Activists and families of Minnesotans killed by police said Sunday that the video released by the Memphis Police Department showing officers fatally beating a 29-year-old Black man was at once horrifying and familiar.
"No, it didn't happen in Minnesota," said Marques Armstrong of the Racial Justice Network, of the police beating of Tyre Nichols. "But the system of policing works the same around the country."
About 300 people listened to speeches at the gates of the governor's residence Sunday afternoon following the release of the video. Protesters chanted while they marched around the ice-rutted block on Summit and Grand avenues as the temperature hovered around zero degrees. They shouted the names of people killed by police in Minnesota and in high-profile incidents around the country.
"I grieve for us all," said Amity Dimock, the mother of Kobe Dimock-Heisler, a man fatally shot by Brooklyn Center police in 2019. "When we tell you what happened to our loved one is as unjustified, as the video you saw, you've got to start believing us."
Demonstrators echoed calls made earlier this weekend for the Legislature to pass police reform laws.
Such legislation stalled in divided government last session, but activists hoped that full DFL control in St. Paul will mean a renewed push. They urged people to keep demonstrating to keep the pressure on lawmakers.
"Please continue to show up. It means the world when you show up for our families," said Toshira Garraway of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence.
Former state Rep. John Thompson expressed frustration that police reform and accountability laws did not appear to be the DFL trifecta's top priority.
"For all you legislators, the new ones, who were marching with us and using our platform to get in those seats," Thompson said, "we didn't put you in those seats to be smiling."
He said legislators who campaigned on police reform should not expect activists' votes without significant legislation, both for police reform and to alleviate poverty.
Others voiced skepticism about the usefulness of any reform in preventing deaths.
Some protesters said Nichols' death has made them more skeptical of the impact of police-reform initiatives pushed in the past decade, particularly body-worn cameras and more Black officers. The former Memphis officers who have been charged in Nichols' death are Black and were equipped with cameras.
Garraway, who is Black, said Black officers are not immune to being swept into a violent and racist culture.
"Sometimes people that look like me can be manipulated into a system that upholds white supremacy," she said.
But Armstrong said he thought the cameras did their job, capturing moments that might have gone unseen. Now, the Memphis officers involved in Nichols' fatal beating have been fired and are facing charges.
"The body camera footage worked this time," Armstrong said.