By Nekima Levy-Pounds, Esq., President, Minneapolis NAACP
Every time I see a picture of Jamar Clark's face, I get emotional. I am reminded of the fact that Jamar Clark was a son, a brother, a friend, and a member of our community; and were it not for our acceptance of a horrid culture of police violence, he might still be alive today.
Jamar Clark was only 24 years old when he was shot in the head in the middle of the night by a Minneapolis police officer. His death left a tremendous void in the community and a multitude of grief, pain, suffering, and unanswered questions.
While it is true that no matter how hard we try, we can never bring Jamar Clark back to life, his memory lives on in each of us fighting for freedom, justice, and equality and an end to police violence in our community. For eighteen freezing cold days in November, hundreds of people from all walks of life and different racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds stood steadfast in occupying the 4th Precinct Police Station near the place where Jamar was killed on Plymouth Avenue in North Minneapolis, Minnesota.
We braved tear gas, rubber bullets, freezing cold temperatures, and vitriol, violence, and hatred from white supremacists who detested our presence outside of the 4th Precinct. We also experienced backlash and demonization from political and community leaders more interested in shutting down the occupation than ensuring that justice would be served on behalf of Jamar Clark and other victims of police violence.
In the midst of the daunting and traumatic conditions we faced during the occupation, there was a strong sense of community and solidarity, in which many brave souls came together to declare that #BlackLivesMatter and that indeed, Jamar Clark's life mattered. In front of the 4th Precinct, I witnessed community members, teachers, students, activists, pastors, children, gang members, people with disabilities, the elderly, mothers, brothers, sisters, and fathers come together and create a sense of Dr. King's vision of the 'beloved community.'
Every day, ordinary citizens brought food, clothing, hats, gloves, coats, and firewood out of the kindness of their hearts and a deep need to stand up for the rights of a person whose life was cut short due to senseless police violence. Community members stood side-by-side and shoulder-to-shoulder demanding justice for Jamar Clark, an end to the culture of police violence, and that the tapes showing his killing at the hands of Minneapolis Police Department be released to the general public. In spite of freezing cold temperatures, community members were prepared to stay in front of the 4th Precinct for as long as it took to get the tapes released by governmental authorities and law enforcement agencies.
Sadly, the occupation was forcibly evicted by law enforcement in the wee hours of the morning on December 3, 2015, bringing an end to the occupation, but not an end to our fight for justice. Our desire to know the truth of why and how Jamar was killed at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department has recently caused the Minneapolis Branch of the NAACP to join the ACLU of Minnesota to file a lawsuit demanding the release of the tapes of the Jamar Clark shooting.
It is imperative that the tapes be released to the public in order to ensure transparency and accountability in circumstances involving violence at the hands of the police department. It is an open secret that the Minneapolis Police Department is out of control and has been responsible for abusing many people over the last several years, particularly those who are African American and without a voice in our society, as evidenced by the millions of dollars that have been paid out as a result of excessive force complaints that have been settled by city of Minneapolis officials.
This groundbreaking lawsuit that we have filed signals an end to our acceptance of the status quo and "business as usual" in the city of Minneapolis.
We are ready to see justice prevail in the land. We are demanding accountability and transparency. We are demanding release of the videotapes that document the shooting death of Jamar Clark at the hands of Minneapolis Police. But most importantly, we are demanding an acknowledgement of the humanity of African Americans in the city of Minneapolis and beyond. Jamar Clark was just 24 years old. He was unarmed. He was African American. He was human. He deserves to have the truth come out in his case. It's simple...#releasethetapes. The truth shall set us free. #BlackLivesMatter