The Justice for Terrence Franklin Committee gathers every Tuesday at Zion Baptist Church in north Minneapolis, where they discuss their next strategy in fighting a battle on behalf of a man few have ever met.
To the group, consisting mostly of young people ages 17-25 but sprinkled with middle-aged community activists and in some cases, senior citizens, Franklin is more than a young black man shot and killed by police nearly three months ago.
In nearly a half-dozen rallies and a community meeting scheduled for Thursday night, the 22-year-old’s name has become a local rallying cry against racial injustice. Their efforts have been bolstered by the nationwide protests over the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the shooting death of a black Florida teen, Trayvon Martin, and more recently, the suspension of two Minneapolis police officers who used racial and derogatory language after an altercation with black men in Green Bay, Wis.
“It’s no surprise to us, but maybe it’ll convince the unbelievers,” Mel Reeves, a columnist and community activist who helped organize the committee, said about the Green Bay case. “The people who act as if we’re crying wolf when there’s this much brutality going on; this much misconduct with Minneapolis police.”
No precise parallels
Meanwhile, police have released few details in Franklin’s May 10 shooting death, other than that he fled when he was confronted by officers after a caller reported seeing a man he thought had burglarized his home. The chase led to the house where, sources told the Star Tribune, Franklin grabbed at an officers’s submachine gun, causing it to go off and wounding the two officers before one shot him, killing him.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, whose office is awaiting the results of forensic testing before the Franklin case is presented to the grand jury, said he can see the link between the Zimmerman and Franklin cases by race but that’s where the similarity ends.
“There’s no indication whatsoever that Trayvon Martin was involved in any kind of criminal activity when he was accosted,” he said. “Terrence Franklin was first stopped by police, he fled, drove a car almost over a police officer and refused to stop, and even when confronted in a basement he didn’t give himself up.”
Michael Padden, an attorney representing the Franklin family, said Terrence’s only crime was that he fled from police, but that it still didn’t warrant a death sentence.
“The notion that he extricated himself from a K-9 unit, somehow was able to access a gun and somehow was able to shoot two cops before they blew him to smithereens, is on its face absurd,” he said.
Padden said he is waiting until the grand jury proceedings conclude to file a lawsuit alleging wrongful death and violation of Franklin’s civil rights. He said he’s “99.9 percent certain” that the police officers won’t be indicted.