When community members look at this week’s decision not to prosecute Minneapolis police officers in the death of Jamar Clark, they see systemic distrust of blacks and a justice system that relies too heavily on the words of police officers.
“If I were accused of murder, I don’t think attorney Freeman would have consulted with me and use what I have to say to determine or not whether to charge me with murder,” said a black man moments after Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced he would not prosecute officers for gunning down Clark last November.
“Every piece of evidence that he (Freeman) talked about came out of the mouths of officers that murdered him,” said a woman protesting the decision, as she stood in the north Minneapolis street where Clark was killed.
“After listening to many eyewitness accounts through our occupation of the precinct, it’s hard to believe that he could stand up there and say any of the bullshit he was saying,” said community activist Asha Long.
Freeman did mention conflicting eyewitness testimony as he explained his decision. But ultimately he gave more weight to the officers’ statements because DNA evidence backed up their claim that Clark was not handcuffed when he was shot. Some eyewitnesses had claimed otherwise.
Since Freeman’s news conference, some of the facts he presented have been called into question. WCCO-TV aired an interview with a woman who Freeman said was Clark’s girlfriend. RayAnn Hayes says that is wrong. She says she was not romantically involved with Clark and says that he did not beat her that night, as police had claimed.
Transcripts from interviews with Hayes that Freeman released this week show Hayes changed her story at least three times. Audio of those interviews has not been released.
Video of reaction
Video above: Asha Long and others react to Freeman’s announcement at the Hennepin County Government Center.
Video below: Protests on Plymouth Avenue, where the shooting happened.
Click here for shareable version of this video
It’s not just the Clark case. Community members see it as part of a pattern of police violence aimed at blacks that the justice system refuses to address. “I see a community grieving over this lack of justice,” said a woman barely able to contain her grief. “It’s the same thing we’ve seen over and over again — Chicago, New York, Ferguson, Cleveland, everywhere. They kill us and then they get away with it.”
“We need to dismantle that system,” said the protester in north Minneapolis. “We need to take people out of office that continue to lie to us. We can’t keep expecting them to tell the truth and then the next murder they’re going to lie again.”
Another protester told the mostly black crowd that had gathered near the shooting site, “Some of ya’ll thinkthat we’ve arrived because our schools are no longer segregated? Because we have a black man as president? Because George Zimmerman went to trial? Even though as we as a people have made much progress, this freedom cake is barely cut into.”
94.6% of Minneapolis police do not live in the city. It used to be a requirement of employment, but the Minnesota legislature banned that requirement in 1999. Asha Long sees a lack of police connection to the community as an underlying cause for Clark’s death.
“If a police officer was actually worried about the community, he would, they would have known Jamar’s name. They would have known his situation. They would have known who he interacts with and how they kick it and where they kick it. He would have been part of the community. That’s what police officers are supposed to be. Had he done his job the correct way, Jamar would be here and he could speak about what happened.”
“We’re enough to consume. We’re enough to work. Everything we create is beautiful and exotic and it turns to gold,” said Long. “But my life doesn’t matter. That is the fucking problem. That is the fucking problem.”