A scuffle and harsh words marred a Minneapolis City Council public safety forum Tuesday night that turned chaotic early on when the friend of a man shot and killed last week strode to the front of the room and addressed the crowd.
“He really was tired of this kind of crap,” said Chauntyll Allen, referring to Tyrone Williams. “We need to make a change now. Black people are being killed on a regular basis.”
About 200 people packed the gymnasium in the Sabathani Community Center on 38th Street Tuesday evening for the second of two meetings aimed at taking City Hall to the public and hearing residents’ ideas on how to make the city safer and more just.
As with the meeting a week ago in north Minneapolis, the agenda was upended as frustration over police treatment of black residents boiled over.
Allen shouted at Mayor Jacob Frey, telling him to “make some moves” to bring real change to the city. When she walked out, activist Al Flowers moved to the front and offered a contrarian view.
“Stop black on black violence,” Flowers shouted several times over the course of the event. “Help us stop black on black violence.”
The meeting’s organizer, Council Member Alondra Cano, conceded the stage. Frey left for a neighborhood association meeting. Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins and Council Members Phillipe Cunningham, Jeremy Schroeder, Linea Palmisano and Steve Fletcher sat at tables.
When protesters, including Nekima Levy-Pounds, encircled the room and calling for an end to white supremacy and police violence, Flowers and Rev. Jerry McAfee scuffled with some of them. Levy-Pounds got hold of a bullhorn that played a police siren and aimed it overhead while she argued with McAfee, challenging him to “take it from me” before taking the microphone and saying, among other things, that north Minneapolis has too many police and not enough jobs.
The dispute dominated the last half-hour before everyone packed up and went home.
McAfee, speaking in a calm voice, said the tone of the meeting had to be less chaotic, and that the real problems are poverty and the police union, which he said Arradondo cannot fix on his own.
“The Minneapolis police union is too strong. It needs to be put in receivership,” said McAfee.
While many are weary with public forums, Jenkins said, the meeting was a rare and important opportunity for people to look public officials in the eye away from the formal settings of government and speak their minds. Fletcher agreed.
“Sometimes,” said Fletcher, “you learn more from the disruptions than from the format you planned.”