One Minneapolis spoke loudly and clearly this week about the death of Jamar Clark.
It spoke from the Fourth Precinct, where hundreds have gathered to protest Clark's shooting by police. It spoke from the offices of the NAACP building. It spoke from the headquarters of the Police Officers Federation. And it spoke from a school gymnasium during a news conference by Mayor Betsy Hodges and Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau, quietly held far from the bad visuals of the madding crowd.
In other words, One Minneapolis — the mayor's term for a united city — spoke in what seemed like foreign languages with words diametrically opposed.
There is likely no other event that spotlights the divisions that cleave a city as the shooting of a black man by a police officer, and certainly none that offers a bigger stage for political theatrics and opportunism.
While Hodges used words like dignity and patience at her public appearance, she was being eviscerated from both sides — by the police union for not standing up for the officers who shot Clark during what they say was a struggle over a gun, and by some on the left who were most active in putting her in the mayor's office.
They wanted Hodges to "engage directly to de-escalate" police actions and to join them in calling for a release of any video evidence of the shooting.
I think Hodges has so far taken the correct road, neither pre-emptively absolving police nor taking up the bullhorn outside the police station. It's not a politically popular track among those who yell the loudest — the unions and activist groups — but I don't agree with some who believe this could be the mayor's undoing.
Her strongest supporters are the progressive folks from south Minneapolis who are concerned about police behavior and who want justice in this case, but who also don't want to see hooligans burn the city or, God forbid, interrupt their commute.
I have been a frequent critic of the mayor, particularly when it comes to overreaching with broad platitudes on equity and social justice — issues I don't believe can be solved, sorry, by a small-city mayor. But she has met privately with interest groups and the family and even showed up at the precinct, only to get accosted. There is not a lot more she can do that would be productive rather than exploitive.
Larry Jacobs, University of Minnesota political science professor, said Hodges' bold promises probably have set her up because supporters have unrealistic expectations.
"Whenever you promise big change, you're going to make people angry," especially when you veer from their agenda, said Jacobs. "She's getting beaten up pretty badly."
"I actually think the way she's handled this in terms of policy is appropriate," said Jacobs. "It's not been common practice to hand over a police investigation to federal authorities. The implicit message is, 'I've got absolutely no confidence a police investigation here would be fair.' Wow. That's a strong statement."
Jacobs said Hodges is showing respect for the process "even though those who are following her are filled with rage and fury," and that's the job of a mayor, or any elected official.
Which is why the decision of some City Council members to join protesters outside the police station caused Council President Barb Johnson to call the situation "awkward." Johnson was being kind. She and Blong Yang, both of whom represent the North Side, have appeared at news conferences but have worked behind the scenes instead of in front of the cameras.
"To have City Council members there kind of fanning the flames in my view is not responsible," said Jacobs.
Amen. They have yet to realize there is a difference between being activists and being public officials.
Paul Ostrow, a former City Council president who is now a prosecutor, said he didn't mind council members joining the protests to show support for Clark's family or free speech rights.
But, according to a Black Lives Matter news release, Council Members Alondra Cano, Lisa Bender and Cam Gordon, as well as U.S. Rep Keith Ellison joined the group in demanding that the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and Justice Department release any videos of the shooting. Ostrow not only thinks that is inappropriate, it's ludicrous because they know, or should know, releasing information during an investigation is prohibited.
On Thursday, the mayor correctly pointed out that the decision to release videos was not hers to make. Ostrow wishes that Hodges could be more emphatic and tell her supporters that releasing that information would taint witness testimony and "doom the investigation" and actually deny justice to Clark.
"The position she is taking is the correct one," said Ostrow. "But be more absolute about it. Own it. Even if that means disagreeing with Ellison and Black Lives Matter."
During another news conference, this time by the police union, Lt. Bob Kroll faulted Hodges for not strongly supporting the officers involved in the Clark shooting. "Someone has to stand up for the officer," Kroll said.
Exactly. That person is Kroll, not the mayor.
The job of the mayor is to stand up for justice, due process and the city.
Follow Jon on Twitter: @jontevlin