A Disjointed Response In a Time of Pain
The push-and-pull relationship between local government and progressive Black activists
The push-and-pull relationship between local government and progressive Black activists in Minneapolis started long before Floyd’s death. In 2015, after a police officer shot and killed a 24-year-old Black man named Jamar Clark, activist demands among the nascent Black Lives Matter movement mostly focused on bringing criminal charges against the involved officers. Three years later, when Minneapolis police officers shot and killed Thurman Blevins, 31, another Black man, many of the same activists called on the City Council to divest 5% of the police budget and direct that money toward social programs.
The council proposed a more limited cut of $1.1 million.
“We’re tired of weak reforms like body cameras, tweaks to civilian oversight and new signs in police cars,” a Black Visions organizer, Hani Ali, said at the time.
Black Visions was formed in 2017, after the president’s election, by younger activists who had grown impatient with incrementalism. That year, political insurgency rocked Minneapolis politics: Frey defeated the incumbent mayor in a city municipal election, and two unabashed Black progressives who were allies of the activist left, Cunningham and Jeremiah Ellison, a son of Minnesota politician Keith Ellison, captured seats in North Minneapolis, shifting the council’s ideological core.
The pledge was written, negotiated and circulated with the help of councilors like the younger Ellison, Cunningham and Alondra Cano. Cano and several other city councilors did not respond or follow up to requests to be interviewed.
She and others tried to negotiate changes, they said. When activists stood their ground, councilors were left with two options: embrace a forceful but vague call to dismantle the police department, or oppose activists in a time of civic chaos, possibly risking their progressive reputations.
But what looked like a united political front would soon be exposed as fractured. On a policy level, the councilors did not have the unilateral power to end the city’s police department — as some residents believed. Politically, some of the elected officials were taken aback by the national attention their message attracted.
We don’t believe in miracles. We believe in steps. A bias is a preconceived notion, a notion is a learned condition based on your experiences. To unlearn a bias you’re going to have to make small changes on a daily basis. The eleven steps are daily exercises to help each person unlearn years of biased thoughts and actions.
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