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Police crimes protesters storm MN governor’s office

Governor Walz MIA
By Ted Mika |
August 10, 2019
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St. Paul, MN - Activists and relatives of victims of police killings held a press conference in front of the state capitol, August 8. They marched into the capitol chanting, “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” and seized the governor’s office, chanting, giving speeches and demanding the governor follow through on his broken promise to meet with community members about police violence and take action.

Governor Tim Walz had previously scheduled meetings with members of Racial Justice Network (RJN) and Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB), but then he bowed out of the meetings, sending aides who stated the governor would not meet with community members.

Members of the groups explained that the aides said that the governor would not call for reopening the case of Jamar Clark because “there is no new evidence.” Activists called this response a lie and pointed out community investigators have found pages of false and misleading information in the BCA [Bureau of Criminal Apprehension] report on Clark’s murder. The recent trial of Minneapolis officer Mohamud Noor for killing Justine Damond documented many examples of incompetence and cover-up by the Minneapolis police and the BCA in investigation of police shootings.

The governor’s only action on police killings has been to form a commission. According to activists, no member of the commission except one member of the ACLU has been active in investigating, researching or responding to police violence. Locations and times of meetings are being kept hidden from the public, and community members and family local members of police killings are not being invited to speak on the panel. The secret location of the first meeting turned out to be a small room in the capitol - expressly limiting access to the community. The co-chair of the commission, Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington, previously oversaw a notoriously murderous era of the Saint Paul police department, then moved to the state senate, where he co-authored a bill crippling the Minneapolis police civilian review authority. These facts led activists and community members to call the commission a sham.

Governor Walz was aware the protesters were coming. He had the state patrol send emails described as “intimidating” to organizers, and he sent aides out to intercept and discourage protesters at the beginning of the event. Then he again cowered away from meeting with activists and did not provide an aide authorized to discuss the community’s concerns.

At the press conference, Sam Martinez from Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar (TCC4J) stated, “The governor could get involved if he wants to. He says he has no power, but that’s not true.”

Todd Schuman, from Justice for Justine Damond Ruszczyk, stated that Justine’s trial demonstrated to the public “the corruption and the incompetence of the Minneapolis police department and the BCA as well. There were so many incidents of mishandling of evidence and failures to follow through on investigations that it honestly is a miracle that a conviction was secured. Given that the BCA is responsible for all the police shooting investigations in the state, one has to imagine that these kinds of failures have been endemic to the system.”

Leslie Redmond, president of the Minneapolis branch of the NAACP said, “We scream to the state of Minnesota ‘Black lives matter,’ because the state of Minnesota continues to show and tell us that Black lives do not matter. We know that we have some of the worst racial disparities in the nation, and we know that will never get better as long as we continue to justify the killing of unarmed Black men and women.” She added, “This is not just a civil rights issue. This is a human rights issue, and it is time to stand up. Silence equals consent.”

In the governor’s office, the group chanted “Black lives matter” and “Where’s Governor Walz?”

Nekima Levy Armstrong from RJN said, “Enough is enough. We have a message for you, Governor Walz. We will continue to disrupt the status quo. We will show up at your meetings. We came here nicely, asking for a meeting with you. You knew that we would be here, and instead of facing the people - people of all hues and all backgrounds - coming in solidarity, you chose to run. We are expecting a governor who will stand up for the rights of the people.” She went on, “It should not be the case, that the only person in the state of Minnesota to get any semblance of justice when being killed by an officer is an affluent white woman.” The only conviction in the history of Minnesota for a police officer killing a civilian was against a Black Somali officer, Mohamed Noor, who killed a white woman, Justine Damond.

Michelle Gross from CUAPB documented the evidence for reopening the case against Jamar Clark’s killers and described how police investigators ignored the testimony of almost 20 witnesses, took away civilian video footage from witnesses at gunpoint, and misrepresented the incident leading to Jamar’s murder as a domestic violence incident. She closed by telling the absent governor, “Your next three years can be easy, or they can be hard. We can make them hard.”

Dinni and Sumaya Aden, the siblings of Isak Aden - a young Somali man who died after being shot by seven police officers last month - spoke about the disrespect and the lack of cooperation family members of victims are treated with. Sumaya Aden explained that two of the officers who killed her brother had killed before, “One of them killed somebody in 2015, while he was laying on his stomach, in front of his mom and his wife in his mom’s backyard. Shot him in the back. And he just moved from Duluth to Eagan.” They also described how the officers that killed their brother are already back on the job after only three days of administrative leave.

Monique Collars Doty, of the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar and other organizations and the aunt of Marcus Golden, who was killed by shots in the back from the Saint Paul police, said, “We have to continue to force the system’s hand to give us the justice we need,” and explained how all of the information needed to charge Jamar Clark’s killers is documented and readily available on the internet.

Other speakers included representatives from Women’s March Minnesota and Native Lives Matter. Representatives of The Anti-war Committee, Blue Lies Matter, and the director of the Justice Forgotten documentary about Jamar Clark’s murder, were also present.

Although police officers lingered outside the governor’s office, the event ended without a police incident. The protesters marched out chanting and promised to continue to disrupt the governor’s schedule until he takes real action against police violence.

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