Black Lives Matter Minneapolis leads ‘Reclaim MLK’ march

The #ReclaimMLK rally and march drew thousands to University Avenue in St. Paul on Monday. Credit: Photo courtesy Black Lives Matter Minneapolis

The group Black Lives Matter Minneapolis led a silent protest at Gov. Mark Dayton’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration at Macalester College in St. Paul on Monday and then a 4-mile march to the state Capitol.

The #ReclaimMLK rally and march drew thousands of people to University Avenue to denounce police brutality and call attention to the state’s notorious disparities among people of color and whites. It ended with a candlelight vigil at the Capitol for Marcus Golden, who was fatally shot by St. Paul police Jan. 14. Police say Golden was driving toward one of the officers at a fast speed in his SUV.

“We are happy that members of Marcus Golden’s family accepted our invitation to participate in Monday’s #ReclaimMLK March,” said Lena K. Gardener, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Minneapolis. “… The Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area is no exception to heightened levels of policing and excessive police violence against black and brown community members. We join with thousands across the country on Monday to demand meaningful changes in law enforcement policies.”

The community group was also involved in the Mall of America protest on Dec. 20 that has resulted in charges against protest organizers.

Black Lives Matter Minneapolis issued a statement Monday with a list of demands for state leaders, including statewide legislation to end racial profiling by law enforcement, mandatory bias and cultural competency training for police officers, the establishment of an independent community review board for police departments with full disciplinary powers, and statewide adoption of police body cameras, among other things.

The group has also called for Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson and the Mall of America to drop charges against organizers of the Mall of America protest.

“We voice our opposition to the status quo and demand action that holds the authorizes accountable to the people and community they serve,” group leaders wrote.

Earlier on Monday, noted civil rights leader Vernon Jordan delivered the keynote address at the 25th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Breakfast at the Minneapolis Convention Center. 

Jordan became the field secretary for the NAACP in Georgia in 1961 after earning a law degree from Howard University Law School. In 1992 he served as chairman of Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign. Today he is a senior managing director of Lazard Freres & Co. in New York. 

“Today we celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. at a tense moment in America,” Jordan said. “We gather at a time when, for all too many, hope feels all too finite and, from all across the nation, meaningful actions seem few and far between. So on this day, we can talk about Martin’s courage, we can talk about his bravery, we can talk about his vision and his dream of an America in which black and white children stride arm in arm into a better future. But, we must also ask ourselves how he would react to the America we live in today.”

General Mills and the UNCF also honored Dr. Josie Johnson with the first-ever Lifetime Local Legends award at the MLK Breakfast event for her work on civil rights and social justice issues — a trailblazer known as the First Lady of Minnesota Civil Rights.  

She became active in the Civil Rights Movement while a youth when she collected signatures in Houston, Texas with her father for an anti-poll tax petition. In the 1960s she helped push for fair housing and equal employment opportunities for African Americans. She later became the first African American to serve on the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents and in 1992 became the university’s associate vice president for Academic Affairs.