Despite a narrative from the mainstream media and Mayor Hodges that the occupation of the 4th Precinct was unsafe, many Northside residents felt much safer there during the community occupation than they had when the space was dominated by police. The community members occupying north Minneapolis’s 4th police precinct transformed the space back into what it was before the precinct was built: a community center. Hundreds of people have been involved in occupying and providing firewood, hot food, milk, winter clothing, and other aid to the occupiers.
At 4 a.m. Thursday morning, the Minneapolis Police Department raided and destroyed the peaceful community encampment--including a food and clothing bank--at the 4th Precinct. The Monday before the raid, Mayor Hodges issued a letter from a “community coalition” calling for the encampment to disperse. Yesterday afternoon, the City Council’s Public Safety Committee held an unannounced public hearing in which a handful of people specially invited by Council Member Blong Yang were allowed to testify, demanding an end to the occupation.
In addition to the occupation, the killing of 24-year-old Jamar Clark by Minneapolis police officers has sparked numerous conversations about the treatment of the city’s Black residents by the police, and has called into question the mayor’s effectiveness in protecting her constituents on the Northside. The officers responsible for the killing, Dustin Schwarze and Mark Ringgenberg, are both currently on paid administrative leave.
Yolanda Hare, a long-time Northsider, has been involved in past Black Lives Matter protests including the demonstrations at the Mall of America and at Highway 55. While she has no “official” role, she supports the protests by driving people to and from the precinct, providing security, bringing food, and occupying to space. Having lived over North for a long time, she attests that she is just now meeting neighbors, and other people she would not organically meet, outside of this occupation.
Daphne Brown, a resident of Brooklyn Park and supporter of the occupation, agrees. She feels that through these protests she’s formed bonds with people that she has yet to form at her work and in her apartment building. “I feel a love I’ve never felt…akin to a mother’s love,” she testifies, and stresses the importance of prioritizing time to come to the occupation a few hours every week. “It needs to be understood by employers that we are sick and tired from racism everyday, people who have been [at the 4th precinct] deserve to be excused.”
Xross, a local rapper and radio show host expressed appreciation for the amount of people coming together at the #Justice4Jamar march last Tuesday, despite the violent attack the previous day by white supremacists. The shooting, he says, had the opposite effect. It caused more people, White and Black alike, to take more notice in the issues that the occupiers are dealing with. Despite the shootings, as well as the lack of support by the mayor, many are inspired by seeing the city come together, particularly the young people showing up for support. “There’s light in the tragedy,” says Batala MacFarlane, a Northsider and publisher of Insight News. She continues, “I’ve felt myself opening up my capacity to love, even when faced with fear.”
Students across the city walked out of school and showed solidarity with the occupiers at the 4th Precinct the day after the white supremacist shooting. North High students walked out, joining the march on Plymouth Ave. While it wasn’t pre-planned, a group of students made posters, announcements, and joined the protest at 2pm. The students articulated that they felt the need to “show support on behalf of the North High students,” showing the community to know that the students are aware of what is going on in their own backyards. Since the march, students from local high schools and colleges have organized their own solidarity demonstrations, as well as participate in the events at the 4th Precinct.
The occupation has served as a catalyst for many changes. Undeterred by last night’s police raid, occupiers are determined to abolish the injustices in the current justice system--injustices which, without the pressure from the occupation, may have gone unopposed for many more years. Many feel like they’ve been a victim of the system, and refuse to leave without doing something about it.