Fric­tion strains re­form

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Janell Ross

MIN­NE­AP­O­LIS» Kim Handy-Jones stands at the front of a meet­ing room in a work­ing­class por­tion of south­east Min­ne­ap­o­lis, large pieces of butcher pa­per la­beled “Body Cams,” “Ac­count­abil­ity” and “Train­ing” hang­ing be­hind her. In the months since a po­lice of­fi­cer shot and killed her son in neigh­bor­ing St. Paul, Handy-Jones has met here reg­u­larly with a dozen or so long­time Twin Cities ad­vo­cates of po­lice re­form.

But this meet­ing is dif­fer­ent. This time, the room is full. Some of the nearly 80 peo­ple present have to stand.

And this time, the ma­jor­ity is white. Handy-Jones, who is black, pauses and bows her head. It’s as though she’s con­sid­er­ing her words, what she can and what she must say. “I am so glad — truly, my heart is glad — to see this room so full,” she says softly, be­fore build­ing in a crescendo.

“Now, most of y’all were not here when my son was killed . ... But this is about life, hu­man life, not black and white, not just my son or your neigh­bor, but about all of us,” she con­tin­ues. “It took Jus­tine’s death to make that clear, I think, for some of y’all. But I re­ally do wel­come y’all to the fight.”

This is Min­ne­ap­o­lis, nearly two weeks af­ter city po­lice of­fi­cer Mo­hamed Noor fa­tally shot Jus­tine Da­mond, an Aus­tralian woman who moved here in 2015 to join her fi­ance. It has be­come a city di­vided: The usual loy­al­ties that bind are strained, and the ideals that tend to unite — equal jus­tice un­der the law — have be­come a source of pres­sure, with new al­liances and fis­sures.

In the shoot­ing’s af­ter­math, the po­lice union has been largely silent in de­fend­ing one of its own. The city’s white, fe­male mayor — fac­ing a dif­fi­cult re-elec­tion bid in which polic­ing has be­come a pri­mary issue — de­manded and re­ceived the res­ig­na­tion of the white, fe­male po­lice chief. Lo­cal So­mali Amer­i­can lead­ers have dis­tanced their com­mu­nity from Noor, ex­press­ing dis­may about news cov­er­age and pub­lic chat­ter that tied one So­mali Amer­i­can of­fi­cer’s ac­tions to the en­tire com­mu­nity and cul­ture.

And while some white res­i­dents long have been en­gaged in calls for po­lice re­forms, ad­vo­cates say their num­bers have sud­denly grown.

The shifts in Min­ne­ap­o­lis re­flect a na­tion­wide de­bate about of­fi­cers’ use of force. The Twin Cities area has ex­pe­ri­enced con­tentious po­lice shoot­ings be­fore, in­clud­ing the death of Philando Castile, who was shot dur­ing a traf­fic stop in a St. Paul sub­urb in July 2016. But the re­sponse to this shoot­ing has been dif­fer­ent. The rea­son, some say, is clear: The vic­tim was white, and the of­fi­cer is a black im­mi­grant.

John Thomp­son, a lo­cal ac­tivist, said he wel­comes new­com­ers to the cause. Thomp­son be­came in­volved last year af­ter the killing of Castile, his friend and co­worker of 11 years. Thomp­son, who is black, con­sid­ers Castile’s death and a jury’s de­ci­sion to ac­quit the of­fi­cer in­volved an in­deli­ble stain on Min­nesota. He was dis­turbed by the way Castile — a man he calls a lov­ing fa­ther who liked to play chess and video games — was too of­ten por­trayed as an armed and dan­ger­ous weed smoker.

“But now, this Min­ne­ap­o­lis cop has killed a beau­ti­ful, mid­dle-class white lady they don’t know how to vil­ify,” Thomp­son said. “White peo­ple are out­raged. And you know what? I say, ‘Come on,’ be­cause we need their voices. We need their white power. We need their white priv­i­lege . ... They will not be ig­nored, and no­body is go­ing to try.”

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