NAACP, Government Leaders Talk About Easing Minneapolis Tension

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges talks to reporters Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, after what she called a big-picture meeting about how her city's police deal with minorities. The meeting included local, state and national NAACP officials and Gov. Mark Dayton. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges talks to reporters Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, after what she called a big-picture meeting about how her city’s police deal with minorities. The meeting included local, state and national NAACP officials and Gov. Mark Dayton. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Tension over the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man turned to talks about the future Friday, the most peaceful day in North Minneapolis since the early Sunday incident.

Minnesota leaders met with local, state and national NAACP representatives trying to find solutions to six days of conflicts between police and hundreds of protesters.

National NAACP President Cornell William Brooks urged the black community to stand up, but to be peaceful, as Minneapolis police have come under criticism of how they deal with the community.

“We have to vote, turn up the heat and turn up the light,” Brooks said as hundreds held up flaming lighters during a Friday night rally and vigil. “We have to press our case, make our case forcibly but also nonviolently.”

He urged his audience, which turned out in 30-degree weather, to be patient. “We need to be in this fight for the long run.”

The gathering came after protests over 24-year-old Jamar Clark’s death to a single bullet in the head fired by a Minneapolis police officer. Police said that he was interfering with ambulance personnel treating his girlfriend.

The shooting, which sounded much like other American cases of police shooting unarmed black men, set off the siege of a nearby North Minneapolis police precinct station.

Protesters have shut down Interstate 94 and tossed objects at police, and police have moved them away from the front door of the station. Tensions mounted through the week, but Friday night that was much less palpable than other nights.

About 400 attended the rally and vigil, then many walked to the shooting scene.

The big change from previous nights was there was no show of force, from either side, at the barricade separating police and protesters. There was no police presence noticeable outside the precinct building, where the rally was held.

“We must use the power of the vote,” Brooks said in his brief speech. “We must use the power of civil disobedience. We must use the power of non-violence, and we must use the power of love for one another.”

He advised the crowd to be organized and disciplined to “find the justice we seek.”

Brooks followed Minnesota civil rights legend Josie Johnson, who said she is passing the torch to those in the crowd.

She called the shooting “a repeat of history.”

“The way we can avoid this start and stop and start and stop is for us to stay focused,” Johnson said. “Understand this condition is one that has been in existence and has been created since slavery. There is no way for you to just come out once in awhile.”

Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds said that people should not always turn to government for answers. “Sometimes, the answers are with the people: diverse backgrounds, diverse ideas.”

She urged the crowd not to harbor anti-police sentiments, but to oppose police brutality. “We want them to treat us like their own family.”

Before the rally, Gov. Mark Dayton and Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges met with local, state and national leaders of the NAACP, the country’s best-known civil rights group.

“I asked the president of the national NAACP to give us examples of other states in terms of community policing, in terms of various outreach that could be made,” Dayton said. “I want very much to learn from what other states are doing better than Minnesota, and we’ll engage NAACP leaders and others throughout the state.”

When leaving the meeting, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said the 90 minutes of talks were general and long-term.

“The governor and I expressed that our hands are out and our doors are open to anyone who wants to talk about what is happening now, but also long term to what solutions regarding police-community relationships,” Hodges said.

If Friday was relatively quiet, there still was activity.

Late Friday, police said they found lighter fluid, rags, bottles and other things used to make Molotov cocktails near where protesters have been camping. Two Molotov cocktails were tossed at police earlier in the week, police said.

Police said they arrested two people after the outside walls and windows of the station were vandalized with graffiti: “Jamar Clark,” “No Justice, No Peace” and an obscenity.

Also, a sports utility vehicle driver was arrested after driving into a precinct parking lot gate. There was no indication whether the incident was connected to the precinct occupation.

Three protesters were removed from a Minneapolis City Council meeting after they voiced their disapproval over how city leaders have handled the investigation.

Also Friday, about 30 students joined protesters at the precinct after marching from a nearby middle and high school.

Clark’s brother, 32-year-old Jermaine Robinson, was among a small group of people who congregated at a shrine of balloons and liquor bottles where the shooting took place.

Federal and state investigators are on the Clark case, with state officials saying it could take four months before they wrap it up.

Forum News Service reporter Robb Jeffries, Reuters news service and St. Paul Pioneer Press reporter Rachel Stassen-Berger contributed to this story. The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.