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Scot Bol of Duluth holds a sign Thursday at a rally to protest the Ferguson, Mo., police shooting of Michael Brown and police brutality. The rally at the Duluth Civic Center drew about a dozen people. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Missouri shooting prompts rally in Duluth

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Duluth Minnesota 424 W. First St. 55802

About a dozen people took to the steps of the St. Louis County Courthouse in Duluth on Thursday evening to protest what they are calling discriminatory and unnecessarily violent acts by law enforcement across the country.

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The protest came on the heels of an encounter in Ferguson, Mo., that led to the shooting death of an unarmed 18-year-old black man by a white police officer. Other gatherings have been held in cities across the country in recent weeks.

“For a black man to walk down the street is to risk their life,” said Reyna Crow, who organized the protest. Crow wore a necklace made of a string and a piece of paper, on which was a drawing of a tombstone that read: “RIP black youth.”

“For absolutely no reason they can be shot and murdered.

“You think that officer is going to be held accountable, that department is going to be held accountable?” Crow said. “Probably not.”

Other activists raised signs at the gathering, which never escalated beyond impassioned speech, one calling for the demilitarization of law enforcement — an issue pushed to the forefront in the wake of the Ferguson shooting. In the days after Michael Brown was shot and killed by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, additional officers equipped with Kevlar vests and military-style weapons arrived to quell protesters.

Though none have matched the notoriety of the Ferguson shooting, the Duluth area has seen a number of controversial incidents involving police and people of color in recent months.

In 2012, Duluth police officer Richard Jouppi was fired after repeatedly striking a Native American man in a wheelchair. In Superior, an investigation still is pending in the case of police officer George Gothner, who was captured on video punching an African-American woman during an arrest outside a bar in January.

Officers for the Duluth Police Department this summer were made to wear body-mounted video cameras, a move the department has said it hopes will create more accountability for officers and suspects alike.

In a recent column in the Duluth Budgeteer News, Police Chief Gordon Ramsay said the department also is looking for ways to strengthen relationships between officers and local residents.

“It is imperative for police to build trusting relationships, be restrained in our use of force whenever possible and be seen as part of the community, not an occupying force,” Ramsay wrote, adding that increasing the amount of community policing in the city is another point of emphasis.

The Duluth Police Department did not comment on Thursday’s protest, beyond stating that it was aware of the event.

The protest was backed by Idle No More Duluth, #Politics Off My Body, Minnesota Ogichidaag Light Brigade, Save the Kids Duluth and Kristine Osbakken, a candidate running for the District 7A (East Duluth) seat in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

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