On the evening of March 30, 2016, hundreds of people gathered to attend rallies in Minneapolis held by Justice4Jamar and Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, two groups that have advocated for the indictment of the officers involved in the shooting of 24-year-old Jamar Clark.
Clark was shot and killed on November 15, 2015 in North Minneapolis, after a short encounter with two police officers in the early hours of the morning. Some witness reports state Clark was in handcuffs when he was shot in the head, while other accounts state he was not and tried to grab one of the officers’ guns. Officials at the county, state and federal levels have been investigating Clark’s shooting. Clark’s death has sparked a series of protests over the course of the past four months at Minneapolis’s Fourth Precinct and the Mall of America among other locations, highlighting the tense relationship between the city’s police department and its black residents.
While one of Wednesday’s rallies took place at Elliot Park in southeast Minneapolis, another group of demonstrators gathered at the site where Clark was shot, in north Minneapolis.
Both rallies eventually merged and marched to the Hennepin County Government Center, where earlier that day Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman released his decision not to charge Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze, the two police officers involved in Clark’s death.
Batala McFarlane, from North Minneapolis, attended the rally at Elliot Park to show support for her neighborhood and for familial reasons.
“My son’s only 20 months,” McFarlane said, “but you always think, you know — I’m going to have to raise him to be mindful of what he does, and that hurts me, and I shouldn’t have to explain to him that not everybody’s going to be patient with him, the way he’s being patient.”
McFarlane said she believes the way forward is through political empowerment and continued conversations.
“Even if you’re not a viable candidate, build a team behind you so the next time you are ready,” McFarlane said. “Because there really has to be a deep look at our policies, and our voices really, really need to be included in policy making; it seems like now more than ever. If this is the environment we’re in now, how’s it going to be when my son is 24?”
At the steps of the Government Center, numerous activists, many of them young, including pastors and poets, delivered messages of hope and unity to the hundreds of people gathered there. A rally showcasing many different speakers is typical for Black Lives Matter. They have said they want to be distinguishable in part by their lack of centralized leadership and focus on a wide variety of voices from black communities.
One of the speakers featured was Rev. Carmen Means, a pastor at the Movement Church in south Minneapolis.
“They thought that when they gave out the news today that it would destroy us,” she said. “They thought that we would tear Plymouth Avenue up; they thought that we would burn the houses down; they thought that we would kill our own people. But we are an intelligent people! That have banded together to make a point!”
She then engaged the crowd in a chant: “What they will tolerate, we will demonstrate!”
Other speakers included one of Clark’s nephews, Michael Burns, who thanked the crowd, Black Lives Matter and Justice4Jamar for their efforts, and organizers from the Black Leadership Project and other movements.
Several Macalester students also attended the rally.
Shaonan Xi ’18 attended the rally in support.
“For me it was just to be an ally, to be part of a greater community, to fight injustice,” Xi said. “I feel like when I had my issues to fight for, people were there for me, even though those probably weren’t their issues, so I feel like I should be here to give back in the same way to the community.”
Xi was there as a volunteer for a campaign supporting the Police Insurance Amendment, which aims to get police officers to carry their own liability insurance as a condition of employment.
“[The campaign is] one way, a possible, concrete way to change the system, to change the mechanism of how the police operate and how money and police departments operate,” Xi said. “I feel like this could make a change.”
Jessie Miller ’16 was also at the rally on Wednesday. She has been involved with Black Lives Matter since the group’s beginning.
“Am I that positive about this situation? No. But will I keep fighting? Absolutely,” Miller said. “I’m hoping that since Black Lives Matter has been getting such national momentum over the last year, that it continues to gain momentum, and that it gets some really great wins.”
While much of the crowd dispersed around 8:30 p.m., a number of demonstrators returned to the Fourth Precinct to continue the protest.