Protesters: Feds must take over Minneapolis police
Published 7:50 am Friday, November 20, 2015
By Jon Collins
Minneapolis — The head of the Minneapolis NAACP Thursday called on federal authorities to take control of the Minneapolis Police Department in the wake of Sunday’s police shooting of Jamar Clark in north Minneapolis.
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Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds said they’re still demanding the release of video recordings of events surrounding Clark’s shooting.
“There have been so many false narratives that have been spun from the Minneapolis Police Department,” Levy-Pounds said. “We’ve been on the ground, we’ve talked to witnesses, we have serious concerns about the narratives that are out there that are inconsistent with what many witnesses in the community say happened.”
Stephen Green, national director of the NAACP youth and college division, said the NAACP will lead a vigil at 4:30 p.m. Friday outside the fourth precinct in north Minneapolis. “We may be cold but our hearts are burning for justice. We will not be silent and we will not be moved,” Green said. “This is not the end, and we are not going to allow this one moment to pass us by. We are here to stand with systematic and long lasting transformation in this community.”
Clark, 24, was shot by an officer after a confrontation. Police say Clark had been interfering with paramedics who had been called to a birthday party to aid Clark’s girlfriend. According to a Bureau of Criminal Apprehension statement, the responding Minneapolis police officers believed the woman was an assault victim and that Clark was a suspect.
The shooting has sparked community protests and calls for justice. Tensions rose through the night Wednesday as crowds gathered around the 4th Precinct station in Minneapolis.
“We’re saying enough is enough,” Levy-Pounds told reporters Thursday outside the precinct station.
Accusing the police of a pattern of “abuse and harassment” of north Minneapolis citizens, she called for the department to be placed in “receivership” where it would be overseen by the federal government.
Levy-Pounds also called for grief counselors to be made available to those who witnessed the shooting and accused the police of beating two women outside the 4th Precinct station Wednesday night.
Hundreds of demonstrators surrounded the station Wednesday night after police cleared the building entrance where some protesters had been camped since the Sunday shooting.
Police sprayed a chemical irritant at a crowd through a chain link fence, and Minneapolis officials say some officers were targeted as well.
At one tense moment, police fired a small canister they said was intended to mark a suspect who was throwing bricks so they could identify him later.
Later in the evening, a chemical irritant was used on both sides in at least three separate incidents. Police said they used it after they tried to remove protesters’ tarps and had rocks and bottles thrown at them.
Levy-Pounds on Thursday called on police and protesters to “exercise restraint.”
Jason Morris lives only a few blocks away from the precinct. He said Wednesday night’s confrontations with police were intense, but that protesters were able to stop people who were throwing rocks and water bottles at officers.
“That helped our cause a lot because the police see that. ‘They are trying to be peaceful, they are policing themselves, they’re not actually trying to destroy us, but they actually want change and justice,’” Morris said.
At least two Minneapolis City Council members attended Wednesday’s protests. But Morris said he’d like to see more local lawmakers come and show support.
“We never see them in the streets,” Morris said. “And when we do see them, it’s when the media is here, that’s when they want to come out and show face — we need people here regardless if media is here or not.”
John Martin took charge of restoring order at the protest camp on Thursday morning, which had been disordered not only by the night of protest, but by strong winds that had turned over tents across the campsite. The ground of the precinct lawn is torn up, and mud cakes everything from protest signs to the blankets the cold demonstrators had wrapped themselves in.
“We’re just reorganizing and regrouping today, and we’re not going to rest until justice has been served,” Martin said. “We want answers, and we’ll continue to do what we’re doing until our voices are heard.”
North Minneapolis resident Leonard Blount stopped by the protest camp on Thursday afternoon on his way to a doctor’s appointment. He said the police response the day before, which included the use of so-called non-lethal weapons like pepper spray, was excessive, especially considering that children were present at the protest.
Blount, who is 48, said he’d like to see a rule requiring more officers to live in the same communities they patrol. An MPR News analysis of police data earlier this year found that only about 5.4 percent of Minneapolis officers live within city limits. State law does not allow cities to institute residency requirements.
“The police used to live in the community: You know your neighbors, you know the business owners, you know the kids,” Blount said. “You can deal with people in a different way, and people respect your different way.”
Levy-Pounds also dismissed remarks by Minneapolis police union President Lt. Bob Kroll, who told reporters Wednesday that Clark was not handcuffed, as some witnesses allege and that Clark was going for an officer’s gun when he was shot.
“The union needs to be dealt with as well,” Levy-Pounds said. “There must be checks and balances in terms of police power … Bob Kroll needs to understand that.”
Reggie LeFlore, 29, just moved to south Minneapolis from Omaha, Nebraska. He said Clark’s case is reminiscent of others across the country, but that it’s inspiring to see people so actively pushing for more information about his death.
“I spend a lot of time seeing online warriors on Facebook and social media talking about the problems and issues that are going on,” LeFlore said. “Yet you have people here in 30 degree weather freezing for a cause, and the cause is just wanting justice.”