In a north Minneapolis Baptist church, a group of black preachers took to the pulpit Wednesday night in hopes of redirecting the fight for justice in the Jamar Clark case.
They urged protesters to end their occupation of the police department’s Fourth Precinct headquarters and take the fight for equality and justice to City Hall, the State Capitol or the Hennepin County Government Center.
The north side encampment with campfires, wood piles, chairs and tents, has blocked access to a stretch of Plymouth Avenue outside the precinct station and has become a blight on the neighborhood, said the Rev. David Keaton, senior pastor at Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church along with other preachers who took to the stage at the church.
“We don’t want to descend into any more chaos,” he said to more than 100 people who answered his call to come to the meeting, including four police officers from the Fourth Precinct.
“This is about more than just occupying the street, this about justice for a family,” Keaton said. “Not every law enforcement official is working against us. We have bad preachers. We have bad politicians. There are bad police. But there’s more good than bad.”
Protesters, however, have said they won’t budge from their encampment until officials meet all their demands, including the release of any video that might shed light on the Nov. 15 police shooting of Clark, 24.
Authorities have said their initial investigation shows Clark was a suspect in a domestic assault and was disrupting paramedics who were trying to help the victim. Police say they struggled with Clark, and he was shot. People who claim they saw the shooting say Clark was handcuffed.
Keaton said a federal and state investigation should be able to sort this out. “We have to trust the process,” he said. “I do.”
Video of a 2014 police shooting in Chicago was recently released because an independent journalist used the law to make it public, Keaton said. “Protests didn’t release the video,” he said.
The young organizers of the Minneapolis protests have shown that they can mobilize people, Keaton said. “They breathe and speak with anger, but I haven’t seen leadership beyond the protests.”
The Rev. Steven Belton, who also serves as the interim president of the Urban League, said differences between those occupying the Fourth Precinct and those calling to end it are not a “generational divide” but an “informational divide.”
Protests are more than just marches, rallies, encampments and sound bites, Belton said. “It takes all of us to make change.”
And that, he said, means the community needs to talk to each other rather than at each other, listen to one another and give everyone the benefit of the doubt.
“I’m not going to question whether you’re black enough. It’s not even a question of whether you’re committed to the movement,” he said.
But it’s about being more strategic in fighting for the cause so “your babies and my babies don’t have to bury [a] Jamar.”