Activists demand police stop brutalizing protesters and release those detained

Mel Reeves/MSR “We have been out here as families and they have refused to listen to the people who have been impacted the most,” said Toshira Garraway

In a press conference called by the Minnesota Coalition for Justice, and activist and civil rights attorney Nekima Levy Armstrong, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz was called “the headmaster in charge of police brutality squads that have reigned terror and horror upon the Black community and other Communities of Color.”

Minnesota Coalition for Justice, which is made up of several activists groups, including The Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar, Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB), the CAIR Minnesota, Racial Justice Network, and Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, called the protest to bring attention to the police violence in response to peaceful protests the last few days in Brooklyn Center.

“The police kill people, but it is the community that is placed on time out,” said Michelle Gross of (CUAPB). She said that peaceful protesters who were out past curfew were arrested on misdemeanor charges and held on 36-hour holds. “This was done deliberately to prevent folks from going back to protest and to discourage protesting,” she said, adding that the arrests were an attack on the First Amendment.

Gross said people were responding with, “legitimate trauma, legitimate anger and legitimate outrage over the death of yet another at the hands of the State,” referring to the police killing of Daunte Wright on Sunda, April 11.

“While we are living our lives they keep killing us,” said Donald Hooker Jr. He said on Sunday that groups the City of Minneapolis had designated as navigators, specifically Push for Peace, “were literally out there pushing me while I was on the mic. They kept shutting the mic off and unplugging the mic.” 

Hooker Jr. asked, “Is this what peace looks like? Is that what healing looks like? Is that what justice looks like? They were putting their Black bodies between us and our ability to get justice.”

Mel Reeves/MSR News Sam Martinez speaking at the press conference

He continued, “Last night was one of the bloodiest I have ever seen; they were specifically targeting Black bodies. Bringing in the National Guard is not de-escalation; a curfew is not de-escalation.”

Hooker Jr. also reminded people that the officer who killed Duante Wright had been guilty of helping cover up the killing of Kobe Heisler by Brooklyn Center police.

Victor Ramirez addressed the press and revealed his face that he said had been fractured by a rubber bullet. He was also shot in the leg and tear gassed. “I can’t sleep; I can’t even cry,” he said.

“It’s unconscionable what our government has done to Black and Brown and Native bodies. Minnesota is not an oasis of progressivism. It is the Jim Crow north,” said Levy Armstrong. She told the story of how one person was standing outside and had gone to their car when police grabbed them and took them out of their car and arrested them for simply being outside. She also called for the firing of John Harrington, the head of the Department of Public Safety.

The coalition raised several demands, including reopening all the cases of police murders in Minnesota; stop the attacks on protesting; stop the City of Minneapolis’ street navigators’ efforts to keep people from exercising their First Amendment right; allow community control of the police, and pass all police reform legislation currently pending at the state level.

“We have been out here as families and they have refused to listen to the people who have been impacted the most,” said Toshira Garraway of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence. She urged the state government, “to stop killing Black, Brown and Indigenous people.  Address the families that you have already harmed. There is no just moving forward after all of the hurt and pain that has been caused.”