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What Do the Minneapolis Protesters Want?

A standing-room-only meeting held at Neighborhoods Organizing for Change December 6

A standing-room-only meeting held at Neighborhoods Organizing for Change December 6

Protests demanding racial equity and police accountability have showed no signs of stopping lately. What do protesters hope to accomplish locally, and how, besides protesting, do they plan to enact tangible change?

Last Saturday people packed into the headquarters of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change in north Minneapolis to figure out how to harness energy from the protests into action.

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"The heart of the meeting was to get at what can we actually do to fix this stuff. Let's get beyond the anger and the protests and brainstorm systemic solutions together," said NOC Executive Director Anthony Newby.

Newby said the group of hundreds sorted ideas and initiatives into three broad categories: education and media training, short-term demands, and long-term demands.

Education and media training

Newby said he hopes a new blog NOC created called Minneapolis Cop Watch can give anyone in Minnesota who has been treated unfairly by police a central place to post their experiences.

"Now we have a place where we can film the police collectively and have one centralized place to put all of those interactions," he said. "We'll see if we're able to make this work and make it exciting, accessible, and meaningful to people. It could be something that serves as a statewide tool; we know Minneapolis isn't the only place in the state experiencing this."

There are also plans to hold "Know Your Rights" training for people to get educated on what they can and can't do around police, and "Direct Action Training," where organizers successful in hosting protests teach activists how to safely and effectively host demonstrations.

Short-term demands

Last week Minneapolis decided to cut $620,000 from its $1.2 billion budget, including half of the proposed funding for racial equity and energy saving initiatives. The NOC is urging city residents to contact their council member before Wednesday's vote to restore those cuts.

Long-term demands

Newby said the group felt that if the Minneapolis police hired people from diverse neighborhoods, or even people who live in Minneapolis, it would lessen tension between the police department and communities of color.

"There's a particular racial and cultural context officers should be able to read and respond to, and if you don't live in the neighborhood, or didn't grow up with or have training around different cultures, officers may misread things," he said.

Misreading things plays into the frequency at which minorities are cited for low-level crimes like loitering, lurking, non-compliance, and civil disobedience. Activists would like to see clearer guidelines for those low-level offenses to prevent those charges from being used as a harassment tactic.

Expanding civilian review authority of the police department, more input and transparency in the police budget, and a system of quarterly reports to the community about frequent complaints and lawsuits were additional long-term desires brought forward.

That's a lot of change for a institution that has proven to be more than difficult to change. Does Newby actually think he can get any of that done?

"The mayor has been supportive of our work and supportive and vocal about systemic changes in the department, and we've had a lot of positive conversations with the police chief too," he said.

"Many of the new council members ran on a platform of racial equity and ending the racial disparities we have in this city, so we think we're in a very good position to present some pragmatic ideas to the city that they'd support."