Marchers call for defunding Minneapolis Police Department
Updated: June 7, 9:25 a.m.
A crowd of thousands of protesters stretching for blocks marched through northeast Minneapolis on Saturday, calling on city leaders to defund the police department in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd.
"I think, honestly, we're too far past" the chance for reform, said marcher Verbena Dempster of Brooklyn Park. "We just have to take down the whole system."
The peaceful protest brought out neighbors along the route to watch the march pass by. Marchers called for the city to shift money away from policing and toward other community needs.
Some City Council members have backed dismantling the current system, and are set to meet with community groups at Powderhorn Park on Sunday afternoon "to announce a historic commitment to building a new model for cultivating safety in our city (and) to transform the city’s approach to public safety," according to an announcement from Council Member Alondra Cano's office.
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Saturday's marchers also had the support of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, who addressed the crowd at the start at Bottineau Field.
But Mayor Jacob Frey — who walked out to address the crowd as they stopped near his home — said Saturday that he does not support abolition of the department.
"I am absolutely for a massive shift, a structural shift in how the police department functions, I'll say it again," he said, as some in the crowd chanted, "Resign." "And as for abolishing the entire police department — no, I'm not, and I'll be honest about that, too."
After Frey spoke, the crowd chanted “Go home, Jacob.” Frey said he understood the crowd's disappointment with his stance.
"When you look at — it's not just eight minutes, it's over the last 400 years — where you've had structural racism literally built into our system, and we need to be part of it, in the arena right now, changing it," he said.
The march was one of a series of peaceful rallies and marches that continued across the Twin Cities on Saturday, with thousands of people honoring George Floyd and speaking out against police brutality and systemic racism.
Earlier Saturday, doctors, nurses and other health-care providers filled the grounds of the Minnesota Capitol in St. Paul for a sit-in calling for the end of racial discrimination in health care.
Many in the crowd wore white coats or medical scrubs. The "White Coats for Black Lives" event had participants sit socially distanced, six feet apart.
There also was a march for kids and families on Saturday morning in St. Paul, near the Jimmy Lee Recreation Center on Lexington Parkway.
And among other rallies held around the Twin Cities on Saturday, a large crowd paid their respects to Floyd in south Minneapolis, gathering at the corner where he was killed.
Alan Brown of Otsego, Minn., lived in the neighborhood for years. He said he came back to the corner of 38th and Chicago to reflect on Floyd and others who have died at the hands of police.
"It’s taken all of those people to die, before they had a global feeling," he said. "And as you see in most of the crowds around the world, it’s multiracial. It’s not just black lives. Other races feel that it is just as devastating as African-Americans, and that’s what may be more impactful this time."
The intersection has grown into a sprawling memorial, featuring flowers, signs, sculpture and paintings in tribute to Floyd.
Cassondra Whittley brought her daughters and husband from Brooklyn Park to see the memorials. Whittley said she was encouraged to see a huge crowd gathered peacefully.
"That’s one thing I am proud of, that no matter what color, what race you are, people are being human, and they’re coming out and they’re supporting each other, which is really important," she said. "We need that as a community."
Clarification (June 7, 2020): An earlier version of this story contained a different estimate of the size of Saturday’s march in northeast Minneapolis. The estimate has been updated based on photos, video and further input from MPR News staff covering the event.