In May of this year, Nekima Levy-Pounds warned that Minneapolis could be the next Baltimore where violence and rioting broke out after Freddie Gray died while in police custody. The Minneapolis NAACP President then worked to build the local Black Lives Matter movement precisely so that wouldn’t happen.
Minneapolis, like Baltimore, is a potential powder keg for violence. An ACLU study showed Minneapolis police are nine times more likely to arrest blacks than whites for low-level crimes such as small-scale theft and reckless driving.
“If you look at the big picture, African-Americans and Native Americans in Minneapolis experience oppression in every key indicator of quality of life,” Levy-Pounds told Al Jazeera in May. “When you couple that with police brutality, it leads to uprisings like we see across the country.”
Fast forward to November 15 when Minneapolis police shot and killed Jamar Clark, an unarmed black man. It was the spark Levy-Pounds feared could set off Baltimore-like violence in Minneapolis. But it didn’t. Levy-Pounds says that rage was instead channeled into peaceful protest and the Black Lives Matter occupation of the Minneapolis 4th police precinct, not far from where the killing happened.
Black Lives Matter leaders then had to fight city leaders to allow the occupation to continue.
Stopped Minneapolis from “burning to the ground”
“There was a significant push by government leaders and so-called African-American leaders for us to end the occupation early,” Levy-Pounds told The UpTake recently. “What they don’t understand is that that occupation is the only thing that stopped the city of Minneapolis from burning to the ground. They have no idea about the number of people that we were able to stop from doing things that would have been harmful and destructive out of rage. There’s a place for rage in the movement. People have raw emotions because they’re fed up with the status quo.
“So it’s important to have safe spaces like we what had outside of the 4th precinct, creating a sense of community. Creating a container for people’s raw emotions. Showing love. Providing food and resources to people in order to allow the community time to heal.”
Q: You felt that it diffused some of the anger?
“Absolutely! It definitely diffused some of the anger.
“I would say the community for the most part is awake. They’re just waiting for the next set of opportunities or instructions to take things to the next level. But I don’t think people are going to rest until we see justice. I’m certainly not going to rest until we see justice.
“And I will continue to push for accountability amongst those who are supposed to protect and serve. And those who have knocked on our doors asking for our votes. And what I said at City Hall the other day was ‘stop running for office if you’re not going to do your job.’ And I want to see more young people filling those seats at city hall and standing up for their communities.”