Justice is denied for Jamar Clark

By KAREN and JOHN SCHRAUFNAGEL

— MINNEAPOLIS — On the morning of Wednesday, March 30, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced there would be no charges brought against the Minneapolis police who murdered Jamar Clark on Nov. 15 of last year.

In the version of events that Freeman presented as factual, while Officer Mark Ringgenberg had Clark on the ground, he feared for his own life because he thought Clark was reaching for his gun. This is the claim used by every cop who murders a civilian because such language turns “murder” into “self-defense.” Ringgenberg’s partner, Dustin Schwarze, responded to the situation, firing two shots at Clark. (The second shot hit him in the back of the head—an entry wound, but with no exit.)

Until now, we have not known which officer shot Jamar. In fact, this was the first announcement of the official story of the shooting. The Hennepin County attorney promised to make available the mountains of evidence he examined in coming to his decision (the poor guy was supposedly reading for more than 31 hours).

The county attorney showed some of the video he relied on in making his decision not to charge the officers, but the video he showed did not seem to support his claims. Pastor Danny Givens questioned the cops’ report that Clark had been harassing his girlfriend while paramedics were trying to treat her for a broken ankle because it was not captured on video.

“The video that I watched showed a Jamar Clark who looked concerned about his girlfriend,” Givens said. “The video that I watched showed a Jamar Clark who looked tempered. The video that I saw didn’t show Jamar Clark beating on the door, Jamar Clark irate or uncontrollable. Even after the officers showed up on the scene, the video didn’t show Jamar Clark resisting arrest.”

Nikema Levy-Pounds watched the video of Ringgenberg tackling Clark to the ground and said: “That was a violent grab, which wasn’t articulated. We didn’t hear that in the narrative about what happened. Police grabbing somebody from the back and slamming him.”

Black Lives Matter organizer Mica Grim pointed out that Jamar Clark had filed a lawsuit against the Fourth Precinct for police brutality two weeks before he was shot, causing many in the community to believe the murder might have been “retribution.”

Grim also noted: “The entire case seems to hinge on officers’ statements and DNA evidence, DNA evidence that was held on to and collected by MPD officers, so there’s a lack of trust in believing that the precinct that killed Jamar Clark did not also tamper with evidence.”

The one-sided account of events by Freeman also did not deal with the destruction of evidence by officers on the scene in the early morning hours of Nov. 15, 2015. Levy-Pounds pointed out that, according to witnesses, MPD officers quickly cleaned the street of blood without putting up police tape. Cops also intimidated crowds of those witnesses by pointing guns at them, spraying them with mace, and shoving them.

We are usually told that the purpose of a trial is to sort out disputed facts and seek the truth. In this case, Freeman seems to have appointed himself judge and jury. Earlier this month, Freeman announced there would be no grand jury in cases in which police use deadly force.

This was seen as a partial victory because grand juries have never issued an indictment against a cop for killing a civilian (there have been 141 cases and no indictments). But a system where the prosecuting attorney won’t issue an indictment is no improvement over a system where a grand jury won’t issue an indictment. It is still a system that protects murdering cops, a system where ordinary people cannot get justice and Black Lives Do Not Matter.

A massive outpouring of anger, grief and determination followed the announcement of no indictments in Jamar Clark’s death. Shortly after the announcement, friends and relatives of Jamar started to gather at the spot where the unarmed, young Black man was shot in the head. Those gathered were joined by outraged neighborhood residents and white allies.

Around 1 p.m. the police swept by in a massive show of force, but by the time the Coalition for Justice for Jamar press conference began shortly after 5 p.m., no police could be seen.

After statements to the press, the crowd of about 150 people began the three-mile march to downtown Minneapolis. Meanwhile, a separate “Non-Indictment Response #Justice4Jamar” was called for 6 p.m. at Elliot Park near downtown. The rally and march called by Black Lives Matter Minneapolis drew over 1000 people.

The crowds were very diverse and overwhelmingly young. Many of the speakers connected the racism faced by Black, Brown, and Native people to the capitalist, imperialist system in which the cops are agents of the 1% in their class war against the rest of us. One chant summed up this sentiment: “Killer cops are a symptom, of a sick, sick system.”

Another chant: “Freeman, Hodges and Harteau, We all know you got to go” put the Hennepin County attorney, the mayor of Minneapolis, and the Minneapolis police chief on notice. The thousand-plus crowd took to the streets, marching to meet the North Minneapolis marchers. By the time the two groups merged at the Hennepin County Government Center to hold a unity rally, the crowd had swelled to 1500 people.

Photo: Black Lives Matter Minneapolis marchers on their way to the Government Center rally, March 30. By Karen Schraufnagel / Socialist Action