Activists call for police accountability in Stallings case

MSR Nekima Levy Armstrong calls for prosecution of the police who brutalized Jaleel Stallings and randomly fired at peaceful protesters days after the murder of George Floyd in May 2020.

County Attorney Freeman charged victim of brutality, not the brutalizers

The case of Jaleel Stallings continues to put the spotlight on the actions of the Minneapolis Police Department. A group of longtime anti-police violence activists called a press conference Friday demanding that the police who brutalized Stallings and those who acted inappropriately or engaged in random shooting of rubber bullets at civilians be fired immediately. 

Speakers also called for an independent investigation into the actions of the MPD following George Floyd’s murder.”

Newly released video by Stallings’ attorney Eric Rice reveals police talking about hunting people. It contradicts any claims that Stallings resisted arrest after firing a gun at police in self-defense when he was shot with a 40mm round on May 30, 2020, on Lake Street in South Minneapolis.

The video also shows police randomly shooting people with rubber bullets and seeming to enjoy it.

The video captures police approaching Stallings, who was lying on the ground face down as he was ordered. The first cop who approached him is seen kicking him in the head repeatedly while others joined in by punching the already prone and subdued victim.

“In this video, we clearly see the pattern of behavior that many of the peaceful protesters have reported,” said Jaylani Hussein, executive director of CAIR Minnesota. “If it wasn’t for this video and those who were there, we would not know what actually took place. 

“Instead of helping those who in the middle of the night were defending their homes and their lives from the attacks of White Supremacists who came from all over this country to burn down businesses and to attack Black neighborhoods, North Minneapolis, Cedar-Riverside, the Minneapolis Police Department looked and acted like the White Supremacists that were hunting people in our community.”

Two of the ranking officers on the scene that night have recently left the department. Sgt. Johnny Mercil was caught on tape apparently trying to water down the fact that outsiders, primarily White Supremacists, were causing some of the chaos. “It’s time to start [expletive] putting… people in jail and just prove the mayor wrong about these White Supremacists from out of state.” He left MPD on May 4, 2021, according to the City of Minneapolis staff, giving no reason for his departure.

Commander Bruce Folkens was captured on the video saying, “Tonight it was just nice to hear we’re gonna find some more people instead of chasing people around. You guys are out hunting people now. It’s just a nice change of tempo… [expletive] these people.” 

According to Minneapolis City staff, Folkens’ last day with the MPD was July 31, 2021. It has not been made clear by the City or the MPD that the officers left as a result of being disciplined.

“Who tells people to go ‘hunting people’?” asked Hussein. “We know that police departments across this country have been hunting us for a long time. They [police] started out going after and catching and hunting slaves, and they continue that dark past and that dark history by hunting peaceful protesters. The City of Minneapolis and the State of Minnesota have failed Black people.”

According to Michelle Gross of Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB), under the Minneapolis city charter, the mayor has the responsibility of disciplining police officers, but he has failed to do so. Gross said 89 people were sent to the hospital, 10 lost an eye, and one person died in the aftermath of the protests surrounding the murder of George Floyd. 

Freeman questioned

Mr. Stallings was charged by Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman even though Freeman had all the evidence that we see now,” said Gross. “Mike Freeman has had at all times in his office evidence that Mr. Stallings was innocent, that he was defending himself, and that the police brutalized him and viciously beat him even while handcuffed.”

Gross called out Freeman for what she called a “grotesque misuse of the criminal justice system in bringing charges against Mr. Stallings in the first place. “Why has his office not brought charges against these officers?” she asked.

“That was a crime. It was an assault. Officers attacked him. Why are those officers not being charged? It’s outrageous that the wrong person was charged, that the wrong person was dragged through the justice system, while the cops have been given a free pass by Freeman, the mayor, and the city council,” said Gross.

Nekima Levy Armstrong of the Racial Justice Network criticized Freeman as well. “It’s unconscionable to continue with business as usual. These officers should have been disciplined and many should have been fired a long time ago,” she said.

“It makes no sense that Mike Freeman’s office has not done anything to hold law enforcement accountable. We saw Mike Freeman prosecuting Black people in droves while ignoring the corrupt conduct of the MPD while relying on their corrupt testimony. The fact that he refused to prosecute officers has helped to create the current climate that allows the MPD to feel they are above the law.” 

Speakers also called on Freeman to step down and demanded an independent investigation of the MPD. “We need an independent investigation by people who are not tied to this system in any way and are likely to whitewash the investigation. We need a real, true investigation of the police in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd,” said Gross.

Stallings was charged with second-degree attempted murder and offered a plea deal that would have required him to spend 13 years behind bars.

Levy Armstrong took the opportunity to push back on those placing the blame for the city’s violence at the feet of anti-police violence activists. “We are tired of activists being blamed for the things that are unfolding in this city when the reality is we have been the moral conscience of this city,” said the activist and civil rights attorney. “We have been the ones consistently calling out these disparities and the abuse that has happened to community members.”

“We have done everything we can in this city to avoid doing the one thing that would change police behavior, which is holding them accountable for their conduct,” said Gross. “It’s like the word ‘discipline’ is anathema to City leadership,” said Gross. 

“My personal interpretation is that police brutality is a tool of people in power to maintain social control, and thus they do not want to clip the wings of the police,” said Gross in response to an inquiry about why, despite all that has transpired in Minneapolis over the last 18 months, there is still no police accountability.”

About Mel Reeves

Mel Reeves is the community editor at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He welcomes reader responses at mreeves@spokesman-recorder.com. Find his personal blog at fighthepowerjournal.com.

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