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The rise of Black Lives Matter Minneapolis

The Martin Luther King March to the Minnesota Capitol in St. Paul in January.
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
The Martin Luther King March to the Minnesota Capitol in St. Paul in January.

Mica Grimm still remembers the rage she felt the night the Missouri grand jury announced it wouldn’t be indicting Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of unarmed, black teenager Michael Brown.

It was Nov. 24, 2014. Just two days before, a 12-year-old African-American boy in Cleveland, Tamir Rice, had also been shot and killed by a police officer.

Grimm, who’s black, thought of her own 12-year-old brother as she watched the news about the events in Cleveland and Missouri. “I have to worry about him being OK playing on a playground,” she said. “I have to worry about my little brother.”

Grimm, who works for Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, figured she wasn’t the only person upset about the media coverage – or who had a desire to do something about what she was seeing. Through her work, the 24-year-old had met other young organizers at local nonprofits, and she soon reached out to several of them to discuss what they could do in Minnesota.

“We were just a bunch of young folks emailing back and forth,” said Michael McDowell, 21, one of the organizers Grimm contacted, and who, like Grimm, has worked with various nonprofit community groups in the Twin Cities. “So we made a plan.”

That plan soon had a name — and a goal. After the decision in Missouri not to indict Wilson, spurring one of the largest national civil-rights movements since the ‘60s, the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter — originally coined after the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin — took off on social media. Channeling that national movement, Grimm and her fellow organizers adopted the name Black Lives Matter Minneapolis and demanded more police accountability, training and transparency in the Twin Cities.

In a matter of months, that group managed to organize some of the highest-profile public demonstrations seen in the Twin Cities in years: a march that shut down Highway 55; another that shut down I-35W; and, most prominently, a protest at the Mall of America that attracted thousands, partially shut down the mall during one of its busiest shopping days of the year, and led to the controversial arrest of 11 members of BLM Minneapolis — including Grimm and McDowell.

Learning from Occupy Wall Street

In fall of 2011, a wave of political outrage was cresting around the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. In the Twin Cities, hundreds of protesters, feeding off the momentum of the OWS, gathered in downtown Minneapolis to demand fundamental financial reform and protested a variety of other issues — from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to rising college tuition and increased rates of home foreclosures.

Black Lives Matter organizer Michael McDowell delivering a speech
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
Black Lives Matter organizer Michael McDowell delivering a speech during the Martin Luther King March in St. Paul in January.

On Oct. 15, the protesters — calling themselves Occupy MN — moved a dozen tents onto the Hennepin County Government Center Plaza, only to have them torn down by local sheriffs later that night. Nick Espinosa, a longtime local activist now affiliated with Black Lives Matter, said he remembers that night fondly, despite the struggles with police. “That was a powerful night,” he said. “That was actually one of the highlights of the whole occupation.”

Occupy was a reaction to the status quo, Espinosa said, which included a distrust of anything that wasn’t fully democratic. In practice, that presented a number of challenges to the organization: Passing motions often took weeks, if not longer, because everyone had to agree.

“That was just a really unwieldy decisionmaking process,” he said. “It was incredibly frustrating … and ultimately I think a lot of people felt it was too process-heavy and not enough action-oriented.”

University of Minnesota political science and African-American studies professor August Nimtz said he supported the Occupy movement in a broader sense, but believed it lacked a clear vision. He also said Occupy’s culture alienated working-class supporters from participating. “I remember going to some of the meetings and I said to myself, ‘My god, this current decisionmaking process does not work for anybody who has a job.’ ”

Nick Espinosa
Courtesy of Occupy Homes MN
Nick Espinosa

The Occupy culture could also be particularly alienating for people of color, said Neighborhoods Organizing for Change Executive Director Anthony Newby. NOC worked closely with an Occupy MN spinoff called Occupy Homes, which focused specifically on preventing home foreclosures in the Twin Cities. But even Occupy Homes fell short when it came to representing people of color, Newby said. Indeed, though economic and social inequalities were at the heart of the Occupy movement, it remained a movement of white, middle-class youth, Newby said.

And while Occupy was great at mobilizing over what its participants were against, it lacked teeth when it came to solutions, said Nimtz. “It’s not enough to be against something,” he said. “The question is what are you for?”

Driven by young people

Espinosa, who along with Grimm and McDowell organized the MOA protest, said Occupy taught him a lot, such as utilizing technology and social media. But it also offered important lessons in the limitations of the Occupy approach, lessons that can often be seen in the way BLM Minneapolis operates.

With a core group of about a dozen members, most of whom are also affiliated with other allied organizations around the Twin Cities, BLM Minneapolis has focused its efforts on a few tangible goals around police accountability and racial disparities in the Twin Cities, and ditched the 100 percent consensus model. “I think there’s much more of a concrete focus and a more narrow scope of what we’re trying to change,” said Espinosa.

Organizers and supporters say that one of the keys to BLM Minneapolis’ success so far has been the strong local scene of young community organizers and political activists involved.

