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Minneapolis: Proposed charter amendment on police won’t be on November ballot

By Jess Sundin

Community responds with demand for community control of MPD

Danielle Burns, sister of Jamar Clark, at the microphone, Loretta VanPelt and Ja

Minneapolis, MN – The Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar (TCC4J) was joined by community supporters and Jamar Clark’s family for a press conference demanding community control of the police and a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC). After working on CPAC for years, organizing has been kicked into high gear by the uprising for George Floyd and empty responses from local politicians. Two months after nine Minneapolis City Council members declared a “commitment to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department,” even their empty promises have stalled out.

One such response was a city charter amendment proposal that hit a hurdle in city hall last week. As TCC4J’s Jae Yates said, “On Wednesday, August 5, the Charter Commission requested more time to consider the city council’s proposed charter amendment, effectively making it ineligible for inclusion on November’s ballot. While some non-profit organizations were in support of the amendment, Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar maintains that the amendment is toothless, put forth mainly to placate and silence protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.”

“The proposed charter amendment was at best a symbolic gesture and at worst lessened police accountability for past and future crimes,” Yates continued. “In opposition to the charter amendment, TCC4J instead demands community control of police, which will meaningfully curtail the as of yet unchecked power of the MPD to terrorize Black, brown and low income communities. The CPAC legislation puts all oversight of police misconduct back into the hands of the communities that are being policed and provides continuous engagement for community members to address grievances. CPAC consists of a directly-elected all-civilian council, and has final authority over discipline, up to and including subpoena power and the convening of grand juries. In short, the CPAC legislation has all of the details that the city council’s proposal lacked.”

Jae Yates mentioned that efforts to defund the police can’t move forward without community control over the defunding process. “CPAC gives us that control. We are demanding that CPAC passes and is put on the ballot so that we can vote on it, so that we can get control over these violent police that are policing our communities. Essentially, what the city council has given us in response to a call for justice for these stolen lives is a rebranding PR attempt.”

In contrast, TCC4J’s Sam Martinez described CPAC, “We’re here today to talk about a people’s charter amendment, and that would be for community control of the police. Over the next year, we will be gathering our forces along with organizing in the community for our coming charter amendment in 2021.”

Longtime TCC4J organizer, Loretta VanPelt, said, “We still have work to do. We have work to do to make sure that we hold these killer cops accountable for what they’ve done to the countless families in the city that have lost loved ones to the police and have gotten no justice whatsoever. That’s the main focus of community control, is to hold the cops accountable. It’s to hold the people in city hall accountable too, cuz they didn’t do their job either. Just telling us that, ‘yeah, we’ll dismantle, we’ll defund,’ that’s just symbolic. You could’ve done that five years ago when Jamar Clark was killed, in 2013 when Terrance Franklin was killed, or in 2006 after Fong Lee, or 1991 with Tycel Nelson.”

VanPelt also addressed a rallying cry of many proponents of the derailed amendment, “I’m for defunding the police. We have a huge homeless problem in this city right now. Several parks have tents in them with people who are living in them because there's no other place to go. I could tell you a better way – that the money that goes to overpolice all the Black and brown and low income communities could get those people homes. We could be funding our schools better. We could be funding all the other infrastructure.”

TCC4J has begun collecting endorsers for CPAC. Speaking for one of those endorsing organizations, the Anti-War Committee’s Meredith Aby-Keirstead said, “We are very concerned about the game that City Hall is playing, where they’re literally trying to put window dressing up. We have not had an outpouring of public outrage of literally tens of thousands of people since the Iraq War. I have seen firsthand how angry people have been and I feel like it’s important to listen to that anger. The people in city hall are more interested in keeping their jobs than they are in actually changing the conditions on the ground that affect people here in Minneapolis.”

Daphne Brown, a TCC4J member who’s been organizing against police murders since Terrance Franklin was killed by MPD in 2013 declared, “Nothing short of CPAC is what we need and demand. We don’t want no Community Safety and Violence Prevention Department! Council members, mayor and government in city hall, we don’t want that piece of shit y’all trying to give us. We do not want it. We want what we demand, which is CPAC. That’s the only thing that’s gonna give us the power back to protect our community, protect our families and protect ourselves.”

Brown was also critical of the backroom dealings that brought forth the proposed charter amendment. “To the council members that came up with this, you went behind our backs! Andrea Jenkins, Jeremiah Ellison, y’all know that’s not gonna help us.” She continued, “We still got killer cops out here y'all. How can we accept anything from these people, knowing we still got killer cops on our streets? The same police department that killed Jamar Clark, two of their officers killed Thurman Blevins. Y’all happy with that? They killed Travis Jordan. Y’all happy with that? We got serial killers in all of our departments out here, riding our streets out here, hunting us down. We not accepting nothing y'all offer. What y'all need to do before you come off of them round tables, you need to be discussing, you need to be having an action, firing these killer cops out here. That’s the first thing y’all should’ve done before you asked us to accept anything. You should’ve been getting these killer cops off the streets.”

Brown also blasted the process for community comments on the proposal, “When you put together this online event, we had teachers that couldn’t even get on! Because y’all railroaded us for this piece of bullshit. It’s crap. Y’all wanted us to accept it and stuff, but we not gonna accept it. I did everything I could to get on that online event, I wrote down every prompt that it was talking about doing, and still couldn’t get through. So that doesn’t work for our communities out here. It does not work for us. Before you come back with another online event, you need to make that…public. You need to make it public, so we can talk face to face, behind your glass window or whatever. But you get all of this offline because it’s not working for us. The way you all got this shit set up, can’t nobody get through. You make that public so people can get out and come to it. We’ll social distance if that’s what you want. Wear our masks if it’s what you want.”

The final speaker was Danielle Burns, “I stand here as Jamar Clark’s sister. Jamar was killed by the 4th Precinct police, November 15, 2015. When Jamar was killed, a lot of people came around us, and we thought they was around us to support us, we thought we trusted. But there was a lot of people that was lying to us. It was wrong, ok? Now it’s these same folks putting forward a fake fix with their city charter amendment. Changing the police department’s name, that’s not justice.” She continued, “It’s the community members like my family that knows what it’ll take to make real changes. We been through it, we’ve been through this. So they should hear us. No changes should be made, but through us. We stand with the people that stood with us. We demand community control of the police. Enough is enough! Why? Why do we have to continue to go through this wickedness? Why? But you know, it’s a fight, and we in for the long haul. We in it for the long haul. My brother had a purpose and his family gonna fight. Justice for Jamar!”

#MinneapolisMN #PeoplesStruggles #PoliceBrutality #TwinCitiesCoalitionForJustice4Jamar #civilianPoliceAccountabilityCouncilCPAC