Student helps draft landmark agreement

Koran Addo

While some college students spend their summers at the beach, University student Marie Clark spent hers in a stuffy office building helping draft Minneapolis’ landmark federal mediation agreement.

Clark, an architecture senior, was the University’s representative in the seven-month negotiation. The agreement intends to improve police-community relations, including racial tensions and perceived excessive force. It also outlines acceptable police procedures when using force, police accountability and dealing with the mentally ill.

In a process fueled by mistrust on both sides, Clark said, she had to prove herself to her own community mediation team. Some said they questioned why a young, middle-class white woman was included in the work.

Clark, the project’s youngest participant, said she saw it as an opportunity to step outside her comfort zone for something that resulted in a positive outcome.

“We all came from different realities; we’ve all made mistakes. Human beings deserve respect even if they are doing something wrong,” she said. “We want (law enforcement) to police our neighborhoods, but we want them to do it well.”

An endorsement from former Minneapolis Police Chief Robert Olson and City Council member Paul Zerby, who represents the University area, indicates Clark was an active participant and not a passive observer in the process.

“She made a significant contribution to the betterment of the city,” Zerby said.

“I think when they saw me, they thought I was just going to sit in the back and not say anything, but that’s not my style at all,” Clark said.

Clark and the other participants helped turn a four-page project draft into a 24-page agreement that both community members and police officials signed, said Booker Hodges, a community team member.

Clark pointed to certain aspects of the agreement as successes, such as making police complaint forms available in different languages and locations around the city, including University Student Legal Service.

Although satisfied with its completion, Clark is disappointed with some parts of the agreement. For instance, she wanted to end the use of flex cuffs, an alternative to handcuffs in large crowds. The University’s reputation as a riot-ready population ensured use of the cuffs, which police admit can harm people, she said.

At other times during the project, Clark became frustrated balancing the time-intensive negotiations with her academic standing, suffering for something she felt many students didn’t care about.

Friends Liz Berres, a fellow architecture student, and Minnesota Student Association President Eric Dyer encouraged Clark to continue on behalf of University students.

“I knew that what she was doing was important,” Berres said. “She won’t hesitate to stand up for what she believes in and I trust her to make the right decisions on my behalf.”