Neighborhoods Organizing for Change field director Mike Griffin
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
Neighborhoods Organizing for Change field director Mike Griffin addressing a crowd of 200 during a membership meeting earlier this month.

“It came together organically,” said University of St. Thomas law professor Nekima Levy-Pounds, who is a legal advisor for BLM Minneapolis. “A lot of the folks who are involved in Black Lives Matter have been working together for a long time on a variety of social justice issues.”

Levy-Pounds said the way BLM Minneapolis is organized has also made it free to travel where traditional civil-rights organizations and nonprofits cannot. Traditional nonprofits and civil-rights organizations rely on what their funders require of them, she said, limiting what they can do, and how they can do it. But that’s not the case with Black Lives Matter, she said, where young, tech-savvy organizers are only limited by their imagination. “I would say one of the main differences about Black Lives Matter, in my experience, is that it’s driven by the energy of young people, their ingenuity and their brilliance.”

Neighborhoods Organizing for Change Field Director Mike Griffin said that the sort of change advocated by Black Lives Matter Minneapolis comes from two paths: protest in the streets and pragmatic legislative goals. And BLM Minneapolis has worked closely with NOC to help achieve those legislative goals.

Currently, Griffin said NOC and BLM Minneapolis are working on several initiatives in both Minneapolis and at the state Legislature, including increased transportation funding in north Minneapolis, a citywide $15 minimum wage, stronger language in Minneapolis police body camera policy and a worker’s bill of rights.

One major piece of legislation, Griffin said, is the Felon Voting Rights Restoration bill, which would potentially give 60,000 felons in Minnesota the right to vote after they’ve served their time.

Anthony Newby, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change executive director
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
Anthony Newby, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change executive director, talking to the press at their Northside office.

“If you think about governor Dayton in 2010, he won by 8,000 votes,” Griffin said. “If 60,000 people are going to have their freedom to vote by the next presidential election, we can fundamentally change the election.”

For Griffin, local activism has come a long way in the short time since Occupy Wall Street, and he sees the current progress as just the beginning. “What’s good about Black Lives Matter and NOC is that people of color, specifically in Minneapolis, are getting well organized. This year we are going to do things that actually make black lives matter.”

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Comments (55)

Do these activists...

have real jobs? While they are out there planting seeds of discontent the majority of us are working and sometimes being inconvenienced by their civil disobedience.

try to read the article...

where it stated Mica Grimm works for MPIRG, August Nimtz is a professor at the University of Minnesota, Anthony Newby is the executive director of a non-profit, Nekima Levy-Pounds is a law professor at St. Thomas, and Mike Griffin is a field director for a non-profit.

How were you unable to accurately read an article this short?

I did....

read it. For many of these folks I'm still curious.

The goals that this article

The goals that this article lists for Black Lives Matter Minneapolis and Neighborhoods Organizing for Change are admirable, and can and should be supported by many Minneapolitans.

But currently, the groups' Minneapolis-specific initiatives seem to be focused on removing certain low-level crimes from our city's ordinances, because apparently a high percentage of those cited for committing those offenses are young black males, especially downtown. Public spitting and "lurking" are being presented by Council Members Yang and Gordon for elimination from the books; they will be permitted in future, if their proposal passes. These are complaint-driven minor offense citations, not cases of police "targeting."

The Star Tribune editorial page has come out (March 23) against the removal of livability crimes like spitting and "lurking", because there is a problem with certain behaviors downtown that make the area seem dirty, often dangerous.

I think it's interesting that the reporter here focuses on initiatives that we all can get behind, and fails to mention what the BLMMinneapolis and NOC (or some members of those groups) are actually doing in Minneapolis.

Don't Forget...

....there is also a substantial effort to challenge the private space ruling at the Mall of America. The alignment of that activity to the goals above is pretty tenuous and reinforces that the misguided protest has continued to prove a distraction from real issues.

Then tell me how to effectively protest...

I don't know how it happened, but Minnesotans are obscenely quick to complain about the right to protest. Workers rights, environmental rights, women's rights, civil rights - they had protests, they were probably annoying, and I bet people complained just like all of you.

Protesting works best where there are people, it get's really cold here, Mall of America is indoors and has the effective brand name recognition to project a protest story into the news and start discussions like this one.

What real issues? Have you ever run a campaign, a business, etc? There are many working parts, different strategies, seemingly pointless small battles; you try it all within the broader campaign - until it works, or it exhausts itself. Making the Mall of America open to protest, a precedent already set in a city in Colorado by deeming it the public square, would do wonders for the many causes that are simple for the majority of us to ignore.

oh thats different

I was unaware the only place where the public assembled that day was in the private, case law decided, mall of america. I forgot there were no public spaces available or any public locations where the public or publicity would have been generated. And of course as you mentioned #stayingwarmandcomfortablematters.

I can't tell if you're being serious??

I'm at a loss as to how you think you should be allowed to invade private property so that you can protest in comfort. I don't want property law changes made so it can do "wonders for your cause". There are plenty of places you can organize and protest to avoid trespassing....or you could engage in civil disobedience and pay the price, like so many others have done in the past.

