Experts, activists speak on the calls for change as peaceful protest continues

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As protestors continue to call for change, 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS talked to experts and activists about what they are asking for and how it can be accomplished.

This comes following eight days of both peaceful and violent protests in Minnesota and around the world.

"You know those old fashioned tea kettles where you put the water in and set it on the stove? Eventually, that tea kettle will whistle. Well, right now, we’re seeing the tea kettle whistle," said John Thompson.

Thompson was a close friend of Philando Castile, who was shot and killed by St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez in July 2016. Yanez was charged but later acquitted.

Since his friend’s death, Thompson has served on advisory boards to help transform community policing and has become an African American leader and advocate.

"No more can we see something and just say something, we have to see something and do something," Thompson said.

Thompson believes change starts withholding all officers accountable for all offenses.

"We have to put some accountability pieces into legislation and change the legislation that allows these officers to have way too much power," he said. "That’s what real change looks like."

The Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP released a new list of demands Monday. The group posted on Facebook: "We recognize that the current crises are fundamentally rooted in systemic racism embedded in Minnesota’s police departments and within Minnesota’s legislation. As such, we are demanding for the necessary changes to be made so that ALL Minnesotans are treated as equal."

Their demands include:

  • The Minneapolis Police department and its officers going through a public review process, where issues of misconduct, unjust use of force, and improper procedures are re-examined with a racial equity lens
  • Citizens controlling the POST (Peace Officer Standards and Training) Board in Minnesota
  • Legal reform for Use of Force, specifically adopting the United Nations Use of Force Standard

You can see the full list here.

Kathy Quick is the academic co-director of the Center for Integrative Leadership at the University of Minnesota and was the lead facilitator for the Falcon Heights Task Force on Policing and Inclusion, which was created following the death of Philando Castile.

"I think, in order to make progress, you have to understand that policing is sort of the prow of the boat," Quick explained. "You can focus all the attention on those officers or that police department or policing, but you must also pay attention to the whole weight and freight and momentum that is behind that whole thing and what it really stands for, which is systemic racism."

She said past reforms, such as body cameras and diversity training, are just pieces of the larger puzzle.

"It’s absolutely important to work on particular kinds of policing reforms," Quick said, "but if you lose track of what’s really at the foundation of all of this, we will find ourselves here again, tragically. It’s going to take officers really rethinking their own ethics and taking a deep hard look at themselves. I think many of them are prepared to do that but it takes all hands on deck."

KSTP reporter Alex Jokich asked Quick what the public can do to effect change.

"Do not assume that you have no role to play or that it is not your problem," Quick answered. "I think the answer to, ‘What can I do right now?’ is to keep that fire and that anger burning and to keep on working at this. Persist and persist and persist. And above all, work on yourself and in your own community and then take the lead of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) leaders."

Thompson said, when all else fails, people can change who’s in charge.

"Go to the polls and vote," he said. "I don’t care if you don’t think your vote matters. Take your butt in there, stick that piece of paper in that doggone machine and vote."

Thompson is running for state representative in District 67A and hopes to represent people of color at the capitol.

"I turned my anger into passion and I turned my passion into work," Thompson said. "As opposed to talking about it, let’s be about it."