Political committee Vote Yes 4 Minneapolis delivered 30 bankers boxes of petitions carrying more than 20,000 signatures to the City Clerk's Office on Friday. The petition asks voters to remove the Minneapolis Police Department from the city charter and replace it with a Department of Public Safety that functions as a "comprehensive public health approach to safety, including licensed peace officers if necessary."
"It is so powerful, you all," said Vote Yes 4 Minneapolis campaign manager Corenia Smith before signing the clerk's petition submission papers. "This is just amazing."
"You have worked during a very difficult period, through a pandemic and everything else happening in the city of Minneapolis, to get all of these petitions, so congratulations to all of you," said City Clerk Casey Carl as he officially accepted the boxes.
The campaign submitted the petition in time for the Charter Commission to receive it at its Wednesday meeting. Afterward, staff in the City Clerk's Office will have 10 days to review signatures and make sure Vote Yes 4 Minneapolis collected at least 11,906 from people registered to vote in Minneapolis, or 5% of votes cast in the last state general election.
The City Clerk's Office will report to the City Council on May 17. If the petition fails to pass muster, Vote Yes 4 Minneapolis will have another 10 days to collect more signatures. If the clerk finds the signatures sufficient, the City Council and Mayor Jacob Frey, in consultation with city attorneys, will have the chance to consider the wording of a question that will appear on the Nov. 2 ballot. The deadline to submit that wording to the county is Aug. 20.
As long as the question is constitutional, officials cannot bar it from the ballot.
"We have worked so hard over the past few months to get out here and be the voice for our community, the voice for people who are demanding a change, demanding something new," said Antonio Williams of the People's Canvass. "I talked to many, many people, residents of Minneapolis, who experienced brutality, injustice, inequality, indifference, something other than safety, from a department that is supposed to protect and serve them."
The Vote Yes 4 Minneapolis petition drive is separate from a City Council ballot measure, authored by Council Members Phillipe Cunningham, Steve Fletcher and Jeremy Schroeder, to change the city charter. But the group says it is working together with the council.
The City Council's nearly identical proposal would also offer voters a ballot question to remove MPD as a stand-alone, mayor-controlled department staffed by a minimum number of officers based on population, and instead place the new agency under the purview of an Office of Violence Prevention that would answer to the City Council.
This proposal is under consideration by the court-appointed Charter Commission, which has until mid-August to offer its opinion.
The City Council would then vote on whether to include the question on the ballot, but if the mayor vetoes it, the council would need nine votes to override his veto.
If successful, the Vote Yes 4 Minneapolis petition would ensure voters get the chance to decide the future of MPD this fall regardless of how things play out in City Hall.
Vote Yes 4 Minneapolis registered with Hennepin County in October. Its supporters include local activist organizations such as TakeAction MN, Black Visions and Reclaim the Block.
The committee's sole publicly disclosed contributor so far is the Washington, D.C.-based group Open Society Policy Center, the lobbying arm of the Open Society Foundations, a philanthropic group founded by billionaire George Soros.
The center contributed $500,000 to Vote Yes 4 Minneapolis.
Another ballot initiative, backed by the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar, an organization formed after Minneapolis police killed Jamar Clark in 2015, proposes creating a new commission of 13 elected members to take command of the Police Department.
Members would include civil rights activists, survivors of police misconduct and relatives of people who have been killed by police. They would have the power to discipline officers and investigate complaints.
The petition for a Civilian Police Accountability Commission has not yet reached the threshold for submission.
None of the ballot proposals would abolish policing in Minneapolis.