"It's really cold here"? You must really be committed to your cause! I'm just imagining MLK refusing to walk in Selma until he could get more comfortable shoes, or Rosa Parks deciding it wasn't worth it because there wasn't airconditioning on the bus.

and the rest of the story...

...the night the Missouri grand jury announced it wouldn’t be indicting Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of unarmed, black teenager Michael Brown...because there was absolutely no evidence to support such an indictment.

I guess I missed the second part of that lead sentence.

Or then the bit about "the controversial arrest of 11 members of BLM Minneapolis".

It's only controversial because they didn't want to be arrested. They were warned beforehand that any such protest would be illegal, the MOA offered a compromise site, and they chose to act as they did. How was this surprising or controversial?

But one should never miss an opportunity to perpetuate a useful myth by eliding facts or adding qualifiers that steer readers to the "correct" conclusion. Key tenets of "community organizers" and their media enablers.

I'd like to think MinnPost can do better than publish PR.

Faux civil disobedience

In former days when civil disobedience was a real badge of courage, it was fundamental to be willing to pay the price - get arrested, clog up the legal system, go to jail if necessary - to underscore your commitment and the gravity of the issue. It was used to highlight and oppose unjust laws or policy. not to seek sympathy as victims, as these folks are doing in the MOA matter.

What a change since the days of the civil rights struggle and the Vietnam War !!

I would guess these folks think of themselves in the same light as the protesters of those former days. If so, I would say they - and in particular, their advisors - are confused.

My protests were the best protests...

How is fighting the charges not clogging up the legal system?
Does everyone have to be super hardcore about a cause to "prove" they care?
How are they seeking sympathy as victims by fighting the charges?

Protest doesn't need to fit into your specific definition, it can be anything and everything. I don't know why people continue use their personal definition as a means to belittle a seemingly successful demonstration - we are still talking about it, aren't we? Isn't that one of the most important parts about protest, to stimulate discussion around an issue?

You would guess wrong, having counted Mica as a friend of now 10 years. The only comparison she has ever drawn, is that she and your hardcore examples, are both protesting inequality.

Also, what advisors? This is the second commentator that thinks this is some sort of top down conspiracy.

Some answers to your questions

("Does everyone have to be super hardcore about a cause to "prove" they care?")
First, I guess you are characterizing anyone who is prepared to pay a price as "super hardcore", so I guess making a commitment and acting on it is something you find extreme - and in today's world, it has become extreme. Most prefer what you prefer - Protest Lite. No, of course everyone does not have to be prepared to pay a price, and most would never do so if they could avoid it, as was true in the protests over civil rights issues and the Vietnam War.

("How are they seeking sympathy as victims by fighting the charges?")
See your legal advisor, Ms. Levy-Pounds' column of 3/19 in which she characterizes herself as "me — one of the people being unjustly prosecuted" in the MOA matter; and "pursuit of these cases amounts to a misuse of prosecutorial discretion".

See the definition of victimology: "the possession of an outlook, arising from real or imagined victimization, that seems to glorify and indulge the state of being a victim".

Also, compare with Dr. King's statement about civil disobedience:

"An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.”

("Protest...can be anything and everything.")
There is profound confusion here. No, it can't be anything and everything.

("Also, what advisors?")
See Ms. Levy-Pounds column of 3/19 regarding her confused claims on the rights of anybody and everybody to use the private space of the MOA for whatever they want to - but I guess this fits right into your "anything and everything" theory.

You're wrong on why it's controversial

It's because there are lots of people on both sides of the issues that disagree, and it's prolonged, public, and heated (Google controversy, I just did). People disagree on them being arrested, on whether the charges should be dropped, and also on whether the MOA should be considered the public commons. It's not that they didn't want to get arrested, they knew it was likely and they did it anyway.

What's with this conspiracy to mislead people? Is it because you disagree with them? Media enablers? This is a piece on how the group was put together so successfully, and you are surprised it paints them positively?

Does BLM have a point?

First, change the name, “Black Lives Matter” is condescending.

Beyond that, BLM still has no direction, no point. It is fine to disrupt the freeways or malls, but what is your point? You either don’t have a point or have poor methods of getting it out.

I’m sure if you asked BLM, they would state a purpose for their organization, but they don’t seem to know what they are doing. Sure they protest, but there is no connection between their protests and their goals. All we hear about is how bad they are being treated by police and other government officials (btw, MOA is not racist, as you state). BLM is all about someone else doing something wrong. I’d like their leadership to actually lead, to actually give direction. Children are watching you. Do you really want kids to run around shouting about the latest news item? How is that leading them forward?

I’m waiting for BLM leaders to realize they do not, alone, have the solutions and are willing to work with more positive groups. Until then, they are simply noise.

huh

First, change the name, “Black Lives Matter” is condescending.
Says the white guy. Nicely done, being offended however.

All these assumptions...

First, saying Black Lives Matter needs to be all inclusive with its name is ridiculous. You have a special kind of what-about-me low key racism I simply don't understand. Are you mad St. Patrick's Day has origins in celebrating Irish heritage?

