Op-Ed: One Minneapolis is being achieved in the streets

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Photo credit: Chris Juhn

By: Marjaan Sirdar

Update: Nine councilmembers attended the community meeting and agreed to dismantle MPD, making it a veto proof majority. 

In 2013, a multiracial group of activist youth workers from our South Central communities, including myself, came up with the idea to co-opt the slogan and narrative of One Minneapolis that the city created and used for their self-serving corporate agenda. The idea, to use the slogan to center racial justice and youth voices, was popular amongst activists and youth. Our goal was to make the folks running for office understand that the sure way of winning was through building multiracial coalitions that centered racial justice in their platforms. I saw Keith Ellison do this when I worked for his reelection campaign in 2008. Today the whole world knows about the racial inequality and the police violence that enforces it, which is at the core of the uprising that began in Minneapolis.

June 6 marks seven years since we held the One Minneapolis Mayoral Forum which Nekima Levy-Armstrong moderated. We held it at Sabathani Community Center, just three blocks west from where George Floyd was lynched by the MPD. Before Floyd’s murder on Memorial Day, the compounding racial inequality, combined with the covid-19 pandemic and depression, made an already unstable city like Minneapolis explosive. Anyone paying attention knew the police would likely light that fuse. As Jason Sole said five years ago after the murder of Jamar Clark at the hands of the MPD: “Minneapolis is one bullet away from Ferguson”. 

Since Floyd’s murder, the streets in Minneapolis and around the globe have erupted demanding not only justice but a new world without inequality or even police. Much has changed in such a short time because of direct action by protesters. After nearly a decade of pressure from some activists, last week the Minneapolis School Board voted unanimously to end its contract with the MPD. After years of pressure from police abolitionists, the Minneapolis City Council is beginning the conversation of dismantling the city’s police department. 

There is already a majority of votes to disband the police department, but the mayor has veto power. Yesterday, in a video that went viral, Mayor Frey admitted to a group of protesters, led by Black Visions Collective, that he did not support abolishing the police. The city council does not have enough votes to override a veto. Today, seven members from the city council will join a community forum hosted by Reclaim the Block and Black Visions Collective at Powderhorn Park from 3-5 pm on what community-led public safety could look like.

The Minneapolis police are no exception. Terrorizing Black people has been the core of policing since its inception. Despite what politicians and cops tell you, this is not about individual actors: good cops vs. bad cops. This is about the entire institution of policing and its legitimacy. We must try to pull individual police officers into our worlds rather than push them further away, while simultaneously defunding & dismantling the terrorist institution of policing. 

When America leads, the world follows, as is the case with the Floyd protests. As calls to end police brutality grow worldwide, it remains to be seen if the movement to end policing will go global as well.

Few in this community trust the people who helped create this mess to implement and execute the solutions. The loss of confidence in police and elected officials who’ve funded them and granted them free reign over Black communities is what’s uniting the people in the streets; here and across the nation. On top of dismantling the institution of policing itself, there’s a groundswell in Minneapolis for mass resignations, beginning with Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey. No political seat is safe in Minneapolis, in Minnesota, or in America. None of this would be happening if young people didn’t take over the streets. 

Flier credit: Tim Cronin 

When we fund war, we get war. When we fund peace, we get peace. We are all praying for peace and more importantly, people are protesting in the streets to ensure justice is accomplished. Dismantle all systems of oppression, beginning with state violence. Defund and abolish the institution of policing once and for all. Enough with the empty rhetoric, underfunded peace initiatives and half-baked measures. Activists and organizers have the power to change hearts and minds through movement building. Politicians have the power to change laws, deliver justice, and create peace. 

One Minneapolis has proved to be empty rhetoric among liberals in this town. The organization that is happening in the streets must develop leaders who can reclaim seats of power for the people demanding an end to racial injustice. Youth leadership is now in action, with Black youth front-and-center leading street protests. These youth have managed to unify this city more than any politician has ever done, ironically against those very same politicians. The #MinneapolisUprising is what a true #OneMinneapolis looks like. Let us build One Minneapolis and One Minnesota through the lens of racial justice and equity. The time is now; unfortunately they called the people’s bluff one too many times and half the city had to catch fire in order for them to realize it and take us seriously. 

Marjaan Sirdar is a former Black history teacher and community organizer in the Bryant neighborhood, where he has lived for 13 years. I recently started People Power Podcast to cover the pandemic and now the uprising. 

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