Community calls for truth, justice, and transparency
Community members have been out in full force with vigils and protests since the police shooting death of 31-year-old Thurman Blevins in North Minneapolis on Saturday, June 23.
According to police reports, Blevins was shot multiple times by police during a chase which lasted several blocks. He was pronounced dead at the scene in an alley at 4746 Bryant Avenue North.
Hundreds gathered the next day at an emergency rally at Minneapolis’ 4th Precinct on the city’s North Side on a cloudy, stifling hot Sunday afternoon. Blevins’ father Thurman Moore and his uncle Manuel Monroe stopped to greet the crowd before heading to a memorial for Blevins’ half-sister, Tanisha Willis who died of liver failure.
“We appreciate your support and everything that you are doing,” Monroe told the crowd.
Blevins’ death follows a string of deaths at the hands of police in Minnesota, including St. Paul school teacher Philando Castile, shot to death during a traffic stop nearly two years ago to the date, and Jamar Clark, killed two and a half years ago.
Unanswered questions have surfaced as the case plagues the streets of North Minneapolis. One is whether Blevins had a gun as the police have stated in their reports. According to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), two 911 calls reported a man shooting a handgun, identified by one caller as silver.
Police reports identify the gun as black and silver. However, multiple community members refute the police’s claim of Blevins even carrying a gun.
Other questions of the hour: Why did Blevins run? Who were the officers that shot him in the back?
MPD Lt. Bob Kroll stated that the actions were nothing “short of heroic” and “the officers acted accordingly.”
“The BCA is not a credible source to investigate violence and police brutality,” said civil rights attorney and activist Nekima Levy-Pounds. “We are asking for an independent third party investigation from outside the state of Minnesota.”
Calls for release of the body cam footage have come from all directions, including city council members and community leaders. The BCA is expected to release footage this week.
“We want to know the names of the officers responsible for killing Thurman Blevins,” said Levy-Pounds. “We also want to see the body camera footage.”
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo appeared during the rally just steps from where Levy-Pounds and other community members were speaking. As the media swarmed and the crowd’s attention shifted, Levy-Pounds continued to speak, asking the chief to shut down what appeared to be an impromptu press conference.
“I’m going ask the media to step back!” she exclaimed. “A man’s life was taken by the Minneapolis Police Department, and every time we have to ask the media to stop putting out false narratives. It is so offensive to disrespect the victim of violent crime and dehumanize a person.
“The media is acting as a public relations arm for the MPD and local government, and we’re tired of it,” Levy-Pounds said. “We’re not talking about local journalists on the front lines. We’re talking about the corporate media.
See a video stream of the rally at the Fourth Precinct below:
“Part of why the propaganda works so good is because the state is filled with white middle-class people who do not have deadly encounters with police. Whatever the media communicates, that’s what the majority believes.
“[Saturday] pointed out the systemic problems within MPD,” Levy-Pounds said to Arradondo, referring to a witness detained the previous night. “While you stood there and talked to us, why are police roughing up people, putting them in handcuffs and charging them with obstruction of legal process citation?”
She answered the question herself, citing racism as a cause. “It is hard for people who look like me to get justice when they are taken out in the back of an alley,” she said.
“To them, he’s just another person on the block,” added community activist and NAACP prison outreach liaison James Badue-El. “[He’s just] another ni**a that got killed.”
A vigil was held shortly after the rally near where Blevins was shot on 47th and Bryant avenues. There, community members paid their respects with lighted candles and prayers.
“We want this as peaceful as we can [keep it],” said Blevins’ cousin Rashawn Brown. “The biggest thing is justice and the truth.
“Junior [Blevins] was a real humble guy,” said Brown. “He literally kept me on a good path. They shot him in front of his kids. The biggest thing is, how do we explain this to his children?”
Ivan B. Phifer is contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at email@example.com