The uproar over the fatal police shooting of Jamar Clark is turning into a political crisis for Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, whose handling of the situation put her at odds Thursday with some of the progressive allies who helped propel her into office in 2013.
A day after a marathon standoff between activists and police at the Fourth Precinct in north Minneapolis, the state council of one of Minnesota’s largest labor unions, the SEIU, called on Hodges to “engage directly to de-escalate the current situation brought on by the police.” Activists, some of whom went searching for Hodges at her home Wednesday night, confronted her for not responding to their demands and for allowing police to physically disperse protesters.
“You’re supposed to be this different mayor, right? Everybody told me to vote for you. And I just didn’t believe that you were ready,” North Side activist Roxxanne O’Brien told Hodges at her office Thursday.
O’Brien also criticized Hodges for requesting patience with an investigation process “designed by people who have historically traumatized us.” The exchange was streamed live on social media.
Meanwhile, the chief of the police union, Lt. Bob Kroll, faulted Hodges and Police Chief Janeé Harteau, saying they did not support the officers involved in the Clark shooting. “Someone has to stand up for the officer,” Kroll said at a late afternoon news conference Thursday.
Clark’s death also has exposed political tension at City Hall, punctuated by the presence of five council members alongside activists at the precinct Wednesday night. One, Lisa Bender, acknowledged that she stepped in front of an officer and told him to put his gun down. Another, Alondra Cano, publicly called for police to stop Macing protesters.
None of them stood alongside Hodges, the police chief and the two North Side council members at a news conference Thursday afternoon largely focused on the previous night’s violence.
“My first and foremost consideration is the safety of the people of the city of Minneapolis,” Hodges told reporters. “And my first and foremost consideration is making sure that people can also express their constitutional rights peaceably. So to that end, I have been working every day to make sure that we have the best situation possible.”
Council President Barbara Johnson called the situation with other council members “very awkward.”
“It’s not helpful when council members criticize the tactical decisions that are made by our chief,” Johnson said.
Council Member Blong Yang, who represents the North Side, said in an interview that justice requires letting the process play out and gathering all the facts. “My colleagues going out there … and just kind of taking one perspective, I don’t think that helps anybody.”
Hodges said some activists will not be satisfied until she calls for a release of tapes that may show the encounter between Clark and the two police officers. Those tapes are now controlled by the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
“I am committed to meeting the request for an independent investigation,” Hodges said. “And … doing so requires that I not give any appearance of attempting to influence the process or the outcome of that investigation.”
Activist Ashley Fairbanks told Hodges in the meeting that they traveled to her house hoping she would “break through this shell.”
“[We were] really hoping that we would see the side of you that really cares on a human level about this,” Fairbanks said. “And you’re kind of repeating the press conferences.”
Hodges said anyone who doubts her concern should examine her record at City Hall.
“By God, I give a damn. By God, I’m out there doing the work every single day to the best of my ability,” Hodges said. “Perhaps I don’t show emotion the way people expect a woman to show emotion.”