The police killing of an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Missouri, has rekindled a simmering debate over how to deal with police violence in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Hundreds of people representing a rainbow of races, ages and ethnic groups rallied in solidarity for Michael Brown and all victims of police brutality at the Hennepin County Government Center Plaza Thursday. They carried signs saying, “black lives matter”, “all crimes don’t carry the death penalty” and “being black is not a crime”.
“I’m just here tonight to bring awareness that being black in America should not be a crime”, said a woman with a hand-drawn sign. “Police are not above the law. If the police are policing us, who is policing the police?”
“No justice, no peace. Prosecute the police”, chanted the crowd of about 400. Some were seasoned peace demonstrators, but most were regular people gathered to seek a solution to a very serious problem.
Minneapolis has seen a string of police actions that many in the crowd would argue are police brutality — most aimed at minorities and the poor. A group called Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPD) maintains a list of nearly 200 Minnesotans it says were police brutality victims, including Terrance Franklin, a man who Minneapolis police shot and killed last year. A lawsuit brought by Franklin’s family said he had his hands up and had surrendered when he was gunned down by police. A grand jury cleared the police officers, but a $1 million civil suit against the Minneapolis police was filed in May.
Brown also reportedly had his hands up when a Ferguson police officer shot him six times. The similarities in the cases are all too familiar for many at the Minneapolis rally.
“Black people have been murdered by government officials since the day we were no longer property, so please don’t talk to me if you believe this is just a coincidence,” said a poetess addressing the crowd. “Why is it so hard to believe that black men are innocent?”
“This is what fed up looks like. This is beyond race. This is beyond a rant”, she continued. “I’m tired of being divided and unequal.”
Using the marketplace to curb police violence
Police watchdog group Committee for Professional Policing, the political arm of (CUAPD), says Minneapolis has paid out $20 million in police brutality lawsuits over the last seven years. The group says that’s a huge burden taxpayers are forced to bear because city officials won’t take action to boot bad cops. Michelle Gross, President of Communities United Against Police Brutality, suggests that insurance companies would act much faster to solve the problem if cops were forced to buy their own liability insurance.
“The city could pay the base rate of the insurance, but officers would have to pay any differences in the rate, based on claims and judgements. And therefore those officers who engage in police brutality would have higher premiums, eventually get priced out of the market and maybe not even able to get insurance which would be just great so we could get rid of the bad ones.”
The group has been gathering signatures to put such a proposal on the city ballot this November. But it apparently did not gather enough signatures in time for this year’s election.
Others in the crowd said it would take more than just booting out a few bad cops to solve the problem.
“It’s a systemic problem”, said Linda Hoover of Women Against Military Madness who supports the CUAPD insurance premium initiative. “It’s not just a few bad cops. It’s not going to help fundamentally to have just a few more women cops or a few more cops of various colors and various nationalities. We really need an overhaul of the whole system.”
Another sign offered up another possible solution. It read “Know justice, know peace.”