If you’re Black or Brown, Minnesota’s status quo is a killer

Photo by Chris Juhn A protest against the fatal police shooting of Philando Castile in July of 2016

Amir Locke, a 22-year-old aspiring musician, was murdered as much by the Twin Cities’ status quo as he was by the insistently violent Minneapolis police department.

It is the status quo that surged past attempts to defund the police and re-elected Jacob Frey—as representative of the Minneapolis status quo as there ever was—to a second term as mayor of the city.

Frey famously shed crocodile tears over the coffin of George Floyd. Those tears were a lie for the cameras. Floyd’s murder by MPD officer and trainer Derek Chauvin was the inflection point for a national movement that heightened awareness of the state-sanctioned brutality Black and Brown people face while sparking a needed national discussion about alternatives to policing as it is now practiced.

The center-right is the status quo of the Democratic Party, nationally and locally in microcosm. This status quo is killing Black and Brown people. 

Frey is one of a long line of Bill Clinton’s clones who can project Kennedy-esque charm at the masses while inflicting Reagan-esque harm. His most recent profusion of outright lies speaks to this, and some of the national media is taking notice, even if the local media, abhorrent in their coverage and portrayals of Black and Brown life, collectively shrug their shoulders at the violent expiration of another young Black man by the MPD.

This is the grim redundancy Black people face. In a Feb. 8 op/ed on Yahoo News, Nathalie Baptiste noticed as much: 

“Police officer kills Black person. The people object. The officer faces punishment either in the legal system or in the court of public opinion. An elected official pledges to do better, to fix the problem, to reform the police. And the rage turns to a simmer as we wait for the cycle to inevitably begin again.”

This is the grotesque hand Black Minnesotans have been dealt over and over, ad infinitum. Feds were sent in 2002-2003 to mediate between the community and the as-violent-then-as-they-are-now-MPD

Feds are investigating the MPD right now as of this writing, and nothing seems to change their behavior. Should the MPD be worried about being investigated by their brothers in the Fraternal Order of Police, as the feds are?

Frey sits comfortably in the mayor’s seat, and this is more unfortunate for the cause of social justice and racial equity than one would think. Despite being exposed as a consistent and unapologetic liar, he told WCCO News’ Esmay Murphy that he has no intention of stepping down despite ethics complaints filed against him, as well as calls for his resignation from the activist community.

One of the lies Frey rode to re-election on, as advertised on his campaign website, was that he had banned lethal no-knock warrants in the city.

Nonetheless, young Amir Locke, startled awake by three armed MPD officers who killed him within three seconds of kicking his sofa to wake him, died that night.

 Local media continued to assassinate him even after his physical death by running with MPD press releases labeling Locke as a “suspect” four times in their initial statement. It took the news cycle another 24 hours to inform the public that Amir was not listed as a suspect listed on the warrant (signed by Chauvin trial judge Peter Cahill), and that he was a licensed legal gun owner. 

Killed within nine seconds after Minneapolis police entered the apartment where he was sleeping over, and three seconds after waking from sleep, MPD SWAT team member Mark Hanneman shot him. 

After the killing, the MPD issued a statement that they were executing the no-knock warrant on behalf of the St. Paul Police Department. The St. Paul police subsequently issued a statement contradicting the MPD, saying that not only had they not requested a no-knock warrant, but that MPD had insisted on it.

St. Paul police have not issued a no-knock warrant since 2016.

One of Mayor Frey’s campaign promises during his run for re-election in ’21 was that he had banned the use of no-knock warrants within the city, exceptions only if approved by the police chief.

We now know Frey did not speak the truth. It was a lie confidently told in the faces of untold community members long traumatized by a brutal, murderous police force unreformed and getting worse, two years after the MPD murder of George Floyd.

Frey has again been exposed regarding his alleged stoppage of  “excited delirium” as a medical diagnosis police used against communities of color. Strib reporter Andy Mannix discovered that despite Frey and the MPD’s words, police officers and the Hennepin Health care system were still using the diagnosis: 

“In the video, Dr. Paul Nystrom, an emergency physician at Hennepin Healthcare and a sworn police officer, says the terminology has become “triggering” for the public. Using a PowerPoint slide with the words “excited delirium” crossed out, he suggested that police call it by another name, such as “severe agitation with delirium.”

In addition, during the trial in St. Paul, a former training commander, testified that MPD training instructed officers to ignore a Civil Rights Department study that documented cases of police inappropriately asking paramedics to sedate uncooperative people during emergency calls—often claiming that they were in a state of excited delirium. 

Frey equivocates when addressing the public. Our city deserves better than leadership allergic to the truth, and whose lies have had lethal consequences for communities of color.  If there are awards for prevaricating politicians, he would be a repeat winner. 

Frey’s failure of leadership must become an inflection point in itself, one on which the activists and protesters valiantly, yet like Sisyphus, vainly rally and march for the change we all deserve, the movement must now acknowledge that those tactics alone are futile without being accompanied by direct actions: boycotts, strikes, sanctions, and divestment, to borrow a few pages from the Palestinian BDS movement.

As Black and Brown people we find ourselves struggling nationally and locally between surging White nationalism and a cynical, indifferent Democratic political system where Jacob Freys are the status quo of the party, and the best they have to offer the electorate. 

In fairness, it must be said that Frey really is an appropriate manifestation of the Twin Cities; a place consistently ranked among the worst places in the U.S. to live if you are Black or Brown. 

Racial disparities in housing, health, education employment, COVID-rates, etc. persist in MN. 

Frey, his lies, and his re-election as Minneapolis mayor last November show us that this is a culture White Minnesotans are comfortable with. They and their mayor are corrupt, and they are daring us to do something about it.

Rashard Zanders is a freelance human and civil rights journalist and activist currently working to abolish fascism as well as the for-profit cash bail system. His work has appeared in the Capital Times, City Pages, the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, and several others.