What if there point was to stimulate discussion? Then it seems really successful, so much so that you are here commenting.

Why must a movement/group/protest fit your personal checklist? You have lots of assumptions on, and requirements of a movement - why don't you join them and help lead them?

When did they say they have the only solutions? If they are just noise, then what brought you here to comment?

No assumptions...

That is the point. I am with them. I want them to do well. But they are shooting themselves in the foot and creating enemies when they could be doing good by leading. I'd love to sit down and talk with them. Give them my number.

I never said they needed to be inclusive. I am not sure where you got that. And in your first sentence, you called me racist. Shame on you. I tutor black teens and have for years.

Why do they have to be black teens...

Being called any sort of racist isn't fun, and please don't let a little assumptive name calling diminish the great work you do. You have to see that saying "First, change the name, “Black Lives Matter” is condescending." comes off poorly, even if you didn't mean it. Condescending is defined as having or showing a feeling of patronizing superiority - I didn't get that from the name, and you did. Can you better explain why you think the name should change?

When a protest group is just starting out, how people perceive them isn't primarily important as it's largely out of their control. I don't see them as shooting themselves in the foot, I don't think they are creating enemies with a few protests - would you want allies with such thin skin? If you want to talk to them here is their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/BlackLivesMatterMinneapolis, and I am sure there will be an event you can attend.

To state the obvious, being a tutor for black teens and a little racist aren't mutually exclusive. It's important to recognize your own assumptions, as everyone is a little racist - also the name of this Avenue Q song/video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RovF1zsDoeM

"I never said they needed to

"I never said they needed to be inclusive. I am not sure where you got that. "

Then what did you mean by:"'Black Lives Matter' is condescending."?

Is the American Cancer Society condescending because they don't also work on multiple sclerosis?

Protests

I am surprised at the number of negative, irrelevant comments here. I always wonder when the first comments some people make is -- get a job. I have taken part in some protests and I know many of the other people who have taken part, specifically in MOA, and every one of them is a hard-working, taxpaying person -- most work harder than any of you commenters. Are you aware that black people are arrested at many times over than white people FOR THE SAME OFFENSES. Do you know that at least 70 police departments scattered from Connecticut to California arrested black people at a rate 10 times higher than people who are not black, according to USA TODAY? Are you aware that black males are stopped for absolutely NO OFFENSES, or that they may be stopped and arrested for things like spitting, where no white person would ever be arrested? Do you understand white privilege? Do you really think children are affected by people protesting for their rights and are not totally aware of what they see every day -- their brothers, fathers, uncles and others being stopped, arrested, humiliated in various ways? Are you aware that many many (hundreds) of people, who are protesting, ARE also working with more positive groups like.the Ujaama Men and Save Our Sons and a dozen other groups? Do you understand what "livability crimes" (they aren't crimes) are really about?
I suggest you do some reading, such as "The New Jim Crow," or some publications that give you REAL news, not the crap we get every evening in the Twin Cities about fires and sick kids. I am really ashamed when I read some of these comments by my fellow citizens who have their heads in a hole when it comes to these issues.

Agreed

Agreed, Ginny. Agreed.

Black lives matter

And are you aware that white people use illegal drugs MORE than black people (they are expensive) but black people are arrested at much higher rates than whites? (Look up the statistics if you don't believe me.) I think too many people are so poorly informed, they simply do not know what's going on in their world and they don't seem to care -- but they feel free to comment without any knowledge. Get with the program. Learn something before you speak.

Oh yes, I am well aware of

Oh yes, I am well aware of the drug use statistics, specifically. It's a tremendous irony that the war on drugs has really just a war on brown people who, who happen to do drugs at a lower rate than whites, who are basically NEVER targeted by the war on drugs.

I become much more personally acquainted with this whopping disparity the first time I ever rode in a car in Minneapolis with a black person in the passenger seat, in 2001. It was the first, and only time, I've ever been pulled over in Minneapolis.

Leadership

Ginny, the thing is, many people already know what you have written. The problem is what to do from here. You listed a zillion things about the difficulties of black youth and adults. I hear the same arguments when a black organization is criticized. I heard them over and over at the BLM rally at Snelling and University. I'm not arguing with those facts.

Let me restate that... I agree with EVERYTHING you wrote above.

I'm asking what do we do from here?

Black Lives Matter is making a lot of noise but their message has little positive for black youth to grab on to. What if, on their FB page, they posted pictures of ten successful black business owners from the Twin Cites or ten positive things a popular black business person does every day? This is what our youth need, something to pull them forward. BLM does not do that.

I used to think MinnPost was a liberal web site...

Apparently I'm on Ted Cruz's Facebook page. I have been doing some reading about white people and their reaction to racism and to Black people, how most whites like to think themselves free of racism but then get upset at black people who call them out on their enjoyment of white privilege.

For the poster up above who said these protesters lack something that the War and civil rights protesters from the 60s had, I beg to differ. As well as being a Viet Nam veteran, I was at the protests at the U during the Cambodia invasion. I marched down Hennepin avenue just before Bush invaded Iraq, blocking traffic the whole way.

