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Students march for justice for Amir Locke, demand community control of the police

By Siobhan Moore |
February 19, 2022
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 U of M students demand for justice for Amir Locke.
U of M students demand for justice for Amir Locke. (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Minneapolis, MN - On February 16, Students for a Democratic Society at the University of Minnesota rallied and marched to demand justice for Amir Locke, a 22-year-old Black man murdered by the Minneapolis police in a relative’s apartment earlier this month.

80 people gathered outside the Student Union on Washington Avenue, chanting “What do we want? Justice!” and “Say his name! Amir Locke!” A banner reading “Justice for all stolen lives” was at the front, along with signs demanding justice for Amir Locke and community control over the Minneapolis Police Department. Signs announced SDS’s own referendum campaign for community control over the University of Minnesota Police Department. Members handed out fliers calling for police accountability and justice on and off campus.

Bella Harbison, speaking for SDS, said, “Police departments and political leaders across the country are not afraid of committing acts of violence against our Black and brown community members; they are afraid of being caught, and being held accountable for crimes against humanity.” Harbison declared to the powers standing in the way of accountability that “Amir Locke’s name will never be forgotten, and that we will always be ready to fight for him.”

Jae Yates from the Freedom Road Socialist Organization made clear that “it is no coincidence that police and slaveowners have so much shared history; both seek to keep oppressed nations and members of the working class in place.” Yates continuing in saying that in order to fight for real accountability, “you should join the fight for community control of police in Minneapolis both on and off campus. We cannot rely on the same people that benefit from policing to defund, demilitarize, or abolish the police. We have to fight for the self-determinative power that Black people have fought for for 400 years.”

Loretta Van Pelt, speaking for the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar raised the peoples’ demands: community control, a permanent end to no knock warrants and the charging and arresting of Amir Locke’s killer, Officer Mark Hanneman, and all other officers involved in the murder.

Allison Leopold, a member of White Coats for Black Lives, a student group from the UM medical school, made clear that when police are threatening the lives of Black community members it is a health issue, and that we have a duty to fight back against racist police crimes.

After chanting and listening to the speakers, students marched down Washington Avenue, ending up at the UMPD station. As they turned the corner, the chants of “Indict, convict send those killer cops to jail! The whole damn system is guilty as hell” were heard throughout the area.

Closing out the protest, Sasmit Rahman, another SDS member said, “We need you guys to sign [the referendum petition], we need more energy, because it is too easy right now for Joan Gabel and the regents to ignore us and to ignore our demands. We need people to share it with their friends, we need consistent action and consistent pressure on Joan Gabel and the regents!”

UMN SDS is currently running a campaign to get Community Control over the UMPD on the ballot in the all-campus elections of Spring 2022. This would be in the form of a democratically elected, all-civilian Civilian Police Accountability Council, that represents students, staff, faculty and the communities surrounding the campus - such as Cedar-Riverside where the UMPD are regularly present - so that they all have the power to decide UMPD’s budget, to hire and to fire, to discipline and carry out other accountability measures.

For students who want to join the fight, keep an eye out for SDS tabling and petitioning around campus. Sign and share the petition, and to keep up with the campaign follow SDS on instagram @umnsds. If you want to help organize around it, join the SDS weekly meetings, Thursday at 6 p.m. in Tate 105.

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