By Harry Colbert, Jr. and Insight News Editors
Special to the NNPA News Wire from Insight News
Add Jamar Clark to the list.
That was the sentiment of hundreds of protesters who have camped out in front of the Fourth District Precinct headquarters of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) – braving falling temperatures and constant rain – demanding answers for the early Sunday morning November 15 police shooting of Clark. The headquarters located at 1925 Plymouth Ave. N. is just two blocks from where Clark was shot by a MPD officer. By Monday evening that sentiment spilled out onto Interstate 94 as protesters blocked traffic to bring attention to the killing of Clark. Eventually 51 were arrested in the protest – all peacefully.
It all began when officers were responding to an early morning call on Sunday that Clark, 24, had assaulted his girlfriend. Officers say Clark attacked paramedics attending to his girlfriend. But according to multiple witnesses Clark was completely restrained at the time of the shooting.
“[The police] had that guy on the ground and completely subdued,” said Teto Wilson, who had just exited the Elks Lodge across the street from the shooting. “This kid was laid out flat on the ground [before he was shot]. Both cops had him pinned to the ground.”
Wilson said that even though it was dark outside, it was easy to see Clark, because he had on very bright clothing at the time of the shooting.
“[The police] keep doing this, they keep killing people,” said James Hall, Clark’s father. “My son was already down when they shot him.”
Hall, along with a group of protesters, were outside of the Minneapolis Fourth District Police headquarters Monday morning demanding answers. Many of the protesters had been camped out since Sunday and have vowed not to leave until police release the name of the officer who shot Clark and release video footage of the shooting that they say was confiscated from Elks Lodge. In addition, protesters are calling for a federal investigation into the shooting. That demand has been met as Mayor Betsy Hodges held a Monday press conference to announce that indeed the U.S. Justice Department has been called in to investigate the shooting. Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau, who was with the mayor at the time of the announcement said bringing in the Justice Department is not a sign of guilt, but an effort to show transparency and get to the bottom of the matter, regardless of its outcome.
Protesters called on Hodges to join in their protest.
“Betsy Hodges, where are you?” questioned Kandace Montgomery of Black Lives Matter Minneapolis. “You ran under ‘One Minneapolis’ promising to reduce racial inequity and injustice. This here is inequity, so where are you? Things haven’t gotten better for Black people since you’ve been in office, things have gotten worse.”
Betty Smith, whose son, Quincy Smith, was shot and killed by Minneapolis police in 2008 said MPD has to be held accountable.
“Our children deserve better than to be killed by police. If we don’t stand up as a community these police will continue to get away with this,” said Smith. “If I kill someone I’m held accountable, if you kill someone you’re held accountable. Just because you’re a police officer that title doesn’t give you the right to murder someone. The police have to be held accountable as well. They’re getting medals for killing our children.”
Michael McDowell of Black Lives Matter Minneapolis said that police shooting Blacks in the city is nothing new.
“Look at Terrence Franklin gunned down by machine guns at the hands of Minneapolis Police,” said McDowell.
Franklin was killed in May of 2013 by police who claim that Franklin was armed with a gun – a claim witnesses deny.
“It seems like a racial apartheid here,” said McDowell. “Now the whole country is watching what’s going on here.”
Indeed the whole country is watching. Following the I-94 shutdown national media outlets have begun reporting on the Clark shooting and subsequent outrage.
Minneapolis Urban League President and CEO Steven Belton convened a press conference Wednesday morning in which representatives of the Clark family addressed the community.
“Separate but unequal narratives have emerged from the fatal shooting of Jamar Clark early this past Sunday morning. One is the official story and the other is the community narrative,” Belton said. “The official narrative has been inconsistent and changed in significant ways over time. It began with an announcement from city officials that police responding to a domestic violence call received information that the alleged assailant, Mr. Clark, was confronting paramedics who were on the scene and interfering with their ability to administer medical aid.”
Belton continued: “Notably, the police and public officials consistently have stated they cannot comment on the case because it is under investigation—except they stated their belief that Mr. Clark was not cuffed and aggressive, and by failing to state immediately that he was unarmed, they have invited the assumption that the shooting was justified.”
Belton added that media outlets have contributed to the official narrative with reports of Mr. Clark’s previous involvement with the judicial system and innuendo about possible affiliation with criminal organizations.
“In contrast,” Belton said, “the community narrative has been remarkably consistent since the evening of the fatal event.
Belton said that multiple members of the community who were present and witnessed the shooting have stated that Clark was unarmed, that he didn’t resist arrest and that he was on the ground, physically restrained by two officers and an EMT and that he was handcuffed.
Belton said that the Black community is asking for a meeting with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and an explanation of why the mediation agreement between the DOJ and the City of Minneapolis Police Department in 2003 was unilaterally abandoned by the city without penalty or consequence. The community is also asking for the release of the video footage in the possession of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
Belton also asked that public and elected officials be impartial and accurate rather than biased and speculative.
“The need for transparency in this context far outweighs the speculative concern about possibly influencing witness recollection and testimony,” said Belton. “People saw what they saw.”
Insight News Editors contributed to this article.