How Protesters Shut Down Mayor Hodges’ News Conference On Harteau Resignation
By: Michael McIntee, UpTake Reporter
Timing, luck and determination helped protesters shut down Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges’ Friday night news conference. Hodges was speaking at city hall just hours after she forced Police Chief Janee Harteau to resign in the wake of an officer shooting and killing Justine Damond.
Harteau’s resignation was announced just before 6pm. Coincidentally 300 people were holding a march in Loring Park at that time. A cheer went up among the marchers — who included Damond’s neighbors as well as members of Black Lives Matter and other groups concerned about the increasing problem of police violence in the Twin Cities.
One of those leaders was Michelle Gross of Communities United Against Police Brutality, a group that has pushed for citizen oversight of police. She says when the marchers heard that Hodges would be holding an 8pm press conference about the resignation at city hall, all of the marchers wanted to be there. When they arrived at city hall about 30 minutes later, they found that the doors were locked and only media were being admitted.
How They Snuck In
Frustrated marchers started to block the light rail line outside of city hall chanting, “if we don’t get in, shut it down.” Gross says for a time, trains in both directions on the light rail were stopped. But the doors to city hall remained locked.
Then someone was able to sneak in to city hall and open a door. Hundreds of protesters invaded the building and made their way to the room where Hodges was to hold her press conference. So many people came that they couldn’t all fit into the room. “It was so powerful for people to get in that space,” said Gross.
As Hodges spoke, people began chanting — eventually taking over the news conference, creating a chaotic mix of TV cameras, people with cell phones and protesters with banners and signs.
Gross has been pushing for changes in the Minneapolis Police Department for years and sees Harteau’s departure as a positive step. She says while Harteau is a likable person, she could not make the culture change at the MPD and she didn’t know how to deal with the powerful police union led by Bob Kroll.
Hodges has nominated Assistant Chief Medaria “Rondo” Arradondo to be Harteau’s replacement. Gross says Arradondo is “a fine human being”, but she is not sure he is able to make a real change. Gross says the MPD needs someone from outside to lead the department. She also says the police need citizen oversight from the city council as well as a citizen commission.
Gross says this latest police shooting has galvanized long-time activists and attracted many new ones, including those from the quiet South Minneapolis neighborhood Damond lived in. Gross says those new activists are involved because the shooting happened in a neighborhood where it wasn’t expected.