Nov. 15 marked the fourth anniversary of the night the Minneapolis Police Department murdered Jamar Clark. It was a tragic, heartbreaking moment for the city of Minneapolis, and thousands of us mobilized across the city and country during an 18-day occupation of the Fourth Precinct police station.
I was there and saw how we took care of each other in the face of police standoffs, tear gas and white supremacist violence.
In the years since then, we've continued to build a vision that eradicates violence at the hands of the state. We have held rallies, circulated petitions, shut down highways, airports and the Mall of America (twice), passed legislation to protect black lives and over and over again changed the narrative that police equals safety.
Just last year, organizations like the one I build with, Black Visions Collective, as a part of the Reclaim the Block coalition, worked with City Councilmembers Phillipe Cunningham and Steve Fletcher to divert $1 million from the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) budget into community-led safety initiatives like the Office of Violence Prevention and a race equity coordinator.
Yet organizers envisioning a world where every human life is honored face a charged and dangerous landscape as we try to create the change we so desperately need. Since Jamar Clark was murdered, we have seen the increase in public relations rhetoric from the police, lip service from many elected officials and violence still perpetrated against marginalized communities, especially by those whose role it is to protect our city.
Real shifts in our city have come from community members coming together to define safety for ourselves, block by block, instead of investing in institutions that have always harmed us.
Punishment and incarceration are not solutions. The boom of the prison industrial complex since the 1970s has only served a small group of wealthy men, while the human cost — in destruction of health, families, the environment — has skyrocketed.
Contrary to several Star Tribune editorials supporting additional spending on police (most recently, "Public safety, here and now, in St. Paul," Nov. 27) and incarceration do not create safety. In fact, they are the arbiters of much of the violence experienced by poor communities of color, trans and gender nonconforming folks, immigrants, sex workers, youth, clergy and many more in our communities.
The appointment of a well-meaning black police chief is a symptom of the misguided approach to reform that Minneapolis is taking. A black chief isn't the answer; fundamentally shifting our city's priorities is.
Chief Medaria Arradondo has asked for 400 new cops — when the city already spends 37% of its general fund on policing and corrections. By comparison, Minneapolis spends only 0.6% of its total budget on jobs programs and 0.2% on youth development programs.
We don't solve racism by appointing black police leaders, but by investing in black communities. Mayor Jacob Frey has included 14 new cops in next year's budget, which forces us to ask: How do you justify the increase of police when we are dedicating so little to jobs programs, youth development and other important community needs?
A budget serves as a statement of our values. By proposing an increase in funding for police, the mayor is communicating the value he places on an archaic and inhumane system of criminalization and violence. We need our elected representatives to re-imagine what is possible and remember that the community is best equipped to define what safety looks like.
On Trans Day of Remembrance, Nov. 20, we mourned the murders of more than 20 trans folks in 2019. We see uprisings and demands for democracy among people from Iran to Bolivia to right here in Minneapolis. As we mourn, we also must continue to fight for a world in which people's lives and safety are of primary concern to each one of us.
As queer and trans black organizers who have been envisioning a world where we can all be free, we are calling on all of our neighbors to join us in taking control of our imaginations and building a world in which we our communities have the services and support we need, that keep us safe. We deserve a world in which mental health professionals respond to mental health crises, where our youth are not criminalized to satisfy a quota, where conflict transformation and personal transformation are possible.
Such a world is possible. This is an invitation to build it and live in it with us, as it's ours.
Miski Noor lives in Minneapolis.