Justice For Thurman Blevins Pt. 2
On Tuesday, July 31st, about two hundred people gathered for an emergency action at People's Plaza in Minneapolis. Community was gathered to respond to the release of police body camera footage of the murder of Thurman "Jun" Blevins, as well as Hennepin County Prosecutor Mike Freeman's decision not to press charges against either of the officers involved in Blevin's death.
Organizers and family members spoke (livestream) from the steps of the Hennepin County Government Building, calling for justice for Thurman and many other lost community members, their voices occasionally drowned out by heavy construction taking place across the street. Speakers also called for an end to the police killing of community members, leading the protesters gathered in various chants. At one point, a family member took the microphone and performed a poem for the crowd, artfully interlacing his words between the booming construction and refusing to be drown out.
"If we aren't careful, the BCA will have us hating the people who are oppressed, and loving the oppressors"
Leslie Badu, the president of the Minneapolis NAACP, took the mic and called on the words of Malcolm X, reminding the crowd to stand together against the police department, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), the prosecutors office, and the police federation president Bob Kroll.
"Enough is Enough. It was enough, after Jamar Clark. it was enough, after Philando Castile. We thought it would be even enough, after a white woman in south Minneapolis named Justine Damond was killed. But this summer we learned it still wasn't enough."
Ms. Badu finished out by reminding the crowd that we have the power to change the unjust laws we see today, and thanking everyone for coming out.
Speakers closed out the rally by calling for community to support the family and children of Thurman Blevins, then lead the crowd from the plaza down fifth avenue. The movement blocked the road and the light rail ahead of a Twins baseball game at 7pm. At one point the march stopped to hold a moment of silence for Blevins. As protesters, family members, and children stood holding space for a lost community member, the sounds of police sirens could be heard in the distance splitting the still air.
Following the moment of silence, while protesters were standing in a circle holding down the intersection, a white woman broke through to the center and tried to steal away a sign from one of the protesters. The crowd responded quickly in self-defense and she was removed from the space by marshals and a police officer. She was watched over by two marshals as the crowd moved on down the road.
March leaders took a moment at Fifth and Hennepin to address one of the more common questions around Thurman's case specifically, asking "If somebody, the police in this case, pulls up on you and jumps out the car and puts guns on you, what you gonna do?" The crowd responding that they would run. The speaker took a moment to acknowledge that response, and point out that the officers in the body camera footage were the aggressors in the encounter, and that they were doubtful that Thurman would have been any better off if he had not run.
The shooting case of Charles Kinsey provides us with a recent historical reference point that illustrates the dangers for black people when engaging with police, even in the most compliant behaviors.
The march continued down Hennepin, holding space for about fifteen minutes at the intersection of Seventh and Hennepin, which drew some frustration from drivers who were blocked. The final destination for the march was Gate 3 of Target Field, where protesters spoke as one voice, and brought the narrative of Thurman Blevins' death to the people gathered there for a twins game. Some stadium-goers responded in support, others with frustration and taunts. The protesters handled this with grace and largely did not engage with the more disruptive civilians.
After holding space at the stadium, the march returned down sixth street to Government Plaza, and the crowd dispersed into the city in smaller groups.
Thurman Blevins is the latest death in the Minneapolis Police Department's long history of oppressing minority, and specifically black, communities. Police shootings in Minnesota have been on the climb, totaling in more than 151 deaths since 1995 (according to the Minnesota Beuaro of Criminal Apprehension). In Minneapolis specifically, the deaths of Fong Lee, Jamar Clark, Justine Damond, and now Thurman Blevins, among others, echo in the recent memory of the community. Protest groups such as Black Lives Matter, Twin Cities Coalition for Justice, and New North continue to call for change and justice for those who have been hurt and killed. Protest events like the one today are a highlight of their work, but these organizations and others continue to do boots on the ground work that is shifting the conversation in our city. You can find out more about their work online at their websites and social media pages.