was a world without police,” said Essie Schlotterbeck, a member of the MPD150 research group. She explained that most police departments in this country were mainly formed to protect the wealthy and their property and be “a tool of the state” to enforce laws, which often included police brutality and other injustices, especially against Blacks and other people of color.
Tony Williams asked the audience to discuss next steps in small groups. He told the MSR afterwards, “Too often, discussions are built around alternatives to police, and they feel so radical or some utopian vision that’s hundreds of years off,” he pointed out. “I hope what folk come away with today is the idea that this is something we need to start now.”
When asked if the timing of the report’s release nearly two years after Jamar Clark’s death was coincidental, Sheila Nezhad, a local social justice consultant responded, “We were waiting [until] after the elections.”
Clark’s death on November 15, 2015 sparked the nearly 20-day Fourth Precinct occupation in North Minneapolis; the Minneapolis police officers involved in the shooting weren’t charged.
“We’ve had enough of this over-policing, especially in North Minneapolis. It started the seed of resistance,” stressed Loretta VanPelt. She and June are members of the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar. They asked the audience for 61 seconds of silence. “It took 61 seconds to kill Jamar Clark,” June said.
Some community residents, including many in attendance at last week’s MPD150 event, believe that the Clark shooting did play a part in this year’s municipal elections. Nezhad reiterated, “I think that Jamar Clark’s death and Fourth Precinct occupation taught us that we can come together as a community and have power.”
“Betsy [Hodges], Blong [Yang] and Barb [Johnson] all didn’t get reelected because everyone saw what they did and how they handled the Jamar Clark situation,” June noted of the soon-to-be-former mayor and two members of the city council.
“I am cautiously optimistic on what happened to the mayor’s office and the city council,” Williams said on the Minneapolis election results. “I don’t think politicians are going to solve all of the problems in our community, and we shouldn’t expect them to.” He said he hopes, however, that the incoming new council members will “start talking alternative methods [of policing].”
“I don’t think [Mayor-elect] Jacob Frey is going to be the mayor for all the people,” said VanPelt. “He already said he wants to increase police presence in downtown Minneapolis — a lot of Black and Brown youth hang out in downtown Minneapolis. I feel this is going to make matters worse.
“I’m discouraged with the new mayor, but I am encouraged that our city council will do the right thing, I hope. But I have been disappointed before,” VanPelt said.
June stressed that just because three Blacks — Andrea Jenkins, Phillippe Cunningham and Jeremiah Ellison — were elected to city council seats, isn’t an assurance that things will change in regards to policing in Minneapolis. “We have to hold everyone accountable. Just because you hold an identity or are from a marginalized community doesn’t give you a pass when you are in an elected office.”
University of Minnesota sociology doctoral student Rahsaan Mahadeo told the MSR that he supports the group’s idea of divestment and redistribution of funds away from the police and starting community self-defense organizations. “It’s a really positive step in the right direction. The reality is the community has the best capacity to serve and protect themselves, and the police have been getting in the way.”
“I thought it went very well,” Nezhad said of the event afterwards. “It felt amazing to be here with so many people from the community, from all different parts of the city. The idea of police abolition is big and scary — and can feel impossible. But this felt like this is something we can build together. It gave me hope.”
Read the MPD150 report on the group’s website, www.mpd150.com.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Updated 11/24/2017 12:20 pm
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.