MINNEAPOLIS — Several hundred protesters peacefully took to the streets in northeast Minneapolis Saturday in a plea to defund the Minneapolis Police Department following the death of George Floyd on Memorial Day.
Floyd died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes — sparking international outrage and prompting a national conversation about defunding or downsizing police departments.
Organized by the Minneapolis-based advocacy group Black Visions, the event began at Bottineau Field Park, passed by the Minneapolis Police Federation’s union headquarters, and ended outside Mayor Jacob Frey’s home.
While several members of the Minneapolis City Council support disbanding the department in favor of a model emphasizing community safety, Frey has said he favors reforms instead.
As protesters stopped near his home, Frey emerged and said, “I do have to take responsibility. I have been coming to grips with my own responsibility, my own failure in this.”
When protesters asked whether he will defund the department, Frey said, “I do not support the full abolition at the police department.”
The march featured poetry readings, indigenous prayers, dancing, placards of all sorts and chants of “George Floyd!” and “Black Lives Matter!”
When the throng pulled up outside police union headquarters on University Avenue, which is surrounded by chain-link fence, they shouted, “You are about to lose your job!” A banner that stated “Closed for Business” was draped near the building.
The police presence at the march was limited to a few officers on bicycles who kept their distance. Organizers of the march, wearing bright orange and yellow vests, some on bicycles, redirected traffic away from the marchers’ path.
Participants pushed strollers, hoisted toddlers on their shoulders, and walked dogs — the demographic appeared to skew toward people in their 20s and 30s.
Addressing the crowd, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., said city officials should “not only disinvest in the police department they should completely dismantle it.”
In general, the idea involves changing the role of a traditional police department to one with a public safety mission that seeks to prevent violence and promote community-based services.
Natasha Byers of Bloomington said she attended the march and supports the cause because “police are destroying black folks, they’re killing us for no reason.”
Others said they were hopeful change will occur. “I want to be able to walk outside my home and not be afraid that I’m going to be attacked by police or die,” said Jaaz Cousin of Minneapolis. “It’s our generation, this is the world we live in.”
The Minneapolis City Council voted on Friday to ban police officers from using chokeholds and neck restraints, and strengthened rules for officers to intervene if a colleague is using excessive force. The council’s action still needs a judge’s approval.
(Staff writer Cathy Roberts contributed to this report.)
©2020 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)