Last week’s verdict and settlement in the Mohamed Noor case were met with mixed reactions by the African-American, Somali-American and indigenous communities, and other communities of color. Why? This case represents the inherent bias of the policing and (in)justice system and its reinforcement of white supremacy in the current political and economic system. Noor was the first officer in Minnesota history known to be prosecuted and convicted of the murder of a civilian. However, the charges were less than desired and not a proper consequence for his actions. Also, it cannot be ignored that Justine Ruszczyk Damond, one of the many victims of police terror in our communities, was a white woman from an affluent neighborhood that is a stronghold of the DFL local majority.
Until Damond’s death, everyone including current and former mayors, city councils, police chiefs or county attorneys like Mike Freeman and his predecessor, presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar, were unwilling to carry out their civic duties. These duties include the responsibility to discipline and bring charges against the officers involved in cases of killing civilians in Minneapolis and Hennepin County (of which there are at least 50).
So what made the trial of Noor different from any other before it? The answer is nothing. The disparate treatment of Damond and previous victims of police terror is the result of three things: race, class and political power. Damond wasn’t treated any differently by the Minneapolis Police Department than other community members killed by the police. However, now no one truly believes the MPD’s lies. It is because of her place of power in society that the MPD coverup didn’t stick. Most important, it is because of the families of those who lost loved ones, the historical stuggle against police terror, and the Black Lives Matter movement and local groups like the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar (TCC4J — referring to the fatal shooting of Jamar Clark by Minneapolis police in 2015) that have continued to lift up those whose lives were stolen via protests, highway shutdowns, occupations, marches and confronting politicians that protect killer cops.
African-American and Native American people are disproportionately killed by Minneapolis police officers. These victims are falsely painted as “criminals” by police, local and federal elected officials, county attorneys, the BCA and the media. Community members in Minneapolis and Minnesota who live in the heart of the Jim Crow North are familiar with the methods used to enforce racist segregation and economic disparities between black and indigenous people of color and white counterparts.
The trial of officer Noor shows us how important it is to reform the policing system at the highest levels. This is what we at TCC4J demand:
1) Reopen all the cases of those killed by police.
2) Community control of the police via a Civilian Police Accountability Council.
We need change, and that is going to come with power taken back by the people via this Accountability Council. It would be an elected body, and it would have among its members no current or former police or their relatives. It would have the power over the budget, hiring/firing, rules and investigations of complaints. The system is guilty for the murder of Damond, Clark, and Thurman Blevins (fatally shot by Minneapolis police in 2018), and in particular for a police union run by Bob Kroll, who directs the MPD contrary to the needs of the community and in open war against black and indigenous people of color and urban working people.
TCC4J was formed after Clark’s shooting. We stand in solidarity with all victims and families of police violence. In particular, we have worked on the cases of Clark, Marcus Golden (St. Paul, 2015), Philando Castile (Falcon Heights, 2016), Terrence Franklin (Minneapolis, 2013), Damond, Marcus Fischer (Minneapolis, 2017; he survived and was sentenced to prison), Map Kong (Burnsville, 2016), Phumee Lee (St. Paul, 2017), Cordale Handy (St. Paul, 2017), Phil Quinn (St. Paul, 2015), Jaffort Smith (St. Paul, 2016), and others.
Loretta VanPelt is organizer with the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar.