The Rally Before the Storm

I wanted to write a long post about last Saturday’s rally at the Hennepin County Government Center. The blog is long overdue for an update on the Coalition 4 Justice 4 Jamar’s extensive work.

However, today I realized that I’ve given myself more work in the past few months than I ever got in college, so for now blogging will have to take a backseat to self care, the coalition (ironically the more we do, the less time I have to blog about it), and a few other photography projects that are in the works.

I took pictures for an excellent [Twin Cities Daily Planet piece] that covers a lot of what I would have said in this post. I encourage you to read that and enjoy my photo coverage of the rally.

Freeman Friday Round 3

Some days, grief and frustration help me express myself clearly. Other days, I don’t know the first thing to say. I sat down to write a blog post about last week’s Freeman Friday protest and found that today is the second kind of day.

I was going to write about how gut-wrenching it was to hear James Clark’s shaking voice talk about how his son was afraid of the cops.

“He was a young man trying to get his life together, 24 years old…Me and Jamar, we talked a lot. He told me, ‘Dad, I am scared of the police. I wouldn’t never do anything to provoke them to hurt me in any kind of way. Whatever they say, I would do it.’ And I know that Jamar is not that kind of person that would try to do what they said on the news that he did, and I know that he didn’t. And for a man that had no knife, no gun, laying on his back, why should they have to use deadly force using a gun to shoot him in the head?”

I wanted to write about the video I recorded of Dennis Cherry, a witness to Jamar Clark’s murder, telling Mike Freeman what he saw that night and urging him to charge the officers responsible for Clark’s death.

I’ll let Dennis speak for himself:

I wanted to write more, but right now I can’t. This work sometimes leaves you without any words, let alone good ones, and that’s okay. Just keep going.

For more coverage, check out Unicorn Riot’s [post] on the protest.

Reinventing the Wheel

The Twin Cities Daily Planet just published a piece I wrote and photographed on Brandon Brown’s awesome start-up Onyx Cycles. [Click here] to read it.

“In a city saturated with bicycles and do-gooders, Onyx is something different. His inventions transform the basic concept of a bicycle: handlebars, wheels and a metal frame, into platforms for community outreach, live performance, mobile commerce and more. Brown designs and builds these inventions on a shoestring budget, using skills he’s been teaching himself since he first started building bikes at age 11. Onyx is also transforming the face of social entrepreneurship, which is traditionally the domain of prosperous saviors from outside the communities they aim to help.”

Freeman Friday Round 2

Kieran Knutson with the Coalition for Justice addresses the protesters.

Over 50 people turned out for second Freeman Friday – an event organized by the [Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar] – to demand direct prosecution of the officers who shot Jamar Clark to death last November.

Like last week, Mike Freeman was out of the office when we arrived and sent representatives of his office to speak on his behalf. Lolita Ulloa, one of those representatives, said he was sick and maybe if we came again next week we could speak to him in person.

And like last week, Lolita delivered the same message: Mike Freeman has not yet made a decision on the case and hopes to do so by the end of march.

Members of Freeman’s office talk to the protesters.

But Jodie Carroll, who spoke on behalf of the Coalition, pressed her for the truth.

Jodie: We’ve heard otherwise from what you told us last week. You let us know that he hadn’t made a decision yet and we’re hearing from other sources that it has been decided. What is what?

Lolita: As of today, the process is that it will go to a grand jury. Last week, I did see he was considering–I mean he considers a lot of different things–but as of this moment, I can tell you it’s going to the grand jury.

Brettina Davis, another person speaking for the Coalition, chimed in.

Brettina: Not even a minute ago you said it wasn’t decided yet.

Jodie: Well the grand jury proceeding– the procedure that we have of reviewing the case, preparing it for the grand jury, is not complete. It’s two different–

One of the protesters called out, “How many police have been prosecuted as a result of the grand jury?” and the crowd replied, “zero!”

“So then why continue to do the same thing?” they asked Lolita.

She responded, “I think for our process, that is what it is today. The process that it will go the grand jury as of today.”

Demonstrators chant “prosecute the police” in the Government Center atrium.

After we left the office, Coalition member and longtime activist Mel Reeves reflected on the meeting.

“She was apologetic, she beat around the bush, they were gracious towards us. That’s because they’re feeling pressure! That’s not usually the way this office operates, trust me. Ask anyone in my neighborhood. They’re not that gracious, right? They throw you in the car, bring you downtown, treat you as bad as they can. The reason they’re being gracious is because they’re afraid of us…The fact that they’re a little nervous means that we got a shot at this!…We just gotta keep comin at ‘em. I guarantee this, if we got 10,000 people in this place tomorrow, they’d announce, ‘Ah well, we decided against the grand jury.’”

