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Fight to get justice for Jamar Clark continues

By staff |
March 15, 2016
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Banner drop demanding justice for Jamar in County Government  Center
Banner drop demanding justice for Jamar in Hennepin County Government Center (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Minneapolis, MN - Community members are turning up the heat here as prosecutor Mike Freeman drags his feet, insisting he will throw the police killing of Jamar Clark to a grand jury. Last week, March 8, members of Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar Clark brought the issue to the open forum section of the county commissioners meeting. Several spoke up to demand no grand jury.

First up was Sam Gutierrez, a Coalition member who introduced himself as a union worker at the county. “The grand jury is not a fair process, or open.” He then read a letter from Jamar’s parents, James and Wilma Clark, who called for prosecution in an open trial, rather than a secret grand jury.

Adrian Thompson questioned the delay in bringing charges against Minneapolis police officers Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze, “I’m quite sure there have been murders in Minneapolis subsequent to Jamar Clark that had nothing to do with the police, and the ink is probably dry on those indictments.”

One after another, people rose to call for justice for Jamar. Jess Sundin, also with the Coalition, called on the commissioners to speak out, “We'd like you to go on record and say that our community deserves accountability, that our community deserves to know what happened and that the family of Jamar Clark deserves to have answers and that they deserve to see justice.”

Commissioner Peter McLaughlin said county commissioners have no role in determining how the case is handled, but Commissioner Jan Callison asked the representative from the county attorney’s office to address the use of a grand jury. He confirmed that Jamar Clark’s case does not require a grand jury charging Schwarze and Ringgenberg. He confirmed that while the use of grand juries is the practice in police shootings, the county attorney can choose to charge and prosecute the killer cops directly.

Phone calls to the office continued throughout the week, demanding no grand jury. During a rally on March 11 at the Government Center, where Freeman’s office is located, a massive banner was dropped from a fifth floor bridge inside the building. Drawn by the daughter of a Coalition member, the banner includes a silhouette of a man on his knees and handcuffed, a policeman standing over him with a gun pointed at the man’s head. It reads, “If this isn't murder, what is? Justice4Jamar. No grand jury.” After some back-and-forth with building security, the banner stayed in place for some 30 minutes. Hundreds saw the banner, many stopping to listen to rally speeches.

One day before the protest, the county attorney's office had released a statement appealing for witnesses to the killing to come forward. The statement seemed to suggest that if a grand jury fails to indict, the community will be blamed for failing to report what they saw. This suggestion is rejected by Jamar Clark’s family and by community organizers, who have spoken to several witnesses who saw Jamar on the ground and handcuffed when police shot him in the head at point-blank range. There are also reports that police have acted to intimidate potential witnesses. James Clark and others see the move as part of an attempt to cover up police crimes.

The rally included speakers dedicated to winning Justice for others killed at the hands of police. Monique Cullars Doty, the aunt of Marcus Golden, who was killed by Saint Paul police in January 2015, challenged those present to continue protesting: “Put pressure on the neck of the system, and eventually they'll cough up justice.”

The Coalition plans to mobilize for another Freeman Friday this week, noon at the Hennepin County Government Center. Supporters continue to call Freeman’s office, urging no grand jury in this case. A community meeting is planned for Saturday, March 19 at noon (location TBA).