The Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP is launching a legal aid service in the wake of a controversial confrontation between Metro Transit police and a Minneapolis man on July 8.
Draon Armstrong, who is black, was stopped by police for not paying a light rail fare and forcefully arrested. NAACP Minneapolis chapter president Nekima Levy-Pounds said her organization thinks existing measures to protect civil rights — like internal police investigations — don't adequately address concerns of minority communities.
"It's important to have a third-party civil rights organization who is actively investigating various situations and who are willing to stand up for justice, even when politics are involved," said Levy-Pounds, a St. Thomas law professor who was among the organizers of the Black Lives Matter protest in December at the Mall of America.
The NAACP service will include a telephone and email hotline, a Facebook page and monthly office hours. The organization is still looking for attorneys to volunteer their time to help staff the service, Levy-Pounds said.
Levy-Pounds is head of the Community Justice Project at the St. Thomas law school. She said the NAACP service will expand on the legal clinic she helped establish with law students.
"The hotline is for general legal concerns, although we do receive a disproportionate number of calls related to negative police community relations," Levy-Pounds said in an interview. "Oftentimes, when someone has been unjustly arrested or someone has faced excessive force, they don't know where to turn. So, we want to be a resource for people in the community."
The service started taking reports several weeks ago and launched its Facebook page over the weekend.