Minneapolis and Chicago Show Growing American Divide Over Race

By Emily Moran

Elm Staff Writer

Last week, racial tensions reached a tipping point in the cities of Chicago and Minneapolis.  In Minneapolis, five Black Lives Matter protesters were shot while participating in a public demonstration against the death of 24-year-old Jamar Clark on Nov. 16.  The suspects are said to be white supremacists carrying out a racially-motivated act of domestic terrorism.

In the incident in Minneapolis last Monday, the shooters have been said to be white supremacists, according to various protesters and other witnesses, but authorities have not confirmed this. The protesters were told to watch out for “those wearing masks or camouflage clothing,” according to The New York Times. This detail in particular has potentially linked the shooters to a possible racially motivated hate crime. As of Tuesday afternoon police have arrested two suspects.

Police clash with protesters outside a Chicago shopping center on Black Friday. This protest, in the response to the slaying of Laquan MCDonald by an officer of the Chicago Police Department is the latest in a string of Black Lives Matter protests regarding police brutality.
Police clash with protesters outside a Chicago shopping center on Black Friday. This protest, in the response to the slaying of Laquan MCDonald by an officer of the Chicago Police Department is the latest in a string of Black Lives Matter protests regarding police brutality.

On Wednesday morning, another unknown subject fired shot near the scene of another protest in Minneapolis. There were no injuries. Police have arrested one man they claim to be a suspect. Many have been calling these multiple incidents acts of terrorism.  Although the injuries from the gunshots were not life threatening, the shootings are nevertheless clear signs of a the growing conflict regarding cases of police brutality.

In Chicago, protestorss have taken the city by storm after videos surfaced of another death this time of Laquan McDonald, who was allgedly shot repeatedly by Officer Jason Van Dyke of the Chicago Police Department (CPD) on Oct. 20, 2014.  The parallel incident in Chicago began following CPD’s public release last Tuesday, Nov. 23, of the dasham video of McDonald’s death. Despite the fact that the incident occurred over a year ago, CPD has not been forthcoming regarding details of the case. Officer Van Dyke has had “a history of complaints before the shooting,” CNN reports, including use of excessive force, and at least one complaint of his usage of a racial slur.  Of these (reportedly 20) complaints, none of them resulted in disciplinary action.  Before last Tuesday, Van Dyke was still working for the police department on limited duty after the incident that occurred last October. A court order forced Chicago mayor Rahm Emanue after he concealed it for over a year, according to USA Today.  The mayor has since come under heavy criticism following the video’s release, as well as Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and Cook County Prosecutor Anita Alveraz.  Protesters are now calling for the resignation of the mayor, police superintendent, and prosecutor.  They are also “demanding a federal investigation into the Chicago Police Department,” and their handling of the situation, according to CNN.

The protesters in Chicago have been criticized, however, for their methods of protesting this injustice.  On Black Friday, many protesters blocked the entrances to several high-end shopping centers, making it extremely difficult for people to enter or leave the stores.  Many stated that they failed to understand how limiting access to numerous stores helped the protesters’ cause.  While many shoppers were frustrated about the demonstration, the protesters claimed that their reasons for blocking the stores was to get the attention of officials in Chicago.  USA Today reports one protestor’s thoughts, who stated that the protests were, “…about redistributing pain…If we get hurt, you gotta hurt too.  And the only place some Americans know about hurt is when it comes from their pockets.”  Various other participants have stated that the goal of these types of protests is to make their presence impossible for the public, and more importantly, the Chicago city officials to ignore.

The incidents in both cities have been direct results of police brutality and systematic racism throughout the country.  This sort of unrest in the United States is not new, and has been steadily growing in recent months, starting with the shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, MO.The Black Lives Matter movement has seen a lot of criticism and opposition since it’s inception in 2013.  Many critics of the movement have denounced protesters for inciting violent confrontation(s) between police and civilians.  They argue that Martin Luther King Jr. would be ashamed of the actions of today’s protesters, often forgetting that the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and the modern Black Lives Matter movement are not that different.  The Washington Post pointed out the similarities between the two movements, stating that, “Both have been opposed by more than half of Americans, both have needed violent confrontations to attract national media attention, and both have been criticized for their combative tactics.”  King even stated, quite aggressively, that “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” It seems therefor quite ignorant ,perhaps a bit hypocritical, then, for one to praise the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, and dismiss today’s Black Lives Matter movement.

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