James Clark slowly stepped up on the edge of the large reflecting pool in the Hennepin County Government Center Friday. He glanced at the more than 125 people who gathered to protest his son Jamar’s death, and was handed a megaphone.
Two days after he learned that a pair of Minneapolis police officers would not be charged in the slaying, the normally soft-spoken Clark took on a new tone.
“I don’t know why officers are going around killing our young people,” he told the crowd, growing louder as he continued. “Never in a million years did we think this could happen to our son. The officers are supposed to protect and serve. Everybody’s life matters.”
For the past two months, protests have been staged at the Government Center on Fridays. Friday’s held extra gravity.
Jamar Clark, 24, was shot in the head during a struggle with two Minneapolis polices officers in November. This week, County Attorney Mike Freeman announced that the shooting was justified and no charges would be filed. Although seats were reserved for James and his wife, Wilma, at the news conference where Freeman explained his decision, the couple didn’t show up. Instead, they made their presence known at the protest.
Many at the protest held signs and chanted. After about 40 minutes, the group headed into the skyways and continued to yell slogans.
Security officers lined up as the group passed through their buildings, and four Minneapolis police officers quietly followed them. One jewelry store owner closed his doors as the protesters marched by.
At the end of the rally, Thandisizwe Jackson-Nissan, of Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar, said she didn’t know what the group’s next action would be, “but there will be action.”
By the time he finished his speech, Clark grew hoarse as he decried the officers’ contentions that Jamar said he was “ready to die” when they pointed a gun at his face. No other witnesses heard the alleged statement.
“We need to be treated with love and respect,” he told the crowd. “Jamar always had a smile on his face. Everybody who met him fell in love with him.”
Later Friday, a small group of peaceful protesters gathered near the spot where Clark was shot, adding items to a memorial there and briefly blocking the street.
Staff writer Liz Sawyer contributed to this report.