Racially biased marijuana sting ends thanks to ‘justice warrior’

“Today’s Constitution is a realistic document of freedom only because of several corrective amendments. Those amendments speak to a sense of decency and fairness that I and other Blacks cherish.”

—Thurgood Marshall

Justice Marshall reminds us that our Constitution, as amended, calls for decency and fairness for all, even in the recent, several-months sting operation in downtown Minneapolis. The number disparity of those arrested – 46 Black and only one White – shows the police program’s lack of decency and fairness. Fortunately, all 47 charges were later dismissed, because of Mary Moriarty.

Moriarty is the hero in all of this. She is not a Black person, but rather a White public defender, who is, as the late public defender Jim Krieger was before her, a “justice warrior,” and whose efforts led to dismissal of all 47 cases. Today’s so-called “social justice warriors” could learn a lot from this White “justice warrior” regarding how to get results, and to do so non-violently.

Those arrested, imprisoned, and charged with a felony in this recent sting, were selling one to two grams of marijuana for $10 to $20. Moriarty called the mayor after the Hennepin County prosecutor would not act on her reports of the sting’s blatant racial profilingMayor Jacob Frey then took the right action by ordering the end of the sting.

Nearly four years ago, the ACLU found Blacks in Minneapolis were 11 times more likely than Whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite similar usage rates. As one observer said to the Star Tribune on this latest sting, “They are locking up all these Blacks. What about the White people who are doing it?”

In my long history as a civil rights activist, I’m never more saddened than when racism hides under the cover of justice. And yet, that is what happened for several months, when the so-called police “Community Response Team” made arrests in their ongoing sting operation downtown. Clearly, that is a “community” team.

This is why, as reported in the Star Tribune, I have called for a Committee of Inquiry, which can obtain factual testimony. Think about the people who remained silent during the sting, as the constitutional rights of poor African Americans were being violated. It is a shameful list: the police, prosecutors, judges, and county officials, including the County Attorney. As I was further quoted, “This is clearly a dark cloud over the city of Minneapolis, which prides itself on fairness and liberalism,” both of which were missing in this sting.

We need more like Moriarty, the real hero here, who secures acquittal after acquittal. She is known for her diligence, her tenacious arguments, and for a national profile as a gifted courtroom advocate with a talent for training others and has done so in every region of the country. Moriarty provided the most effective response by calling attention to this practice that resulted in ending a practice based not on justice, but on racial profiling.

The reason the Star Tribune had such concise sting information in its many articles, such as dates of arrest, was because they had been interviewing African Americans as they carried out their own investigation.

Fortunately, the Constitution has a defender in Mary Moriarty.

She did the right thing. What would you have done?

The sting’s 47 arrests and then dismissals drew a dark cloud over the liberal image of Minneapolis and gave our mayor an opportunity to do something positive for the future of relations between the African American community and communities of color, as well as the justice system for the whole city of Minneapolis.

Stay tuned.

Ron is an author and hosts radio and TV shows.