Last Sunday morning, November 14, Minneapolis police officers arrested #JamarClark, a young Black man from North Minneapolis. While there are many versions of what happened during the few minutes after his arrest, we have heard over and over again during the past week that Clark was unarmed, handcuffed, and on the ground when police officers shot him in the head. He died a few days later at the Hennepin County Medical Center.
Since last Sunday, we have witnessed a powerful swelling of action and resistance that has become known as the #Justice4Jamar #4thPrecinctShutdown. Protesters, following the leadership of groups like Black Lives Matter - Minneapolis, the Minneapolis NAACP, and the Black Liberation Project, have been camped out on the lawn of the 4th Precinct. Hundreds and hundreds of people have gathered for peaceful demonstrations, protests, marches, and community healing rituals. Community members have shown up in a steady stream, bringing donations of food and warm clothing and firewood to the protesters and offering one another moments of solidarity, tenderness, and shared struggle. While the media reports about “agitators,” those of us on the ground have witnessed a beautiful blossoming of community support, accountability, and building power.
The protesters’ demands are simple: #ReleaseTheTapes (video footage from bystanders who witnessed Clark’s killing) and address the larger system that allows law enforcement to systematically target and kill Black and Brown people with impunity. Instead, though, peaceful protesters this week have encountered police decked out in full riot gear, pointing guns and shooting marker rounds at the crowd, and pepper spraying protesters indiscriminately. We have also seen media coverage blatantly skewing and misreporting what those of us who have consistently been on the ground have been witnessing.
And then, on Monday night, a group of white supremacist terrorists—young white men decked in masks and Kevlar bulletproof vests who had been making threats against the protesters all week—opened fire on members of the protesting community who were asking them to leave. Five people were shot and injured, and reports and police scanner information indicate that law enforcement delayed responding to the incident and allowing emergency medical services to bring aid to the injured. Police also pepper sprayed the crowd shortly after the shooting. Again last night, shots were fired near the protests. Luckily, no one additional was hurt but we expect such resistance and terror to continue.
My friends, this uprising has become much bigger than Jamar Clark alone—just as other uprisings around the country have been about more than Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Tanisha Anderson, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, and too many others.
This is about the moral imperative to dismantle the system of white supremacy that we have each inherited and in which we have all been steeped.
This is about the moral imperative for us to be agents of universal salvation to each and every person on this planet, bound up together as workers in the grand enterprise of collective liberation.
To put it another way:
Whether or not we agree with the tactics of the protesters, we are called to say #BlackLivesMatter.
Whether or not we support the police and the current criminal justice system, we are called to say #BlackLivesMatter.
Whether or not we know know all the details of any particular incident, we are called to say #BlackLivesMatter.
Whether or not we believe the victims of police violence were “innocent” or not, we are called to say #BlackLivesMatter.
This week, I have had the privilege of standing shoulder to shoulder with many of my UU neighbors and kin, as well as hundreds from other groups and communities. I am proud of the witness we have provided thus far, and I am inspired by the ways our people continue to show up and show out as we attempt to practice a spiritual discipline of followership. We are in this work together, for the long haul, because none of us is free until all of us are free.
So, my friends, how will you show up? Can you join us down at the 4th Precinct at the events that are happening there over the next few days? Will you post reports from the people on the front lines—not just officials and the media? Will you support Black Lives Matter -Minneapolis, and commit to having conversations about racial justice with your family over the Thanksgiving table this weekend?
We need ALL of us in this work. That means you, too.
Thank you to all of you who are already deep in it. Courage to those of you who are just finding your place and your voice. May we all be blessings to each other on the journey.
In faith and solidarity,
Ashley Horan, M.Div
Minnesota UU Social Justice Alliance (MUUSJA) Executive Director