In the weeks after Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced the officers involved in the shooting of Jamar Clark will not be charged, Black Lives Matter Minneapolis (BLM) and the NAACP are demanding the case be reopened.
Months of protests and rallies have ravaged Minneapolis in the months after the fatal shooting of Clark, a 24-year-old African American, by officers responding to a domestic abuse call on Nov. 15. Since then, protestors have been fighting for charges against the officers involved.
Freeman announced on Wednesday, March 30, during a press conference that the officers, Dustin Schwarze and Mark Ringgenberg will not be facing indictment in the shooting of Clark in November. During the conference, he played the long-awaited video footage witnesses took in the aftermath where the shooting took place and provided a step-by-step testimonial of the events and investigation.
BLM issued a press release last week stating, “Mike Freeman spent thirty minutes demonizing Jamar Clark and invalidating community accounts of what transpired, only giving credence to the words of the police. Mike Freeman basically functioned as a defense attorney for the police, and not as a prosecutor for the people.”
The case was unprecedented to Hennepin County, as Freeman made the decision without the aide of a grand jury – which in the past was required for all police shootings in which a victim dies.
BLM, NAACP and the Justice 4 Jamar Coalition had demanded that there be no grand jury in the Clark case; which they believed would help bring indictment to the officers involved.
After Freeman announced his decision, many are wondering if demanding no grand jury was a good strategic move.
Pastor Jayme Ali of God of All Truth Church and One More for Jesus Outreach Ministry said, “I personally do not think it was wise to ask for no grand jury. In all my time, in all my year, any cases, I think that was a big mistake, a big, big costly mistake for justice at this point by asking for no grand jury. That’s the reason Mike ‘Fraud-man’ jumped on it, because at that very moment he became judge, jury and executioner.”
Ali said she believed that out of a grand jury, no matter where the people came from, at least one person would have been undecided in the case.
“That’s all it would have took for a hung jury and that would have got us back to square one, at least on a legal stand-point against these killers, these killer cops,” Ali said.
Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds wrote, “Justice was not served in Jamar Clark’s case. His case is one of many examples that shows that the system does not value Black lives or Black voices. We demand that the officers who killed Jamar Clark be held accountable under the law for their actions. We will not rest until we get justice.”
Organizers have kept to their word, continuing to hold rallies, meetings and vigils addressing the case. They have continued their weekly “Freeman Fridays” rallies in which protestors gather at the Hennepin County Government Center at Freeman’s office, where they hope to make a change.
The Friday after Freeman’s announcement, organizers and supporters gathered for a vigil in the place Clark was shot.
Among protesters was Freya Zank, who has taken a stance against the Minneapolis PD, protesting with others since November.
“I was disappointed, but I wasn’t surprised,” Zank said of Freeman’s decision “Because there have been so many cases where officers have killed people of color unjustly. Not a single one has been indicted since 2000. I wish I had enough faith in our government to be surprised.”
Russicha Watkins joined the group of supporters for the vigil. To her, the outcome made her feel unsafe and nervous for the future.
“It made me feel like the police can get away with anything they do. It’s like they don’t treat the crimes the police do like they would treat the crimes one of us would do,” Watkins said. “To me it’s like they’re making excuses for the police and it’s not fair… His life matters as well, if it was a white kid and a black police officer, would the verdict have been different? I believe so. I relieve it’s the color of the skin.”
Freeman said during the press conference that a dozen witnesses told investigators a combination of contradicting testimonials saying that one or both of Clark’s hands were handcuffed while he was shot, others said he wasn’t handcuffed and others said they weren’t sure.
He said 10 law enforcement agents and the paramedics claim he was not handcuffed when he was shot, which played a part in his decision to not charge the officers involved.
Since the incident on Nov. 15, the officers were placed on administrative leave, as is standard procedure in police shooting situations. They returned to desk duty back in January.
Protestors say they plan to continue the fight, hoping for the case to be reopened and appointed with a special prosecutor.