Less than two years after the killing of Breonna Taylor, Minneapolis SWAT officers took the life of 22-year-old Amir Locke under chillingly similar circumstances. The officers entered early in the morning without knocking or announcing their presence, and the sudden intrusion prompted Locke to wake from his sleep and reach for his firearm. The firearm was licensed and registered, and Locke was not even the suspect that the officers were looking to arrest. Yet somehow seconds later, the officers had shot him dead.
While the phrase unarmed Black man has circulated in headlines for years, cases like Amir Locke remind us that the murders of armed Black men are often just as senseless and tragic. This was also shown in the case of Philando Castile, who was killed by Minnesota police at a routine traffic stop after disclosing that he had a licensed firearm in his car. The GOP, the NRA, and the broader second-amendment fanatic crowd are mysteriously silent on these deaths. It seems that the right to bear arms does not apply to Black people in encounters with the police. And if Castile’s case is any precedent, Locke’s gun makes it even more likely that the SWAT officers will walk free.
Minneapolis Political Establishment on the Hot Seat Once Again
Mayor Frey and the political establishment of Minneapolis are in a precarious position after failing to deliver on their promises of police reform. 7 of the 9 city council members who held office during the 2020 Black Lives Matter uprising did not win reelection. Mayor Frey won reelection but still lacks support from the young people who took to the streets that summer. In response to Locke’s death, Frey has instituted a moratorium on no-knock warrants but much like the rest of his ‘reform’ efforts, this is woefully inadequate. Justice for Amir Locke would mean at minimum a ban on no-knock warrants, speedy murder convictions of all officers involved, and ultimately defunding the Minnesota Police Department by at least 50%.
The Need for a Radical Black Freedom Movement
Yet another death, and no end in sight. How much longer will Black folks be forced to live under the constant looming threat of racist, murderous police? How many more Breonnas, Philandos, and Amirs before we get the radical change we desperately need?
The Democratic Party, like the Democrat city council of Minneapolis, has repeatedly demonstrated that all it has to offer are glacially slow incremental reforms, won through backroom negotiations with Republicans and lobbyists. We need a militant new Black freedom movement willing to disrupt business-as-usual and politics-as-usual until the demands of a muliti-racial working class movement is met. The Twin-Cities students who walked out of school in protest last week and the hundreds who marched to the Minnesota State capitol have the right instincts. It is time for a return to the combative, grassroots tactics that won the progress of the 1960s. History has shown that large-scale coordinated rallies, marches, strikes, and walkouts can force concessions out of even the most reluctant politicians and bosses. To permanently end and tear down the edifice of racial oppression and capitalist exploitation, we need a socialist transformation of society that puts the lives of working people, poor and oppressed, as the highest priority in a world rooted in economic and racial justice.
No justice, no peace!