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Ferguson police shooting sparks Duluth protest

Protesters plan to gather in Duluth today to rally against police brutality in the wake of the Ferguson, Mo., shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old black man by a white police officer, and other incidents that have sparked debate about race relations between police and citizens.

A coalition of area community organizations and leaders will gather at the Civic Center Plaza at 6 p.m. today to protest “police brutality from Duluth to Minneapolis to Ferguson and beyond,” according to a news release announcing the event.

“Police brutality will end when there is a fundamental change in our economic, political, social system,” said event organizers. “It will end when a system is brought into being which will no longer have a need for armed bodies of men to enforce unequal social relations as well as racism, social inequality and to protect the property of big business and the rich.”

Debate has raged about police and community relations following the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. Accounts of the incident have varied.

The Twin Ports have not been immune from controversial incidents involving police and people of color.

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

Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay addressed the Ferguson situation in a recent column in the Duluth Budgeteer News. He described the need for police to build community trust, and to avoid using force whenever possible.

“A key aspect of community policing recognizes the need for community members to be engaged and work with police to solve problems,” Ramsay wrote. “The police cannot do it alone. Simply put, if we want to make things better, we need more people at the table working toward healthy relationships and making our community better. Before there is a crisis.”

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