Mass Student Walkouts Over Police Killing of Amir Locke

Locke, a 22-year-old Black man, was killed last week by police executing a no-knock search warrant.

By Julia Conley.  Published 2-8-2022 by Common Dreams

Demanding accountability from local leaders, hundreds of high school students in Minneapolis and St. Paul walked out of their classes on Tuesday at noon in protest of the fatal police shooting of Amir Locke during a no-knock raid.

The youth-led group MN Teen Activists organized the walkout, which included students at St. Paul Central High School and Capitol Hill Magnet School in St. Paul and Southwest, Roosevelt, and Washburn high schools in Minneapolis, as well as other schools in the surrounding suburbs.

The students marched from their schools to the governor’s mansion for a rally where they demanded the demilitarization of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) and the resignations of police chief Amelia Huffman, Mayor Jacob Frey, and Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill.

It was Cahill who reportedly signed the “no-knock warrant” Minneapolis police were executing when an officer killed the 22-year-old Black man who was reportedly asleep on the couch when the police entered without warning in the middle of the night.

One local reporter said the protest appeared to be the largest school walkout she’d ever witnessed.

“I’m seeing adults and young children, beyond the walls of this high school, participating,” tweeted WCCO reporter Marielle Mohs at St. Paul Central High School.

The walkouts followed protests over the weekend over Locke’s killing which occurred when Minneapolis police carried out a search warrant in a homicide case on behalf of the St. Paul Police Department.

An MPD SWAT team executed the no-knock warrant at an apartment complex where Locke was staying with a cousin, according to Jeff Storms, a lawyer for his family. The police had obtained warrants for searches at three apartments in the complex. Locke was not a suspect in the case.

A body camera video of the raid showed an officer entering the apartment and yelling, “Police! Search warrant!” One of the officers kicked a couch where Locke was laying underneath a blanket; the movement revealed that Locke had a gun which he was legally permitted to carry.

The police fired their weapons several times after the gun appeared, killing Locke.

“I find it really unsettling how someone of our skin color has to be aware of what they’re doing, how they’re presenting at all times,” Deandre Makaya, a student at Benilde-St. Margaret’s High School in St. Louis Park, told the Star Tribune at the rally on Tuesday.

Last Friday, Frey responded to the killing by issuing a moratorium on no-knock warrants in Minneapolis, but the students who led Tuesday’s protest demanded a complete ban on their use.

“If we stop [protesting], they’re going to keep killing us,” said Ezra Hudson, a co-founder of MN Teen Activists, at the rally. “They don’t care.”

After former MPD officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd in 2020, sparking international protests over racial injustice in the U.S., Frey changed the MPD’s no-knock warrant policy, requiring officers to announce their presence when they arrived to carry out a warrant. But the department is still executing the warrants at the same rate that they did before the change was made, according to the New York Times.

“No-knock warrants continue to be overly sought by the Minneapolis Police Department and overly granted,” Storms told the Times on Saturday.

The students who walked out on Tuesday had the support of administrators, according to Central High School’s assistant principal, Gene Ward.

“We want to make sure we’re supporting students at every step,” said Ward, who estimated that 50% of the school’s more than 1,800 students walked out. “They’re just exercising their First Amendment rights.”

The Minneapolis community has pushed for far-reaching police reforms since Floyd’s killing. In June 2020, the city’s school board unanimously voted to end its contract with the MPD, removing officers from schools. Last November, nearly 44% of voters in the city supported a major overhaul of the department which would have ended minimum staffing numbers and established a police force focused on public health.

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
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