Minneapolis protesters vow to stay outside police station

22 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Minneapolis protest leader shakes up civil rights politics.

Bettie Smith stepped up to the bank of television microphones in front of the Fourth Precinct police station, her hands clasped, and made a fervent plea for justice to be served in the death of a young black man during an encounter with Minneapolis police. MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The latest in the investigation into the fatal shooting of a black man by Minneapolis police that has sparked days of demonstrations (all times local): Labor groups plan to show solidarity with protesters who have been camped out all week since 24-year-old Jamar Clark was fatally shot in north Minneapolis last Sunday. Her words were not only about her son, Quincy, who died of cardiac arrest in 2008 after a scuffle with police, but also Jamar Clark, killed a week ago during a confrontation with police on the city’s North Side. Nekima Levy-Pounds, 39, who led a youthful takeover of the Minneapolis NAACP this spring, has emerged as a leading face of the local Black Lives Matter movement and been at the forefront of demonstrations alleging excessive police force against African-Americans across the country, but most recently Jamar Clark in Minneapolis on Nov. 15. “I don’t mind being an outside agitator,” the University of St.

The circumstances around Clark’s death are murky and in deep dispute, with police union leaders saying the unarmed 24-year-old was reaching for the officer’s gun. Kyle Edwards of AFSCME Local 3800, representing University of Minnesota clerical workers, says working class people are becoming aware that “we’re all in this together.” Longtime Minneapolis civil rights activist Mel Reeves told The Associated Press that protesters want the police involved in the shooting prosecuted.

Her approach, more reminiscent of the 1960s than the quieter strategy recently preferred by older civil rights leaders, is lauded by many in the community, though she has her detractors. Some North Side residents see Clark’s shooting — the two officers involved were white — as the latest example of the community’s strained relationship with a police force that, historically, has rarely reflected the city’s racial and ethnic makeup. Levy-Pounds has been a frequent presence outside a Minneapolis police station since protesters began an “occupation” there last Sunday to protest Clark’s death. Speakers called generally for unity and justice and praised neighborhood residents for maintaining peace. “I’d like to acknowledge our block brothers” for passing out hand warmers, stoking bonfires and keeping things calm, Pastor Brian C Herron Sr said. Levy-Pounds, who is also a preacher, said the roots of her activism go back to her childhood amid the poverty of south-central Los Angeles, where she decided to become a lawyer.

Mark Dayton and influential legislators to include community and economic development measures specifically for the black community in a possible special legislative session. Her future became even clearer in 1991 after a black friend, 15-year-old Latasha Harlins, was shot and killed by a grocer who witnesses said accused the girl of trying to shoplift a bottle of orange juice. Protesters want authorities to release video footage of the deadly confrontation, and say they do not believe police statements that Clark reached for an officer’s gun.

It happened shortly after the videotaped police beating of Rodney King, and it upset Levy-Pounds that the shopkeeper only got probation. “She got news of that, how the store owner got off with a slap on the wrist. That really just hit home for her,” said her mother, Vera Davis. “She felt there was no justice in the situation.” Dane Smith, president of Growth and Justice, a research group that advocates for reducing economic and racial inequality, invited Levy-Pounds to join his board because he considers her Minnesota’s leading voice for racial equity. “It struck me that she had this rare combination of passion and intellect. No, no, we’ve just learned to be tolerant of each other.” Clark’s death occurred in the midst of a national debate sparked by deadly encounters between police and young black men in Baltimore, South Carolina and Ferguson, Mo.

Police have said Clark, whose criminal record included a conviction for first-degree robbery, was shot in an altercation with officers after he interfered with a paramedic assisting his girlfriend, the victim of an assault. Earlier on Friday, Minnesota governor Mark Dayton met with Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges, NAACP leaders, the commissioner of the department of public safety and other officials to discuss measures such as community policing. Despite the federal investigation, protesters have expressed skepticism and demanded more information, including the release of videos of the incident. One department-sponsored study found nearly two-thirds of those arrested by police over the past six years were blacks, who make up less than 20 percent of the city’s population. An American Civil Liberties Union study suggested blacks were significantly more likely than whites to be arrested for low-level crimes like marijuana possession (11.5 times more likely) and disorderly conduct (9 times).

Shvonne Johnson, a college professor and lifelong North Side resident, said she joined a community group and frequently protested for police accountability after repeatedly seeing black motorists pulled over for seemingly minor traffic offenses. Of the 29 people killed by Minneapolis officers in incidents involving use of force since 2000, 18 were black, according to a Star Tribune analysis of news and police reports, and death certificate data. Not all of those victims were unarmed, and department policy says Minneapolis officers are authorized to use deadly force when a suspect “creates a substantial risk of causing death or great bodily harm.” The city has paid out more than $6 million in alleged cases of police misconduct since 2012. I don’t know,” Kroll said. “All I can say is our cops are not out there hunting people, that’s for damn sure.” Some community activists say hiring more black officers would go a long way to restoring community confidence in law enforcement. As of October, 22 percent of Minneapolis’ approximately 800 officers were ethnic minorities, according to department statistics, up from 18 percent in 2011.

Harteau said she has taken a hard stance on problem officers, firing six in her tenure, including two who were caught using racial slurs in Green Bay, Wis. Ray Dunn, 54, a lifelong North Sider, traced the shift to more aggressive policing back to the 1980s and the rise of crack cocaine, which ravaged urban neighborhoods in Minneapolis and parts of the country. “It’s pervasive and you’ve gotta be blind not to know that,” Dunn said, before ducking into the Camden Mart at the corner of N.

Hodges, who has been outspoken in the past about her intention to root out problem officers, said last year that she wants the department to mirror St. Paul’s “high touch” approach to community policing, “getting officers out of their cars and talking to people, building those relationships, building trust.” It’s tough, Harteau and Kroll said, because in many cases, officers are running from call to call and don’t have time to build connections with the community. Harteau said the recent discord over Clark’s death is “a temporary setback” in community relations “and is an opportunity for us to move forward, with reinvigorated partnerships and new partnerships.”

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