Listen: Bill Catlin, protesters and police react to Rodney King trial verdict

MPR’s Bill Catlin reports on Coalition for Police Accountability rally at Hennepin County Government Center protesting Rodney King trial acquittals. Highlights speeches at event from Keith Ellison, Spike Moss, and Priscilla Barnes. Also includes statement from John Laux, Minneapolis Police Chief.


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CROWD: Stand up right now!

SPEAKER 1: Butt up!

CROWD: Fight back right now!

SPEAKER 1: Can't hear you!

CROWD: Stand up right now.

SPEAKER 2: Rally organizers prompted chants, but the crowd of more than 200 was peaceable and attentive during the hour and a half event. For much of the time, the mood was even somewhat somber. One of the organizers, Keith Ellison of the Coalition for Police Accountability, said the acquittal of the four police officers was itself criminal.

SPEAKER 3: Evil. And that's what we're talking about, straight-up evil, evil. Evil is again out. And the only way for evil to triumph is for good people like you and you and you and you and you to come forward and stop it. It's the only way. It will not stop any other way.

SPEAKER 2: Ellison accused the government of being fascist and said there is no obligation to obey a fascist government. Others, including longtime activist Spike Moss, urged the crowd to intervene if they see acts of harassment by local police.

Priscilla Barnes identified herself as a typical Black American. She said there is oppression in Minnesota and said it can't continue. She said her son, a student at the University of Minnesota, receives hate mail there and is harassed by police.

SPEAKER 4: Every weekend, not one or two, but every weekend, my son would stopped by the police department. And every weekend they harassed him. They spit in his face. They kicked him. They pushed him up against his car. And every weekend, there was a girl, a Black girl, watching.

We need to do something. I don't have a lot to say. This is the end of it.

SPEAKER 2: After the rally, Ellen Stuart Ebert, a lifelong resident of North Minneapolis, said she came to the rally out of shock and concern over the police acquittal. She says she's not been active and has turned the other cheek to incidents of racial injustice. But now she doesn't trust the government to protect civil rights.

SPEAKER 5: I feel that I'm up against a power structure that is absolutely nothing that I can do against,. And I've never had to feel like this. I'm 24 years old and college educated, and I've never had this feeling before, that I feel that I am powerless. And I don't like that feeling at all.

SPEAKER 2: Minneapolis Police Chief John Locke says the Department is taking several steps to prevent any occurrence similar to the King beating. He says it's not clear whether violence will occur in the Twin Cities in the wake of the acquittal. He criticized comments that could provoke violence.

SPEAKER 6: Now, the situation is ripe, so to speak, to go the wrong way if people in positions of responsibility start saying that the proper response is to confront the police.

I think you confront the issue and take it head on. But there's too many ways to interpret that. And one way is to immediately, violently respond to officers on the street.

Nobody wins. The officers don't win. The community doesn't win. This is the time for responsible people to be talking about responsible resolution.

SPEAKER 2: In a statement issued with Mayor Don Fraser, Locke says the videotape of the King beating is deeply offensive. He was asked if Minneapolis Police are capable of similar acts.

SPEAKER 6: That's an almost "When did you stop beating your wife?" kind of question in one sense. Again, as long as we recruit from the human race, anything is possible.

But I think when you look at are there lines of communication? Is there good training? Are people held accountable? I think those are the things that act against the probability of it happening here.

SPEAKER 2: Locke says Minneapolis is in a better position to head off a similar situation. However, he also says there's an ongoing concern, which is the basis for a variety of training programs in the Department. The activist groups are planning a march from North Minneapolis to downtown next Saturday.

This is Bill Catlin.


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