Hundreds are expected to gather Tuesday at a vigil to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Jamar Clark, who was shot and killed during a confrontation with two Minneapolis police officers on the city’s north side. The event, sponsored by the Twin Cities Coalition 4 Justice 4 Jamar Clark, will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. at the corner of N. James and Plymouth avenues. More than 300 people have responded online to say they will attend. Clark’s family, along with Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, has also planned a 3 p.m. community gathering and march at the intersection of Broadway and Emerson avenues.
Each time Anthony Newby drives past the makeshift memorial adorned with balloons and teddy bears, his mind drifts back to that moment last November that ignited a citywide conversation about race and policing.
It has been a year since 24-year-old Jamar Clark died after a late-night confrontation there with a pair of Minneapolis police officers, and Newby, executive director of the nonprofit Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, is still struggling with the emotional strain of the incident.
Newby expects to be among the hundreds at a vigil on Tuesday evening to commemorate the anniversary of Clark’s death, which set off weeks of angry demonstrations and fueled a fierce national debate about police treatment of blacks.
“The appetite for systemic change has never been higher, and Jamar’s death was really a pivot point locally, and it set the stage for abandoning grand juries in Hennepin County,” said Newby, referring to County Attorney Mike Freeman’s decision earlier this year to discontinue the use of grand juries in police-involved shootings.
“That seemed like a pipe dream before Jamar Clark’s death,” Newby said.
For months after Clark’s death, questions piled up about the 61 seconds that separated what began as a seemingly routine encounter between Clark and the two officers, Dustin Schwarze and Mark Ringgenberg, and its deadly conclusion.
Both officers were later cleared in state, federal and internal investigations, during which they worked out of the department’s intelligence-gathering unit. They have since returned to street work, with Ringgenberg being reassigned to the robbery unit.
Internal affairs investigators concluded that the officers acted appropriately on that night last November while responding to a domestic disturbance at an apartment complex on the city’s North Side. They used a controversial takedown technique to wrestle Clark to the ground, and Schwarze shot him after he reportedly grabbed Ringgenberg’s gun in the ensuing struggle.
Clark’s family members have said they plan to file a wrongful-death lawsuit against the city, contending that Clark’s shooting could have been averted.
Since the shooting, city officials have announced a series of reforms aimed at regaining the public’s trust. Police Chief Janeé Harteau said this fall that officers will be trained to resort to force only after exhausting all reasonable means to defuse potentially violent encounters.
In an e-mailed statement over the weekend, Harteau said, “We realize we are part of a broader national conversation as we implement and produce national best practice standards to further our priority to increase public safety through community partnerships.”
The vigil is also intended to reflect on the legacy of a young man, whose death “allowed us to sharpen and to help us develop a path forward,” Newby said.
“It’s another example of a young person with infinite potential and a desire to invest himself in his community, who is no longer there,” he said.