Protesters condemn police brutality, shootings

by Amy Hackbarth and Monica LaBelle

More than 150 people gathered Wednesday outside Minneapolis City Hall to protest police brutality and encourage community solidarity.

Amid chants, poetry and pleas for an end to police corruption, community members and activist groups expressed support for City Council member Natalie Johnson Lee.

Johnson Lee wrote a letter to her 5th Ward constituents following the Aug. 1 deaths of Minneapolis police Officer Melissa Schmidt and Minneapolis resident Martha Donald, who allegedly shot Schmidt and was then killed by police fire. In the letter, Johnson Lee called the women “fellow citizens – two fellow human beings,” a remark that drew criticism from a police union.

Johnson Lee spoke to the crowd Wednesday, thanking citizens for their support.

“This event is much more than who I am,” Johnson Lee said. “I deliver the message and you deliver the response.”

The crowd answered by requesting a full investigation into Schmidt’s and Donald’s deaths.

“One police officer has died in the past 10 years. How many other people have died?” said James Everett, a Minneapolis resident who spoke at the event. “We feel no sympathy for them because we’re getting killed every year.”

Others mentioned the police shooting of a 19-year-old Minneapolis man last week as further evidence of police brutality. They said they want to see stricter penalties for police officers.

“We need some concrete legislation to stop racial profiling,” said Wendell Clark, who attended the protest. “We want safer, more responsible law enforcement.”

University junior Vanessa Krake said she attended the rally because she knew people who had been beaten by the police.

“Murdering people should not be legal,” Krake said.

Protestors also heckled a group of police officers who stood across the street watching the event. At one point, a man yelled at one black officer, “This is not about bashing police officers. But just remember, you were black before you were a police officer.”