A MARCH for racial justice moves through downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota.—AFP
A MARCH for racial justice moves through downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota.—AFP

MINNEAPOLIS: Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of downtown Minneapolis on Saturday demanding justice in the fatal police shooting of a young black man, Amir Locke, during a “no-knock” raid on his apartment last week.

The boisterous but peaceful crowd, chanting Locke’s name and the slogan “no justice, no peace,” rallied at Government Plaza in Minnesota’s largest city three days after Locke, 22, was shot on his couch by police.

The day after the killing, police released video footage from the raid, which showed Locke was holding a gun as he twisted beneath a blanket on his sofa after being roused by officers moments before he was slain.

Police have said the officers were exercising a “no-knock” search warrant, which authorizes police to enter private property without first alerting occupants or announcing their presence.

The warrant was issued in relation to a homicide probe led by detectives from the neighbouring Saint Paul Police Department. Locke was not named in the warrant, and Minne­apolis police have acknowledged it was unclear how or whether he was connected to that investigation.

On Thursday, interim Minneapolis Police Chief Amelia Huffman told a news conference the county attorney’s office was reviewing the shooting, and that video from the incident appeared to show Locke’s gun pointed towards officers when they opened fire.

Activists at the protest said Locke had a right to possess a weapon in his own home and was never given the chance to disarm himself in the chaotic moments as police stormed into his apartment without warning.

At least 500 demonstrators assembled in below-freezing temperatures on Saturday, demanding an unconditional ban on no-knock warrants, the dismissal and arrest of officers involved in the shooting, and the resignation of the mayor and police chief.

A series of speakers led the crowd through chants demanding racial justice and denouncing police violence against Black people, who organisers said have been disproportionately targeted by heavy-handed, and discriminatory law enforcement tactics.

Live video footage of the protest showed the crowd remained orderly, while police kept a low profile presence on the fringes of the rally.

On Friday, Mayor Jacob Frey responded to the Locke shooting, ordering a moratorium on “no-knock” search warrants, saying he was acting to “ensure safety of both the public and officers until a new policy is crafted.” The Locke shooting was the latest of a string of incidents to put Minneapolis-area police department under scrutiny.

Almost two years ago, George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, was killed by a white officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes during an arrest on suspicion of trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill. Outrage over Floyd’s death sparked a nationwide movement challenging police brutality and bias in the US criminal justice system.

The video of Locke’s arrest showed police unlocking his apartment with a key and officers shouting, “Police, search warrant, get on the ground,” as they entered.

An officer then kicks at the couch where Locke was lying and as Locke turns, his arm emerges from under the blanket with a gun seen in his hand. Almost immediately, police fired at least three shots.

Lawyers for Locke’s family said he had no criminal history and legally possessed a firearm at the time of his death.

Published in Dawn, February 7th, 2022

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