Hundreds of people dismayed by the death of Justine Damond rallied and marched Thursday night in the south Minneapolis neighborhood where she lived and died, their numbers swelling as people emerged from their houses to join them and others gathered on lawns and sidewalks to watch.
Kathy Rappos, who lives in the neighborhood, said she came to march because “Justine is any one of us.
“This is not what Minneapolis represents,” she said.
Damond was fatally shot late Saturday by Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor, who was responding to a 911 call she’d made to report a possible sexual assault near her house
The 40-year-old meditation teacher and health coach moved from Australia to Minneapolis several years ago to be with her fiancé, Don Damond, who is vice president and general manager of Little Six Casino in Prior Lake. The two had planned to marry in August.
Justine Damond regularly led meditation at the Lake Harriet Spiritual Community, where a memorial of chalk messages, flowers and small tokens of lament has emerged in the days since her death.
Before the evening march, Pastor Ashley Harness, echoing one of Damond’s last lessons, asked the marchers to look at their feet and “honor the Earth’s original caretakers of this stolen land.”
That request opened the march, which paused outside Damond’s home, where neighbors and Valerie Castile, the mother of Philando Castile, embraced Don Damond. Castile, whose son was shot to death by a St. Anthony police officer in 2016, told the crowd she “just had to come out today.”
Also speaking was John Thompson, a friend of Philando Castile who has become an activist in the wake of his friend’s death. As he delivered a passionate address, many in the audience responded by raising their fists in a gesture of opposition to police shootings.
Nekima Levy-Pounds, who is running for mayor of Minneapolis, also spoke, saying that the world is again watching Minnesota. “We’re at the place where we can no longer ignore the truth,” she said. “It is staring us in the face.”
Previous calls for justice in police treatment of minority citizens have “fallen on deaf ears,” she said, urging the crowd to show concern and compassion when police shooting “victims don’t look like yourself.” She also called for the firing of Police Chief Janeé Harteau.
Justine Damond “brought us all here together, even when people have tried to keep us apart,” said Levy-Pounds.
Marchers treated the procession through Damond’s quiet south Minneapolis neighborhood as a sort of wake-up call — part of a broader revelation, they said, that a fatal police shooting had now occurred in their own backyard.
They chanted, “No justice, no peace, prosecute the police,” which has been oft-heard over the past year in protests over Castile’s shooting.
Some shared a list of demands: that officer Noor be fired if he refuses to talk to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, that he be prosecuted for Damond’s death, that a federal investigation be undertaken, and that dashcam footage from Noor’s squad car be released.
“It is time for me and other white people to wake up,” Sarah Kuhnen, who lives on Damond’s block, said to loud cheers. “It’s our reality now.”
Damond’s family members have said that they hope to bring her to her native Australia. “All we want to do is bring Justine home to Australia,” her family wrote in a statement e-mailed to the Star Tribune late Wednesday. “We are still trying to come to terms with this tragedy and we are struggling to understand how and why this could happen.”
Damond, also known as Justine Ruszczyk, has become a fixture in headlines across the globe since her death, which Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has called “shocking” and “inexplicable.” Turnbull joined a growing chorus of voices demanding answers to questions about what happened that night. That chorus also includes Damond’s Australian family.
“We are in constant contact with the Australian Government, and representatives of the US Government and Minnesota State authorities,” the family wrote in the e-mail. “We want to see the investigation come to a conclusion, as soon as possible, so we have some resolution to the tragedy.”
Ahead of Thursday night’s neighborhood march, a steady stream of mourners continued dropping off flowers and handwritten notes in the alley where Damond died.
Frank Heino, a retired Bloomington police officer of 31 years, placed white chrysanthemums there for a woman he’s never met. He held back tears as he described his shock and anger about the shooting, which he called “unjustifiable.”
“I can’t even fathom how this happened,” said Heino, a 72-year-old Army veteran who served in Vietnam. “How could she even be considered threatening?”