Hodges, Ellison call for an end to 4th Precinct occupation

Credit: Photo courtesy of the mayor's office
Credit: Photo courtesy of the mayor's office

Mayor Betsy Hodges, Congressman Keith Ellison, City Council President Barb Johnson and many other North Side community leaders are calling on protesters to end their occupation of the 4th Precinct police station.

Protesters have been camped out at the police station for more than two weeks as a sign of support for Jamar Clark who was fatally shot by police near the precinct on Nov. 15.

Community leaders say the barricade of Plymouth Avenue has posed safety challenges and inconvenienced many people in the neighborhood.

At a press conference at Farview Park in North Minneapolis on Monday morning, Hodges said she’s been “working day and night” to find a way to end the occupation of the precinct while still allowing peaceful protest.

She said she’s not issuing a deadline for protesters to end the occupation and hopes they will leave voluntarily.

“The occupation of the 4th Precinct is unsafe for everyone,” she said. “It distracts from the large work of racial equity that we must do, and we stand here as a community to say that the occupation must end.”

Ellison said while he supports the goals of the protesters, the encampment has had several unintended negative impacts on the neighborhood, including attracting domestic terrorists and making it harder for people to get around given that many people are transit dependent in the area.

Johnson said the fires at the encampment pose a health hazard to people who have asthma in the area, including seniors with respiratory problems leaving at the nearby senior public housing facility.

“We have a responsibility to maintain order in our city,” she said. “It is an inconvenience that would not be tolerated anywhere else in the city.”

Rev. Alfred Babington-Johnson, president and CEO of the Stairstep Foundation and longtime North Minneapolis resident, said it’s time for protesters to find another space to gather and turn attention to City Hall and the state Capitol.

“We need to move forward with new goals and new tactics,” he said.

At a Monday afternoon press conference, Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds said she stands in solidarity with the protesters who intend to remain at the 4th Precinct. She said city leaders have long known of police abuses within the Minneapolis Police Department and have done too little to address the problem.

“We will not continue to tolerate abuse, harassment, and the criminalization of black and brown people in the city of Minneapolis. We will stand with the community until we see a complete overhaul of the criminal justice system and policing practices in the city of Minneapolis,” she said in a statement.

Black Lives Matter is planning a rally outside City Hall on Tuesday at 4 p.m. Leaders plan to urge Hodges to support releasing tapes of Clark’s shooting. They will also be urging Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman to appoint a special prosecutor to file potential charges against officers involved in Clark’s death and will be calling for local leaders to develop a community protection plan to protect community members from retaliation from the Minneapolis Police Department.