You are right to say "what a change since..." the old days. I remember the smell of pot at those Cambodia invasion protests, I remember the sounds of rock bands and loopy speakers. What I don't remember is cops in riot gear and I bet no one was getting high at the MOA.

This web site and its readers may think themselves liberals and racism free but lately this site is looking way too white for me, a white guy from the suburbs. I support BLM; the cause is worthy and the participants are sincere.

MinnPost Understands the Value of the Conversation

While I think that MinnPost is a liberal leaning news outlet, they allow differing views on their moderated comment board. Would you prefer a lot of preaching to the choir, all commenters walking in lock step with the author of each column? As a conservative, I read more liberal leaning news; I am not seeking the comfort of an echo.

If you don't remember cops in riot gear in the 1960s, you may not have been paying attention. Here is a protest montage from the 1960s to refresh your memory of what it was like. Not all of the clips are U.S.A.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmvyNwmZuWo

Very amusing Bill

Thanks for diagnosing me as a Cruz following, guilt ridden white guy because I have a difference of opinion. I think BLM should rent out your smugness. It's size could block more streets than any number of protesters they could round up.

You and Ginny love to point out that there's racial inequality. Wow, Breaking News! First, I'd like to sort out racial inequality vs economis inequality. It might help us better understand the issues, then come up with solutions. And I'm tired of a movement that was built on a lie. All the evidence shows the Ferguson shooting was justified. And as I type this, 2 more cops were murdering this morning. I believe CopsLivesMatter too.

You want to get support and understanding? Drop the lectures and condescension, then maybe we can talk.

Condescension

Saying things like 'CopsLivesMatter' or 'WhiteLivesMatter' is also condescending. The general american electorate doesn't need to be reminded of these things.

I guess I don't see how a DOJ report, such as the one that was issued on Ferguson, cannot be seen as justification for protests. The entrenched police power structure in Ferguson was NOT there to serve the black population, if anything, the black population was being targeted and used to serve the police and city. So, while the death of Michael Brown was the catalyst for these protests, it's NOT the root cause.

Besides, when people are consistently targeted and harassed, it becomes harder and more difficult with each subsequent negative interaction to keep your cool and not become aggressive, in this case, towards Police. Almost no-one cotwows to a bully forever.

Nice hindsight Jonathan

I agree that the report of systemic problems within the city gov't in Ferguson is cause for concern. Unfortunately for you, that wasn't the basis for either the riots or the MOA protests. You can't alter the timeline to suit your argument.

Go read the DJ Tice column in the Strib from a month ago to get the other perspective. You think being "targeted", "harassed" and "trying to keep your cool" aren't issues faced by cops on a daily basis? Go ahead and keep lecturing us, without listening, if that makes you feel better. But it won't begin to solve the problem..

Why thank you,

So you are saying that the only reason for the #BlackLivesMatter protests are exclusively the death of Mike Brown, nothing else? I was saying that the death of Mike Brown was a catalyst for protests about the systemic maltreatment of, specifically, black people, at the hands of the police and justice system.

Does any protest by any black person, on or after the 10th of August, 2014 is only related to Michael Brown? I think not.

You also said the death of Mike Brown was the cause of the 'riots.' I assume you mean in Ferguson. Those were the response to the non-indictment of officer Wilson.

To your last paragraph, I guess I don't recall where I've ever said the police don't have a difficult job, or one that's dangerous, or that I've ever said we don't need police, etc etc etc. But I'll tell you something, and that's the no-one is born a cop. That's a decision that a person made, as an adult, to become a police officer. And that job comes with baggage. And people generally respect the police. And they are far more immune to prosecution than most. And they are underpaid.

You CAN be born black, in this country, however. That also comes with baggage. And a disproportionate incarceration rate.

Oh, and one more thing.

#BlackLivesMatter started after the killing of Trayvon Martin. So it pre-dates the entirety of the Brown/Wilson/Ferguson/MOA affairs.

Thank you, Ginny Martin.

Just that; thank you for your response. I am reading The New Jim Crow, now, and am horrified in learning about the US incarceration industry that has been laying waste to Black individuals, families, and communities for decades, largely since we started "the war on drugs." We have been locking up Black youth and men for non-violent drug offenses at rates many, many times that of White youth and men, *for the same offenses.* And then White people ask, "What's the problem with Black communities? And why are they protesting?" Read the book, if you are interested in a well-researched, compelling response. You may be inspired, actually, feel compelled, to join the march.

BLM

Very frustrating. These people (basically 'community organizers') are giving a lot of young people some VERY BAD ADVICE.

Black or white, the secrets to both success in life and not getting shot an killed by police are relatively simple. The fact that they DO NOT LIKE THAT SOLUTION is not MY problem, or a problem with The System.

Beginning and end

This piece starts with description of a young woman’s rage that she felt when she learned that Officer Wilson was not indicted for the death of Michael Brown. Well, even Department of Justice now concluded that Officer Wilson didn’t do anything wrong and “hands up, don’t shoot” was based on a lie. So who should feel the rage now?

