with Janee Woods
Shortly after midnight on Sunday, Minneapolis police fatally shot Jamar Clark in the head after apprehending him for allegedly interfering with paramedics who had responded to an assault in which he was a suspect. Multiple witnesses claim that Jamar was handcuffed on the ground and not resisting arrest when he was shot “execution style”. The president of the police union claims that he was not handcuffed and had tried to grab an officer’s weapon. Everyone agrees that Jamar was unarmed.
Jamar was 24 years old. He was also black.
— Jie Wronski-Riley (@JieWronskiRiley) November 18, 2015
Nobody seems to trust the police department to complete a fair, unbiased inquiry into this tragedy. Minnesota’s top investigative agency, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, has taken over the investigation and the city’s mayor has requested a federal civil rights investigation with the Department of Justice. The medical examiner ruled Jamar’s death a homicide.
The community wants answers. Several videotapes exist that show portions of the incident but the police have not yet released them to the public, despite repeated demands from many parties, including Black Lives Matter Minneapolis. The videotapes are from a police camera in the area (not a body cam or dashboard cam), an ambulance that was on the street, a cell phone belonging to a witness, and a security camera from nearby public housing.
Black Lives Matter protesters started occupying the Fourth Police Precinct in North Minneapolis on Monday, November 16, using the rallying call of Justice For Jamar. Three days later, a tent city had been erected to shelter the growing number of protesters after the demands for accountability and for the release of the videos were still not met. On Tuesday night, tensions with the police rose to a boiling point when hundreds of protesters shut down the freeway, resulting in the arrests of 43 adults and 8 minors on misdemeanor charges for unlawful assembly and pedestrian presence on the freeway.
On Wednesday, the tent city was raided without warning by Minneapolis police and SWAT in riot gear, complete with rubber bullets and tear gas canisters. Some officers pointed guns directly at people. Protest leadership have stated that Mayor Betsey Hodges requested a meeting with them during which Police Chief Janee Harteau is likely to have given the orders to raid the site.Protesters have said that the police told them to disperse but proceeded to erect barricades and pen them in. In response, the people have formed a human chain around the precinct to protect the tent city. Over the course of the night, more people arrivedas they got out of work and answered pleas on social media for community members to come down and support the occupation.
Thus far, the protesters have been nonviolent and peaceful throughout the entire occupation. The city’s show of force is unwarranted and excessive. Early Wednesday evening, there were concerns that once reporters cleared, police would unleash tear gas upon the crowd at nightfall. Reports of violence against protesters had already begun, with concussion grenade launchers andchemical irritants having been pointed at the crowd. As of late Wednesday evening, protestors have been maced and shot at with rubber projectiles, chemicals, and markers. They are facing heavily armed police officers.
We all need to be paying close attention to what’s happening in Minneapolis. We have heard different versions of this story before. The city joins a growing list of communities, from Ferguson to Cleveland to New York City, where people have risen up to push back against oppressive and aggressive policing. Any city or county in this country could be next.
For the most part, mainstream media still seems to be covering the story sporadically, or not at all on some networks. Regardless, as with most previous Black Lives Matter demonstrations, the most accurate and timely reports are on social media, issued directly from folks on the ground. For real time reports on Twitter, check the following: #4thPrecinctShutdown, #BlackLivesMatter,#Justice4Jamar, #BlckLivesMPLS, and #Minneapolis. You can also follow @BlackLivesMpls, @Alley_Cat808, @MrNikoG,@WamSwagner, @ziibiing and @colocha_rachel. For livestream directly from the protest, check out Unicorn Riot. Look to websites specializing in news written by or for people of color, like The Root or ColorLines over the next few days to read more in depth reporting.
Wednesday will have been a long night in Minneapolis. Please take a moment to send a positive thought out into the universe for the benefit of the folks risking their safety and liberty to expose police brutality and racism. They’re fighting for us too, even though we’re miles and miles away. Solidarity knows no distance.
This post (including the awesome graphics and photos) was published originally on Scenarios USA, where I am a contributor. Scenarios USA is where young people and millennials go to talk about social justice issues, the Internet, culture, film and whatever else is on their mind! Scenarios USA is a national organization that uses writing and film to foster youth leadership, advocacy and self-expression, with a focus on marginalized communities.