2016 was a tremendous year of growth for us, even as the year marked a national turning point with the election of Donald Trump. We challenged cities and counties to change their policies, and won; we won key state policy changes even with a divided legislature; we moved $75 million in state and city budgets; and we pressed presidential candidates on the issues facing Black America. We took to the streets to mourn the deaths of Jamar Clark and Philando Castile and demand justice; we won policy changes to hold the police accountable and invest in public safety alternatives. And we proved over and over again that we can make the impossible possible; that organizing works. We're building a movement and gaining momentum.
Here's a look back at NOC's year in review for 2016:
-We started the year in January with a convening in Iowa
with organizations from around the Midwest and presidential candidates Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders. We're committed to building power with organizations throughout the Midwest, a region that consistently has some of the highest racial disparities in the country. We held workshops on reparations
and pressed O'Malley and Sanders for targeted solutions for underserved communities.
-On February 12, we held a forum on Black America with Bernie Sanders at Patrick Henry High School, the first presidential campaign stop in north Minneapolis from a major party in more than 20 years. We pressed Senator Sanders on issues specific to the Black community, including reparations. More than any other event throughout Sanders' campaign, this forum brought the issues facing Black America to the forefront and pressed him to make them a priority.
-We held a forum on Black America in August with Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, where she elaborated on her support for reparations and community members had an opportunity to ask her questions directly.
-In January, news broke
that a St. Paul police sergeant, Jeffrey Rothecker, had been encouraging motorists to run over protesters at Black Lives Matter rallies. When Rothecker said he hadn't meant it, we released screenshots
of him saying the same things on the NOC Facebook page. Rothecker lost his job with the St. Paul Police Department in February.
-After thousands of people signed our petition for no grand jury in the death of Jamar Clark
, Hennepin County became the first county nationwide to eliminate the use of grand juries for police-involved shootings in March. Grand juries have never indicted a police officer for killing someone in Minnesota, and are often a tool for county attorneys to avoid transparency and responsibility. Eliminating grand juries for these cases is an important step toward accountability and justice.
-When the St. Paul City Council was poised to vote to keep police officers on the civilian review board, we joined concerned citizens and organizations throughout St. Paul in November to convince the council to vote for an all civilian review board with no police. Hundreds of NOC members contacted their council member. Two days before the vote, only one council member wanted to remove police from the civilian review board; 48 hours later, the proposal passed 5-2. Council President Russ Stark called it the most dramatic change to a City Council vote this year.
-We kicked off our campaign for safety beyond policing: investing public money in alternative holistic safety solutions and divesting from antiquated systems that originated in slavery and do not keep our communities safe. We brought our campaign to the Minneapolis budget hearings, where we successfully pressured the Minneapolis City Council to include $1.5 million for safety beyond policing
measures in December.
United Black Legislative Agenda
We partnered with Black organizations from different communities around the state to push a united agenda
at the state legislature for economic justice, criminal justice, and Black immigrant justice. This marked the first time in at least fifty years that so many people came together united for a Black agenda
at the Capitol.
As a result of this agenda
, the legislature
- Allocated $35 million focused on jobs and employment in communities of color
- Passed sentencing reform with a negotiated agreement that reduced penalties for first time 3rd degree possession (raising threshold from 3g to 10g) and provided judges with more discretion for 4th degree possession, among other things. Not only will sentencing reform reduce the number of prison beds and save the state money, it also reinvests that money into drug treatment, mental health, and chemical dependency.
- Passed voting rights restoration in the Senate, but the House did not bring it up and it did not become law.
- Passed a bill that can add up to 25% of the maximum penalty for crimes that are committed as a result of bias, based on race, religion, sexual orientation and other protected classes -- making sure hate crimes are punished more appropriately.
-Working with partner groups, we successfully pressured the legislature to allocate:
- $1 million for full-service community schools;
- $25 million for early childhood education options, including pre-K;
- $12 million for education support professionals, such as school counselors and social workers
- As well as a policy change to shed light on a shortage report for diverse districts with a shortage of teacher diversity.
