I’ll admit to not normally being afraid. But here in Minneapolis we’re waiting for Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman to make a decision about the Jamar Clark case, and I am terribly afraid of the potential for this situation, already rife with fear, sorrow and loss, to end with only more of the same.

Last November 15, two Minneapolis police officers, Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze, were involved in the shooting death of 24-year-old Jamar Clark. Clark was shot after police responded to a call about a woman being assaulted. According to a CBS Minnesota website summary of the case on March 26, 2016,

Police say they were called to the block on a report that a man had assaulted his girlfriend and was interfering with paramedics at the scene. Clark allegedly struggled with officers before he was shot. Witnesses claim Clark was handcuffed on the ground when he was shot, which police and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Investigation immediately disputed. The officers were not wearing body cameras.

The shooting, and Jamar Clark’s subsequent death on November 17th after being taken off life support, were followed by an 18-day occupation of 4th Precinct, 1925 Plymouth Avenue North in Minneapolis. The demonstrations at the precinct were largely peaceful, although there was property damage (Police Chief Janeé Harteau estimated $40,000 in a CBS Minnesota timeline of the case) and protestors disrupted traffic on Plymouth Avenue with an encampment. It was reported that some police felt emergency response was hampered by the blocking of Plymouth Avenue. On the night of November 23, five protesters were shot near the precinct by people witnesses say were associated with the white supremacist movement. Four men were arrested and charged in the shootings.

In related protests around the city, on November 15, 42 protesters were arrested after marching onto Interstate 94 and disrupting traffic for nearly 2-1/2 hours. On December 23, 12 protesters were arrested after a demonstration that started at the Mall of America moved to the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.

On March 16, Mike Freeman said that his office, and not a grand jury, would decide the case by the end of March.

They haven’t decided yet. The decision is supposed to come any day now.

I am afraid because I don’t know how everyone is going to be satisfied. No, that’s not why I’m afraid. I’m afraid of what happens both if the two policemen ARE charged with murder and if the two policemen ARE NOT charged with murder. I’m afraid that we have already made up our minds about whether or not the policemen should be charged. I’m afraid and saddened by the fact and the potential of violence against whoever is innocent and guilty among us–Jamar Clark, the woman who was receiving the care of the paramedics, the policemen and God only knows who else.

Police Chief Janeé Harteau angered some, including Minneapolis NAACP president Nekima Levy-Pounds, by announcing on March 24 that the MPD will not tolerate violence in the wake of the decision. According to the CBS timeline article,

Levy-Pounds says the police chief’s comments were divisive and suggests that a decision in the case had already been made.

That’s not what I heard but that’s part of the problem, isn’t it? Who hears what. How we hear. I guess right now I just wish we would all listen to the facts of the report by Mike Freeman, when it it comes.

But I’m afraid we won’t. Or that we won’t believe in the fairness of the investigation, the truth of the report, even if we do listen. And there’s the biggest problem, as far as I can see. Somehow we have to back up, get to the point where everybody’s in. Where no one is afraid of  being marginalized, afraid that the lives of the people we love don’t matter.

I don’t know what it will take. But I think it’s possible. Call me a dreamer, or Minnesota Nice, but I don’t think anyone should live in fear.





  1. Nice post Donna. I feel the same way about minds being made up. It’s a messy, complicated world and peoples strive for simple stories: good cops and bad guys, or bad cops and good guys. One thing good fiction does is resist that kind of simple storytelling.

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