Skipping the middle I will jump to the end: Should we really be enthusiastic about giving “60,000 felons in Minnesota the right to vote?” Do you want those people to change the election?

Indictments

On this particular point, I can see why you might be confused, but most of the people who wanted the grand jury to indict also assumed that the indictment wouldn't lead to charges. The issue, is that there WAS enough evidence to indict at the time, and even more so in the aftermath of the DOJ report on the Ferguson PD, which detailed, often excruciatingly, persistent and systemic racial animus and targeting of the black community of Ferguson. And, I think we can all safely assume that Ferguson isn't some statistical aberration, but is more likely the norm.

Ginny, Ginny, Ginny!

I just want to pile on the thank yous to Ginny for her comments. Also to Riley for putting a good definition, "low level racism", on some of the comments here.

And yes, Steve, I value the conversation but before all the secondary posts showed up this was looking like the "poor white me club". And I don't need a video montage to remember my own experiences. Sure the cops at the 68 Democratic convention were in riot gear. As I recall that was ultimately called a police riot. But almost always back then cops weren't dressed like soldiers ready for heavy combat. They were dressed in their regular clothes for peaceful protests just like they should have been at the MOA. That protest was planned to be peaceful and any escalation was done by the other side for the sake of earning propaganda points.

"What I don't remember is cops in riot gear"

"What I don't remember is cops in riot gear". Something jogged your memory.

Ginny, you tipped your rhetoric hand with the statement, "every one of them is a hard-working, taxpaying person -- most work harder than any of you commenters" . I find it hard to believe that you know that much about the protestors and the commenters. Have we met?

Jonathon, what would be the point of an indictment without charges? Your statement, " The issue, is that there WAS enough evidence to indict at the time, and even more so in the aftermath of the DOJ report on the Ferguson PD", reveals that your have not read the DOJ report on Officer Wilson. Here is an excerpt from it, with a link following the excerpt.

"Federal statutes require the government to prove that Officer Wilson used unreasonable force when he shot Michael Brown and that he did so willfully, that is, he shot Brown knowing it was wrong and against the law to do so. After a careful and deliberative review of all of the evidence, the department has determined that the evidence does not establish that Darren Wilson violated the applicable federal criminal civil rights statute."

http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-announces-findings-two-...

Sorry, I hadn't seen your

Sorry, I hadn't seen your question posed towards me until now.

I think that, properly going through the motions in our justice system is very important. Even if we can reasonably assume the outcome of a case or verdict (say, the trial of Brian Fitch in the murder of Officer Scott Patrick), we still have to go through the trial, consider the evidence, and make the final declaration.

Everyone can see the process, it's transparent, and it comports to the ideals and spirit of American jurisprudence. And it gives everyone a sense of legitimacy about the process and ultimate decision.

With the case of Officer Wilson,the Ferguson PD, the justice department, and Michael Brown, you can look to the environment that the DOJ report describes in detail as being objectively hostile and discriminatory towards the black community there. Mike Brown was a member of that community, that has been deemed to have been unfairly targeted. Officer Wilson was a participant on the other side of that equation. Whether or not there was sufficient evidence to indicate wrongdoing on Officer Wilson's part should have been determined after an indictment was issued.

An indictment of Officer Wilson would also have been, circuitously, an indictment of the Ferguson PD. And Officer Wilson would very likely have been cleared of any official wrongdoing. Generally, I'd say that we should be able to be deferential to those who are sworn to protect and serve us, but that doesn't mean that those who ARE sworn to protect and serve should be above the law. By shielding Officer Wilson from an indictment, it tells the black community that police officers are more equal than they are, in the eyes of the law.

Backwards Timeline

The DOJ investigations and reports occurred after the grand jury decided that there were insufficient grounds for indictment. Stating that the officer should be indicted for crimes of the department, isn't how our justice system rolls; guilt by association is not part of American jurisprudence.

The DOJ report on Officer Wilson supports the action of the grand jury; the grand jury is to be commended. If indictments should be handed out automatically, as you seem to deem prudent, there is no need to convene grand juries.

I didn't state the officer

I didn't state the officer should be responsible for the 'crimes of the department,' of which he WAS a contributing member, but I am saying that the DOJ report does in hindsight warrant an indictment; because the very kind of stops, such as the one involving Mike Brown, fit a pattern of behavior by the Ferguson PD.

Your 2nd paragraph is just obtuse. I've never said that indictments should be handed out automatically, although in most cases that do NOT involve officers, they are.

Are you familiar with the story?

Leading up to the shooting, Brown stole tobacco from a convenience store and shoved the store clerk. Officer Wilson had been notified by dispatch of the robbery and the suspect's description. He encountered Brown and Dorian Johnson as they were walking down the middle of the street blocking traffic.

Is this "they very kind of stop" that is a problem in Ferguson?

I am familiar with it. Are you?

