The shooting of peaceful Minneapolis protestors last week left me horrified. But the Star Tribune’s myopic editorial leaves me deeply disappointed (“Protecting protesters in wake of shootings,” Nov. 25).
Protests of police practices have become widespread in recent years, but this is the first time in recent memory that protestors have been shot at by apparent vigilantes. The incident should have prompted a strong editorial condemning the violence and calling on the public to stand with the victims. Instead, the Editorial Board took issue with the demands and tactics of the protestors, and called on them to scale back their protest.
News stories suggest that the attacks likely were racially motivated. Whatever the motives, protestors have been terrorized. Rather than ceding free speech to hateful vigilantes, the paper could call for increased support for the right to gather and protest. Political leaders, and the paper, should denounce without qualification hate crimes and racially targeted violence.
As for the safety of protestors, it is confusing to suggest that protesters would be less safe while outside the doors of a police precinct station. Shouldn’t that be one of the safest places? And how does it make sense for the paper to ask individuals to gather in daylight hours, when many work business shifts and the sun sets at 5 p.m.?
The paper also could do more to acknowledge the real tension between investigatory legal processes and the community’s legitimate need to know what happened. Last week’s release of chilling video of the execution of a black teen by a white Chicago police officer, which was suppressed for over a year, makes clear how horrifying the content can be. We need to acknowledge how critical that information is, and recognize that it is frequently community pressure that results in its public release.
The death of Jamar Clark and the shooting of community protestors has propelled the Twin Cities into the forefront of a national conversation around issues of racial justice and law enforcement. Now is the time to decisively condemn acts that terrorize peaceful protestors, to proclaim First Amendment rights, and to scrutinize policing practices that disproportionately impact — and even kill — black men in Minnesota and across the nation.
Laura Jones is a writer in St. Paul.