Below is a letter by a community coalition, including myself and Congressman Ellison, calling for an end to the occupation of the 4th precinct. A full list of signers is at the very bottom.
For two weeks, we have shared the sadness of many in Minneapolis who have been grieving. Throughout this time, we have held two values paramount: the safety of everyone in our city, and the need for racial equity.
We will continue to hold these values paramount and urgent as we call today for an end to the occupation in front of the Fourth Precinct headquarters on Plymouth Avenue, and for the protest to move to the next phase. In so doing, we join our voices to those of Representative Keith Ellison, the Urban League, neighborhood residents, and the family of Jamar Clark, among many others.
We have been concerned about safety of everyone — protesters, neighborhood residents, police officers, and bystanders — since the current situation at the Fourth Precinct began.
Chief among our concerns is the presence of open fires and uncontrolled heat sources. In the interest of safety for demonstrators, neighbors, and the general public, it is vital that these open fires be extinguished immediately. It is a sad, known fact that air quality in North Minneapolis is among the poorest in Minnesota, and that children in North Minneapolis already suffer from the highest rates of asthma in our city. It is another mark of the racial disparities that plague our city and our neighborhood. The presence for two weeks of open fires has caused the air quality in North Minneapolis to deteriorate even further. We are particularly concerned about the health effects of the fires on the elders and children who live nearby and in our neighborhood. And with the colder weather, more fires have appeared.
Neighbors have also lodged numerous complaints about the fires: they have expressed concerns about the height of fires, embers blowing into yards and onto structures, and proximity to gas lines, among others. The Minneapolis Fire Department shares their concerns, and has also witnessed ashes from the fires being disposed of in the sewer. Any open, non-permitted fire in our city should be a source of concern to us all.
We are also alarmed that Plymouth Avenue has been barricaded, impeding access to emergency vehicles and snow plows. Given the number of elders who live there who often require emergency care, and the fact that we are expecting a large amount of snow in the next two days, the barricades must be removed immediately.
We have other concerns as well.
- There has been gun violence in the surrounding area. Beyond the reprehensible shootings of last Monday night, there have been shots fired in the neighborhood on subsequent nights.
- The crowds blocking Plymouth Avenue and access to the precinct have caused emergency vehicles and first responders to be redirected, which leads to delays in responding to real, urgent needs of residents and protesters.
- We have been dismayed at false medical calls for help. These false calls put in danger anyone who calls when there is a real emergency, be they residents or protesters — not to mention first responders themselves.
- Sadly, the continued presence at the Fourth Precinct has attracted people from outside our neighborhood and our city who intend to cause harm, people with violent agendas that are not aligned with peaceful protesters. Some of them launched Molotov cocktails at the precinct, and other Molotov cocktails were discovered before they were launched. Extensive property damage has been caused to Fourth Precinct property and vehicles. In addition, the situation has attracted known gang members and others known for criminal behavior.
- We deplore near-daily threats to burn down the precinct and kill or harm officers. These threats put our residents, peaceful protesters, and our entire neighborhood at risk.
Given then many safety concerns that persist at the Fourth Precinct, it is clear to us that the safest path forward for everyone — protesters, residents, officers, and our entire neighborhood and city — is for the encampment to end. It will also lead further down the path to equity.
The need for equity in Minneapolis remains urgent and paramount. In response to the shooting of Jamar Clark, many wins have already been attained.
- An independent, state, criminal investigation was launched within hours.
- An independent, federal, civil-rights investigation was launched within two days, at Mayor Betsy Hodges’ request. The Assistant U.S. Attorney General personally assured protest leaders that this investigation will be fair and thorough.
- The names and service records of the officers involved in the shooting were released within days.
- Protesters asked for and received support for free, culturally-appropriate grief counseling for Mr. Clark’s family and themselves.
- Governor Mark Dayton reiterated his call for a special session of the Minnesota Legislature to address racial disparities in North Minneapolis and elsewhere in Minnesota.
- Governor Dayton called on federal officials to investigate any matters that occurred in Minneapolis during the first week of the protest that may have violate the civil rights of any Minnesota citizens.
While the road to resolution of the shooting of Jamar Clark will be long, we believe that these are important wins that were quickly won.
More broadly, and no less urgently, we must continue to reduce and eliminate the many racial disparities that plague African Americans and people of color in our city in almost every measure — health, wealth, education, employment, and certainly criminal justice, among others. The work requires the honesty to admit what has not worked, the resolve to look racism in the face, and the will to change course. And it will continue to require willing partners at every level: community, government, philanthropy, education, nonprofit, and others.
Many of these partners have made concrete recommendations over many years to address the urgent need to eliminate racial disparities in Minneapolis, and their concerns have taken on heightened importance in the last two weeks. At the level of city government, we are satisfied that Mayor Hodges has heard these concerns and policy recommendations. She has pledged to us, and we to her, to work together and with community on a detailed response shortly. We know that Governor Dayton and Representative Ellison take these concerns seriously at the state and federal levels as well.
In the current situation, our sense of urgency about both equity and safety for everyone is acute. We believe that the need to keep everyone safe at the Fourth Precinct — protesters, residents, officers, and bystanders — and the need to take the protest and our quest for equity to the next level are both served by ending the occupation at the Fourth Precinct immediately.
- Alfred Babington-Johnson
- Steve Belton, Interim President and CEO, Minneapolis Urban League
- Tawanna A. Black
- Jackie Cherryhomes, former Minneapolis City Council President and 5th Ward resident
- Gary Cunningham, President and CEO, Meda and Council Member, District 7, Metropolitan Council
- United States Representative Keith Ellison
- Jeffrey Hassan, Executive Director, African American Leadership Forum
- Betsy Hodges, Mayor, City of Minneapolis
- Barbara Johnson, City Council President and City Council Member, 4th Ward, City of Minneapolis
- Jerry McAfee, New Salem Baptist Church
- Cora McCorvey, Executive Director/CEO, Minneapolis Public Housing Authority
- Jonathan Palmer, Executive Director, Hallie Q. Brown Community Center and Chair, Cleveland Neighborhood Association Board
- Trahern Pollard, community activist
- Billy G. Russell, Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church
- Don Samuels, Director, Board of Education, Minneapolis Public Schools and former Minneapolis City Council Member, 5th Ward
- Sondra Samuels, President and CEO, Northside Achievement Zone
- Clayton Tyler, Chair, Board of Commissioners, Minneapolis Public Housing Authority and 5th Ward resident
- Blong Yang, City Council Member, 5th Ward, City of Minneapolis
- Yvonne Cheek, Millennium Consulting Group
- Bishop Richard D. Howell, Jr. Shiloh Temple International Ministries
- Kevin Lindsey, Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Human Rights
- Sharon Sayles Belton, Former Mayor, City of Minneapolis, former City Council President, former 8th Ward Council Member