And you've made an incorrect declaration. The chief of police in Ferguson, Tom Jackson, stated in a press conference a week after the killing, in which he first named Officer Wilson as the officer involved, that the alleged robbery wasn't the cause of the initial stop,

The Ferguson police officer who shot Michael Brown didn't stop him because he was suspected in a convenience-store robbery, but because he was "walking down the middle of the street blocking traffic," the city's police chief said Friday.

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson -- hours after documents came out labeling the 18-year-old Brown as the "primary suspect" in the store theft -- told reporters the "robbery does not relate to the initial contact between the officer and Michael Brown."

http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/15/us/missouri-teen-shooting/

Because you are more familiar ...

Because you are more familiar, you would should be able to explain how a police officer encountering Michael Brown and Dorian Johnson as they were walking down the middle of the street blocking traffic is "the very kind of stop" that is a problem in Ferguson.

Brief us on how this behavior warrants no police attention.

Riot gear etc

Bill,
I was working for the Chicago Police Department in 1968 and well remember what happened. I saw most of it on my TV like everyone else because, my husband and I went downtown the Sunday before it started and a police photographer told us, in no uncertain terms, to go home and stay there; trouble was brewing. He knew that from his association with the cops. I learned a few (deeply disappointing) things later, and it was all enough to send us back to Minnesota the next year.
The cops were dressed in regular blue uniforms and riot helmets--they didn't look like Darth Vader. But more recently and closer to home -- remember the Republican Natl. Convention in St. Paul? They WERE dressed like Darth Vader and they were hostile, antagonistic and looking for trouble, stopping people a mile or two away who were just trying to cross the High Bridge to go to work. A friend was nearly arrested.
It's surprising that no one was killed in any of this. In Chicago, one man, I believe a seminary student, lost an eye, but when the police crushed the crowd against plate glass windows at the Hilton Hotel, people escaped serious injury. The appearance, the attitude, the tactics have only gotten worse.
And most of these protesters were white. Wonder what the outcome would have been if they had been black.
I repeat: please inform yourself before you start making claims or suggestions.

Police....

at the RNC convention were prepared for violence because those who protest a conservative agenda are more prone to do it in a violent and destructive manner. It does not matter if they are black or white.

Violence

Do you have any facts or statistics for saying those who protest a conservative agenda are more prone to violence? If you do, give us those facts. All of the protests around here have been non-violent, including the several marches, the MOA event, the Black Lives Matter march a couple of months ago, the Selma to St. Paul march, and others.
There was violence at the center of the action but I don't think you can say they were protesting a "conservative" agenda. They were protesting their treatment by the police over decades and the serious violence has been on the police side. 76 men and women who were killed in police custody since the 1999 death of Amadou Diallo in New York alone. That is true all over the country, including in St. Paul where 2 unarmed black men have been killed in the last 2-3 months.

ginny

I stand corrected on your quibble. But what's the point? My point was that back then cops were less likely to be in riot gear. I excepted Chicago just to acknowledge that there were exceptions. My information about Chicago may be lacking because I was in the army in Germany during the convention, soon headed for Viet Nam. I thought you and I had similar positions in this post string but I guess mistaken once again. You stand alone.

So you are saying you moved to Minnesotat because of the Chicago police riot of 1968?

yep

Yes, I moved back to Minnesota because of the Chicago Police riot. I quit my job because I could not longer ethically work for it. We left as soon as we could make arrangements for jobs and housing.
I believed that the CPD had reformed under reform Superintendent O.W. Wilson. As soon as he announced his retirement, the corruption lying just under the surface (and maybe not that far down) emerged in full bloom. I felt disillusioned and full of sorrow. Some of my police friends were part of that riot--nice guys, had had excellent training, one even sent to Berkeley for an MA in police administration. Nevertheless, none of that seemed to matter much when they confronted the mostly young people in the park and on Michigan Ave (not all young, either; many passersby caught up in it). Daley goaded them but they were ready to swing their batons and a couple of them admitted it. I cry when I see videos of that event and its aftermath. It could have been avoided and lots of people tried to tell the city administration that.

It worked.

People are learning more about the reality of racial profiling. And I was there in the 60s. I do remember Chicago and Kent State, and much else. And I was on Hennepin Ave. protesting the invasion of Iraq. That being said, the only useful comparison to BLM protest at MOA that I can see is that a lot of people woke up to the fear and heavy hand of the authorities at the time when they saw their youth shot down on a college campus, just as they did when television showed firehoses and dogs turned on civil rights marchers. And I think that a lot of people were shocked by the full scale riot police preparation for an organized, extraordinarily peaceful gathering at MOA. Yes, demonstrators understood they could be cited for trespassing, given legal precedent on MOA privilege (despite having received public money). Should they be held accountable for the "turn out the troops" fear-driven response which occurred? I don't think so.

Protests

Selma on TV, along with accounts of killings of people (many white) who were trying to help blacks get the vote) woke people up to the reality of life for blacks, especially in the South. So much so when MLK put out a call for clergy to respond about 600 (I think) showed up, and one was subsequently killed, a white Unitarian minister along with several other people (don't forget the 4 little girls killed by a bomb in a Birmingham church). The publicity and the videos about black unarmed men and children (don't forget the young boy who was shot seconds after a cop pulled up to the playground where he was sitting on a sandbox) are creating awareness, and with it, outrage among white people who needed this brought to their attention. That's why people engage in loud, visible, controversial activities. If you don't, everything goes on as before because not enough people realize what's going on. People have to be disturbed, their routine has to be disturbed, before they pay attention. So wake up. Pay attention. Read "The New Jim Crow" and other books. Stay awake.

