UMN SDS stands in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, the NAACP, and the community of North Minneapolis demanding justice for Jamar Clark.
Clark, a 24 year old African American, was shot in police custody outside the Elk’s Lodge at the intersections of Plymouth Ave and James in North Minneapolis in the early morning hours of Sunday November 15, 2015. Family members and witnesses report he was laying down on the ground not resisting arrest when he was shot execution style in the head.
According to the NAACP he was shot in front of dozens of witnesses who were sprayed with mace and had guns drawn on them in the wake of shooting. He was pronounced brain dead at a local hospital and was taken off life support on Monday after his family had time to gather.
Immediately Sunday night protesters gathered at the 4th Precinct in North Minneapolis, only blocks from where the incident took place. The protest quickly turned into an occupation of the precinct, demanding that the video of the confrontation be released publicly and that the responsible officers be brought to justice. In addition the protest has demanded immediate independent investigation, independent civilian oversight of the police, and police having to live in the local communities they serve have been demanded.
Since it has been learned that the officers involved, Officers Mike Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze have faced lawsuits in federal court. Schwarse was accused in 2009 of forcing a man to become an informant through false arrest. Riggenberg was involved in a 2012 lawsuit which accused him of using excessive force in an arrest. None the less both are considered “exemplary” and have never received disciplinary action. It has also been revealed recently that Clark was in the midst of filing a lawsuit against the Minneapolis police department.
Plymouth Ave has been the center of historic struggle for the African American community over the past century. In 1922 after three nights of unrest a group calling itself the National Equal Rights League issued a call to action at the Elk’s Hall. The primary demands of the group were around justice and law enforcement. In 1966 residents took over a building on Plymouth Ave and established The Way, which was aimed at calming the neighborhood in the wake of unrest, disturbance and disillusionment. The 4th Precinct today stands on the location of the site of what had once been The Way. In 1967 violence erupted after an incident between two African American Women and Minneapolis Police at the cities annual summer Aquatennial Parade. Unrest in that incident moved to Plymouth Ave which was a main thoroughfair of local business and social life. Hundreds took to the streets and violence erupted between police and local residents. Over a dozen businesses were destroyed in the unrest and the National Guard was used to quell the unrest. As protests continue today at the 4th Precinct on Plymouth Ave, there are still echoes of this past.
On the night of Monday November 16, hundreds of protesters took to the streets and marched to nearby Interstate 94, where a mass act of civil disobedience shut down traffic for hours on one of the busiest highways in the state. In all 43 adults and 8 juveniles were arrested as hundreds more continued to march chanting “Hands-Cuffed, Don’t Shoot!” On the night of Wednesday November 18th police moved to clear the well-organized occupation camp that had set up around the entry of the 4th Precinct. Police dressed in military gear, heavily armed, and swept methodically through the camp to push protesters out.
Mayor Betsy Hodges has remained all at once committed rhetorically to “justice” but also keeping the investigation out of the public eye by refusing to release the tapes of the killing and allow police to manipulate the narrative. While Mayor Hodges publicly claims that she cannot do anything to tamper with the investigation, her police chief and the police union actively spread propaganda and fear by making unsubstantiated claims of protester violence. The union leadership has meanwhile spread claims that Clark had been going for the officers gun when he was shot. In these efforts to sway public opinion and establish a cover-up for their officers without any transparency or any effort to release documents proving any allegations, future jury pools are being tainted. In both the mayor and the police leadership we can see that politicians will not help provide answers nor will they aid in efforts for justice.
Justice for Jamar Clark will only come from the demands of people standing up and fighting back. The protests this past week have already caught the eye of the international media, and already politicians like are starting to reach out to show support, in response to the ongoing struggle. We as SDS are committed to being in the streets fighting side by side with the community of North Minneapolis, the NAACP, and Black Lives Matter as they wage the struggle for justice for Jamar. We cannot be silent, we will not be silent, and we will not stand down. When our communities of color are under attack, we stand up and fight back!