That’s exactly what we intend to do.

Starting Monday, we’re asking everyone to call into Mike Freeman’s office and demand direct prosecution of Officers Riggenberg and Schwarze for killing Jamar Clark. 

His number is 612-348-2146. Here’s the [Facebook event] for the call in. Please invite everyone you know.

It takes no more than 60 seconds to call that number and say, “(I’m a citizen of Hennepin County and) I’m calling to demand direct prosecution of the officers responsible for Jamar Clark’s death. A grand jury is an unacceptable and unjust answer to this crime.”

Join us next week at noon in the Hennepin County Government Center atrium for another Freeman Friday to amplify the momentum we’ve been building. Like Mel said, all it takes is public pressure to change this decision.

We had a brief march through the skyways after rallying in Freeman’s office. Check out these great reaction pics.
Why so salty, white ladies?

Freeman Friday

Photo and reporting also published in the [Southwest Journal]

Michaela Day stands with other demonstrators in County Attorney Mike Freeman’s office Feb. 12, holding a sign that says “#No Grand Jury” in the Jamar Clark shooting case.

Join the [Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar] this Friday, February 19th for the second installment of Freeman Friday! We’ll be marching through the skyways downtown to County Attorney Mike Freeman’s office to demand direct prosecution of the officers who fatally shot Jamar Clark in November.

RSVP on the [Facebook event page] and invite your friends. Freeman Fridays will continue every week to keep pressure and public attention on Mike Freeman’s upcoming decision on the Jamar Clark case.

What’s the point of showing up at Mike Freeman’s office?

Last Wednesday, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) announced that it had concluded its investigation into Jamar Clark’s shooting death at the hands of officers Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze. It’s now up to Freeman to decide if more investigation is needed, and whether to either prosecute the officers responsible or call a grand jury. He’s previously indicated that he intends to send the case to a grand jury.

“We’re here to demand that that does not happen,” said Loretta VanPelt of the Twin Cities Coalition 4 Justice 4 Jamar at last Friday’s protest. “Since 2000 in Minnesota, there have been around 141 people who have been killed by police, and not one time has a grand jury indicted.”

What are grand juries?

In a nutshell, grand juries decide whether to charge someone with a crime. They don’t decide whether that person is guilty or not, but whether there’s evidence to believe they might be guilty. That’s a very low standard. If a grand jury chooses to indict, that just means there will then be a trial to determine whether that person has committed a crime.

Why are grand juries unjust in police brutality cases?

Unlike in a trial case, there aren’t two sides presenting evidence and holding each other accountable to the facts. Only the state prosecutor presents evidence to the grand jury. The prosecutor gets to choose what evidence to present, what evidence to omit, and how to spin that evidence.

This is a problem because prosecutors have close relationships with the police officers because they need police cooperation to do their job effectively. It’s not in their interest to call for an indictment since doing so puts them on the wrong side of people whose good will they rely on.

Grand juries are also cloaked in secrecy, which means the public generally doesn’t have the chance to see why cases that seem to have enough evidence for a trial will never see their day in court.

Why should Jamar Clark’s case go directly to trial?

Jamar Clark was shot to death by Minneapolis police last November. Eyewitnesses to the shooting say Clark was lying face down in handcuffs, not struggling, when he was shot. The police union claims he reached for an officer’s gun.

“If you were accused of shooting someone who was unarmed and possibly had handcuffs on, would they be putting off the investigation for months and months and months?” asked Kieran Knutson of the Coalition 4 Justice at last Friday’s event. “Would they be having some long consideration…about whether you would be tried or not?”

The eyewitness testimony, along with the unreleased video that Governor Mark Dayton says was “inconclusive,” at least proves there is reason to doubt the officers’ claims that Clark reached for the cop’s gun. That alone should warrant a fair trial where a jury considers all the relevant evidence, not just the evidence the prosecutor cherry-picks.

Regardless of whether or not you think those officers are guilty of murder, that determination should be made the same way it is for everyone else: through an accountable, transparent legal process that considers all pertinent evidence. If several eyewitnesses said one my friends or family members killed someone, I would want them to receive a fair trial too, no matter how much I love them or believe them incapable of murder. Why should it be any different for police officers?

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