-After Philando Castile, an educator in the St. Paul Public Schools, was murdered by a St. Anthony police officer, we partnered with the St. Paul Federation of Teachers and Minneapolis Federation of Teachers for a #Teachers4BlackLives march in his honor, demanding justice for Philando and safety beyond policing in our schools.
-We helped shape the Minneapolis school board race through a candidate questionnaire and forum about racial equity in the public schools.
-We were proud to be part of the successful Vote Yes for Kids campaign to renew funding for the Minneapolis Public Schools.
-This year, we hired an environmental justice organizer for the first time, making room for environmental justice to become a major campaign at NOC.
-At the request of community members who had been leading the campaign for years, we joined the fight against Northern Metals, a metal recycling plant causing disproportionate air pollution in north Minneapolis. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency sued them over a permit violation. The case is currently tied up in court, but we are hopeful the shredder will be shut down.
-We joined with a coalition fighting to shut down the HERC incinerator, a major cause of poor air quality in asthma in north Minneapolis and Phillips neighborhoods.
-We answered the call for solidarity to Standing Rock, and collaborated with our friends at MN350 to send a bus of Minnesotans to stand with the water protectors. The water protectors at Standing Rock, putting their bodies on the line to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, demanding clean water and Native sovereignty, set a powerful example of resistance. Though the fight is far from over, we were thrilled and inspired to see the eight-month Native-led resistance culminate in a big win when the Obama administration and Army Corps denied a permit to the pipeline company.
-After we exposed the Twins' practices forcing temp workers to stand in line for hours unpaid, the Twins stopped using temp workers. Then we discovered they were busing in workers from out of state to fill the gaps. We exposed this practice on Kare 11
, and the Twins held job fairs locally to fill the extra positions.
-Not to be outdone, St. Paul followed with an even stronger paid sick time policy in September that covers all workers.
-Partnering with 15 Now Minnesota and CTUL, we obtained enough signatures in June for a $15 minimum wage charter amendment to qualify for the Minneapolis ballot. A poll showed that 68% of Minneapolis voters supported our charter amendment.
In August, the Minneapolis City Council voted not to put our charter amendment on the ballot. We sued them, and won.
The city appealed to the Supreme Court, where the district court opinion was overturned and the charter amendment was struck from the ballot. Because of our pressure, the City Council has started the process of a minimum wage ordinance, which was considered politically impossible before our ballot campaign. A broad coalition of labor, faith, and community groups have joined the campaign, and Mayor Hodges, who had said for two years that she opposed a wage increase, now says she supports it. We look forward to passing a $15 minimum wage for all workers in 2017.
The president of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve, and the Federal Reserve's only president of color, Neel Kashkari, has made commitments to partner with NOC and allies in 2017. Kashkari will live a day in the life of a NOC member, and leverage the power of the regional Fed to create real world solutions to the region's overwhelming equity crisis.
The election of Donald Trump and his agenda of white nationalism, misogyny, xenophobia, and environmental destruction calls for a resistance like most of us have never seen in our lifetimes. The good news is, it's already started. Since the election, we've already seen inspiring acts of resistance throughout the state -- from highway shutdowns in Minneapolis, to water protectors challenging pipelines in Bemidji, to a sanctuary city movement in Northfield.
Trump's election demands that we organize resistance more urgently than ever -- to win bold policy changes at the local and state level, stop Trump's destructive agenda, build independent political power, and advance a vision of the boldly progressive future our communities deserve. We're launching a campaign to Resist, Revolt, and Unite against Trump. Join us.
As we look to an uncertain future, we know that independent member support is what has allowed us to grow and succeed so much over the past few years -- and it's the key to staying strong, resilient and agile through the Trump administration. To all our members, thank you so much for all your support. If you're not a sustaining member yet, please become one today. You can also support us with a one-time contribution.
Thanks so much for all your support. This is how we build resistance and win -- together. We'll see you in 2017.