Demonstrators call for alternatives to the police system outside Duluth City Hall
More than 40 people demonstrated Saturday afternoon in downtown Duluth.
Nearly three weeks have passed since George Floyd died in the custody of Minneapolis police, and demonstrations continued around the world on Saturday, including in Duluth.
More than 40 people demonstrated outside Duluth City Hall Saturday afternoon. As cars drove past on First Street, many of the demonstrators held signs calling for drastic changes to police structures.
Occupants of the passing cars often cheered, honked, raised a fist or responded to "say his name" calls. Some passed without acknowledging the demonstrators.
A few demonstrators independently handed out small sheets of paper meant to educate people on alternatives to current police systems.
Teresa Whittet of Duluth sat folding up zines made by a Minneapolis-based effort called MPD15 that's working toward a police-free city. They contained answers to frequently asked questions about what "building a police-free future" could look like. With those ideas circulating more and more, Whittet said it's especially helpful for people who have never had to worry about police brutality to have ready answers to their questions.
"I would like to see the police force abolished and the military de-funded," Whittet said, adding that that requires a re-imagining of what policing means: "Something that centers on community-based care, housing services, food stability. If we fix all of that stuff, the rate at which police will be needed will dramatically decrease anyway."
The MPD15 zines Whittet brought reads that the answer is in reallocating of resources away from police departments and toward other community-based services like social workers, survivor advocates and religious leaders. It cited a 2016 quotation from the former police chief of Dallas in which he said that police officers in America are asked "to do too much in this country" and address "every societal failure," including issues related to mental health.
One demonstrator held a sign that read "cops don't keep us safe, we do" and handed out small sheets of paper listing the links to black organizations with women and queer people at the lead that have been proposing alternatives to police long before George Floyd's death.
Another demonstrator brought 200 voter registration applications in stamped envelopes to pass out to people. Sean Goossens of Duluth said he plans to pass the registration forms at the Duluth protest on Juneteenth (June 19) and if he doesn't use them up there he might take to finish handing them out on the Lakewalk.
"If people want them I figured I'd make it easy for them," Goossens said.
Kathleen Spencer and Richard Harbaugh, both of Duluth, attended the demonstration together to stand in solidarity.
"We've been doing this stuff for over 40 years," Spencer said while holding a "black lives matter" sign.
"It's important that privileged people take a stand," Harbaugh said.
As a veteran, Harbaugh said his privileges include military compensation that "belongs to the people," meaning he has an obligation to what's in the people's best interest. He said police need to give up their military gear and tactics in order for change to occur.
"I'm tired of seeing the police beat people up when they don't have to," he said.
Around 5 p.m. demonstrators hung a paper sign over City Hall doors that read "Emily Larson lay off the police not librarians" in reference to the city's decision in April to lay off 25 Duluth Public Library technicians.
The demonstrators dispersed about three hours after gathering at 3:30 p.m.