It was not just about the death of one man at the hands of police. Saturday’s rally in downtown Minneapolis was about changing perceptions and expectations: The perception that any black male in certain areas of Minneapolis is a threat to society. The expectation that the use of lethal force by police, particularly against blacks in those same areas, is not subject to the same laws that govern the rest of the population.
Futile? Not so, preached community leader Mel Reeves to the hundreds outside the Hennepin County Government Center. “Guess what folks, this does work. Protest does work,” said Reeves who pointed to protests in Baltimore over the police killing of Freddie Gray.
“In Baltimore, the prosecutor got before everybody and said what? She said, ‘I heard you’,” said Reeves cupping a hand to his ear.
Last year after Baltimore was roiled by protests,the State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced charges against six police officers. Protesters at Saturday’s rally expect that is what will happen to the officers who shot and killed Jamar Clark on the streets of North Minneapolis last November.
“Anytime you got the police doing wrong, they should be prosecuted like everyone else out here on the street doing wrong,” said Clark’s father James Clark.
Video at top: Jayanthi Kyle expresses her hopes in a song
Video below: Community leader Mel Reeves, Jamar Clark’s father James Clark and others talk about why they are at the rally.
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“There’s a lot of good cops,” said Terrance, a black man from Minneapolis. “I got personal friends that are cops. But then you got the bad apples.
“And all we’re saying is we want justice. You can’t continue to pull us over for no reason. You can’t continue to brutalize us. You can’t continue to inconvenience our lives by giving us bogus traffic tickets. We have to take time off of work to come down in the courts.
“And so I’m just here to kind of stand with the people and in solidarity so we can end this racism. It’s an institutionalized system that’s been oppressing black people for four, five hundred years and it’s continuing.”
A white woman from Germany who moved to Minnesota said she’s perplexed about the racial problem that continues to plague the state. “The civil rights movement, that should have taken care of this whole mess with racism, but it’s worse than ever. And especially in a progressive state like Minnesota, I do not understand how this can still be allowed to happen — that people are just gunned down in the streets and murdered. This is just not right.”
White, Black, Asian, Hispanic — no matter the race — those gathered at the “Justice for Jamar” rally were in agreement. “We do need a police force but we need them to be working with the community, not intimidating the community,” said a grey-haired white man.
“And not just justice for Jamar Clark,” said a bearded black man in the crowd. “Justice for Sandra Bland, justice for Mike Brown, justice for Trayvon Martin and justice for all the black men who have been wrongfully put to death by the police department.”
Political action coming
Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy Pounds made it clear that if Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman does not file charges against the police in Clark’s death, Freeman would be voted out of office. In the crowd, others were already organizing to bring about change through the ballot box.
“I’m working to help get a black woman elected. A black woman who believes that black lives matter,” said Stacy, a black woman who had been pepper-sprayed by police during an occupation outside of the Minneapolis Police Precinct building not too far from where Clark had been killed.
“We know the revolution is not going to happen tomorrow, so we want to make sure there are people in the system who are working towards that moment and are listening and are taking our ideas and putting them into policy now so we can avoid problems like this happening.”
Jayanthi Kyle expressed her hope in a song. “The day gonna come when I don’t march no more,” sang Kyle. “But while my sister ain’t equal, and my brother can’t breathe, hand-in-hand with my family we will fill these streets.”
Freeman’s announcement about charges in the Clark killing is expected soon.