It's not a surprise...

That some of the founders of this movement are young and inexperienced. Let's hope they learn from their mistakes moving forward.

One thing to keep in mind is that nothing is being invented here for the first time, it's not the first time in US history that someone has challenged a racist or otherwise prejudice status quo. BLM would to well to remember that and maybe try to borrow some lessons from previous movements, especially when it comes to civil disobedience and getting arrested.

Don't be surprised when you provoke some hostility, and don't expect a lot of community support from liberals or others right out of the box... the issue your trying to raise consciousness about is REAL after all. They don't call it institutional racism for nothing.

Good luck.

One other point

I think it's important to distinguish between hostile dismissal's of BLM actions and criticisms. Some people are just hostile and unsympathetic, others are sympathetic but frustrated.

I'm in the latter camp, and it looks like most people here on Minnpost are between sympathetic and frustrated although there are a few obviously hostile players.

I just wanted to point this out because I've seen some people complain about the lack of sympathy even here on Minnpost, and I think it's important to realize that you may have more "sympathy" than you realize.

I think it's important to understand however that in any movement that it's not about YOU per se. You don't need people to sympathize with YOU, you need people to sympathize with the people you're trying to represent, in this case people of color being oppressed by a racially biased police regime. It doesn't matter whether or not people sympathize with mall trespassers, it does matter whether people sympathize with black men being choked to death for selling cigarettes.

The problem with making it about YOU, is that you don't get to define how the community relates to you. If the community decides your heroic in some regard great, but if they decide something else you're a distraction, the more people focus on YOU the less they pay attention to the issue your trying to publicize.

My problem with the MOA action is that I think it's been a huge distraction. Malls, and public forums, and trespassing, and private property, and the fate of mall trespassers are not real problems. There isn't even a legitimate claim of racial discrimination against the MOA. Why are we talking about these things when an unarmed homeless man was just shot to death on the sidewalks of LA? And every week at least yet another person of color is killed by police somewhere in America? The fate of a couple dozen trespassers don't amount to a hill of beans in this world compared to the actual violence, oppression, and bigotry people of color face every day in this country.

You have my sympathy, but that's not going to get you off the hook for trespassing. The trespassing is a done deal, it's a slam dunk. This was predictable and it was predicted. To the extent that anyone can even argue that these arrests and prosecutions are some kind of injustice (and that's debatable) it's small beans compared with being shot and killed by an off-duty cop in a dark hallway in NY. Let's get back on message.

Well said !!

The underlying fundamental issue is a matter of life and death, and of the basic human right - allegedly guaranteed in our legal system - to be treated equally before the law – NOT to be singled out for exceptional treatment because of your race, sex, religion, or cultural heritage.

Tragically, our system as a whole does not deliver on this promise.

WHY on earth, then, would BLM focus their energies and attention on the relatively trivial matter of protesting on the private property of the MOA ?

And WHY would BLM's LEGAL ADVISOR, Ms. Levy-Pounds, distract them – and the public at large – with the same confusion ?

On the fundamental issues of human rights and equal treatment before the law, you have not only my support, but you COULD HAVE the support of the vast majority of Minnesotans - indeed, of Americans.

But on the issue of “We want to protest at the Mall of America without getting the required permit”, then whine when the certain result naturally follows…you’ve lost me and anyone else who truly cares about the fundamental issues.

You’ve made a mistake in your confusion. As Paul has suggested, it’s best to keep an open mind about the reactions you’ve seen – maybe there is something you could learn here. Don't blow it.

Indictment: Right or Wrong

I know it was a small part of the article, but it started the article and it is a large part of the comments and I wanted to speak up about it. Personally I tried not to follow the trial or the evidence or listen to the public for one simple reason: everyone will hear what they want from the evidence. It has become a fact of society with public trials. Without being at the actual scene, no one should pass judgement on what actually happened. Opinions should not be formed on hearsay that is why it is not used in court. If you were put on trial for killing someone, would you want your trial based on what ten people heard happened or would you prefer to have rock solid evidence proving what happened. That is why there are two sayings used in the justice system "Innocent until proven guilty" and "Beyond a reasonable doubt." It may not always be what American citizens like, but when you are in the defendant, it becomes appreciated.

Yes to Prosecution

It is very, very simple - if you comply with Law Enforcement, chances are you will not end up in as much legal trouble. BLM was told prior to their event to not bring it to the MOA or they would face consequences. The fact they cannot understand that really is not surprising to many of us. The reason they are in this mess is that they simply refuse to comply with Society's Rules and Regulations that are set up for ALL of us. Quit looking for places to lay blame and start looking for ways to become productive members of society. That goes for EVERYONE, including Whites!