Brian Fullman stood on a rise in North Commons Park and asked people to describe how Minneapolis got to this point, where a police killing of a black man sparked global outrage and, finally, a sense that change is possible.
“This is not just about one death,” he said, blaming what he called a history of arrogance, complacency and disrespect from the Minneapolis Police Department. “How did we get here, people?”
A man shouted from way in the back. “By being quiet!”
They were among 150 people gathered Sunday at the park on the North Side of Minneapolis to voice their support for divesting from traditional policing and to map a plan for a safe community under a different model. The event was put together by the Barbershops and Black Congregation Cooperative and the Muslim Coalition.
An emphasis of the meeting was that all black Americans — East Africans, West Africans, the descendants of slaves — must work together.
Abdulahi Farah, a leader of the Muslim Coalition, said the problem is beyond reform. “The only path forward is to dismantle and get rid of it,” he said.
Mohamed Sharif, a Somali-American, said he was detained and put in a squad car when he was 10. He had been playing on a soccer field in a game with police officers.
“I’ve never had any good experiences with the police,” he said.
Sharif said his community is overpoliced and has been able to effectively police itself since the unrest started after Floyd’s death.
Christian Ray was at a house party in Minneapolis when he was 17, wearing all red. When the police shut down the party, an officer told him he was probably a gang member and should be arrested. Ray was not arrested because he had no record, but the knee-jerk threat from the officer stayed with him.
“This is how the Police Department views our community — as criminals, thugs, and not as people to be served,” Ray said.
People at the meeting broke into smaller groups and brainstormed ideas. Some of the police department’s $193 million budget should be shifted into programs for young people, said Fullman, an organizer for the faith coalition ISAIAH.
But the core of the meeting was a restatement of the belief that the Police Department in its current form is irredeemable, and that it’s up to community members to step forward and organize to work toward something new and concrete when it comes to community safety. An undercurrent of the gathering was a new hope.
Ebony Chambers, a north Minneapolis mother and homeowner, said George Floyd’s horrific death was a catalyst, and it seems to her that this time is different.
“Finally I see a difference, a change,” she said. “It’s a little bit of relief. You don’t have in the back of your mind that nobody’s listening to you anymore.”