Black Struggle

Twin Cities Students Walk Out, March for Justice for Amir Locke

By Sofia Shank

MINNEAPOLIS, February 15, 2022—Thousands of middle school and high school students have walked out of their classes in the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota, over the last week. The students have given press conferences, staged marches, and joined other protesters demanding justice for Amir Locke.

The 22-year-old Black man was killed by Minneapolis police on February 2, when cops burst into an apartment just before 7 a.m. to serve a no-knock search warrant. Locke, who was asleep at the time of the raid, was not listed in the warrant and had a gun with him for which he had a permit.

Demonstrators hold photos of Amir Locke during a rally to protest his killing, outside Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis, on February 5, 2022. (Photo: Kerem Yucel / AFP)

“The young man had a license to carry and didn’t deserve to be murdered in his sleep,” said Toshira Garraway, founder of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, during a February 10 press conference at the rotunda of the state capitol in St. Paul. “Our families have been pleading for the legislature to pass a ban on no-knock warrants, and to hold the responsible cops accountable, and they have refused to do so. That’s why we have another young man dead today.”

Attorney Ben Crump, who represents the Locke family in their fight for justice, as well as members of a number of other families who have lost loved ones to police violence, spoke at the press conference. Locke’s parents also addressed the media.

“The blood is on the legislature,” said Amir’s father, Andre Locke. “The facts are the facts. I watched the footage to make sure he didn’t do what they said.… My son died at the hands of a trigger-happy Minneapolis police officer. We demand justice. We demand this be done immediately.”

Karen Wells, Amir’s mother added: “I am demanding that President Biden, and everyone else, from the ground up to the top, ban no-knock warrants across the United States of America in the name of Amir Locke.”

Amir Locke’s parents, Karen Wells (front, left) and Andre Locke (center), at February 10, 2022, press conference in Minnesota State Capitol. Attorney Ben Crump, representing the Locke family in their fight for justice, is on the right. Toshira Garraway, founder of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, can be seen between Crump and Andre Locke. (Photo: Still from video by Georgia Fort)

How police killed Amir Locke

In the early morning hours of February 2, a Minneapolis Police Department SWAT team broke into a downtown apartment using a key to the front door to serve a no-knock warrant. Locke was sound asleep on a couch when the officers burst in, shouting.

One cop kicked the couch while the young man was asleep. When Locke didn’t move, the cop kicked the couch again, violently, almost overturning it. Locke, under a blanket, moved and showed a gun in his hand.

Released police body camera footage showed the gun was pointed down, not aimed at the cops, and Locke’s trigger finger was along the barrel, not on the trigger.

Police officer Mark Hanneman immediately fired, killing the young man.

It was only nine seconds from the time police entered the apartment to when Locke was executed.

The police subsequently placed Hanneman on administrative leave while investigating the killing. No one has been charged for Locke’s death so far.

Police said the warrant, originating in St. Paul, sought evidence about a homicide there. Minneapolis police insisted on the “no-knock” nature of the warrant, granted by a judge, even though city authorities had claimed publicly they had suspended the use of such warrants.

Locke was not a resident of the apartment, wasn’t the subject of the search warrant, and there wasn’t any warrant for his arrest.

The young man was a DoorDash driver. His parents told the media he got the pistol and a license to carry because of the rise in carjackings and robberies of delivery drivers.

Locke’s fatal shooting was reminiscent of the March 13, 2020, killing of Breonna Taylor by Louisville, Kentucky, police. Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room technician, was shot and killed in her home by police officers who broke down her door in a midnight raid to serve a no-knock search warrant on the wrong house.

The body camera video of the cop raid that the police subsequently released sparked an immediate outcry here.

Screenshot from body camera video of the Amir Locke killing released by the police. Posted on YouTube, the entire video can be seen here.

Widespread protests have taken place in this area in response to the brutal killing of George Floyd in May 2020, of Daunte Wright a year later, and others—disproportionately African Americans—who have lost their lives as a result of cop violence.

The officers who killed Floyd and Wright—Derek Chauvin and Kimberly Potter, respectively—have been found guilty, partly as a result of the popular outcry. Chauvin was sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison last June. [Potter, however, received a slap on the hand on February 18, after this article was originally published, with a paltry sentence of 2 years in prison, far less than the standard 7 years for manslaughter.]

February 8 walkout

On February 8, hundreds of Twin Cities-area students walked out of class to protest Locke’s fatal shooting.

The demonstration, organized by students at Central High School’s Black Student Union and MN Teen Activists, began at St. Paul Central High School at noon and ended at the Governor’s Mansion.

Hundreds of students walked out of their classes at Central High School in St. Paul, MN, on February 8, 2022, to demand justice for Amir Locke. (Photo: Anthony Soufflé / StarTribune)

Students from across the Twin Cities gathered for the rally and march, including students from Lakeville, Hopkins, St. Louis Park. In addition to students from Central High School in St. Paul, Minneapolis students from Southwest, Roosevelt and Washburn also showed up in numbers.

The students said they were demanding the resignations of Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, interim Police Chief Amelia Huffman and Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill (who signed the no-knock warrant), as well as the prosecution of the cop who killed Locke.

Several Black students spoke about the traumatic impact of seeing constant news coverage of people who look like their fathers, uncles, brothers and cousins being killed.

“I’m tired of seeing Black men who look like me killed for no reason,” freshman Johnson-Nixon said.

Another freshman, Mayaka, added: “I find it really unsettling how someone of our skin color has to be aware of what they’re doing, how they’re presenting at all times.”

After a series of speeches in front of the high school, a loudspeaker blared Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” as protest organizers led rallygoers into the street.

They marched south down Lexington Parkway before turning onto Summit Avenue. At the march’s peak, protesters walked side-by-side across the four lanes of Lexington Parkway and filled about 1½ neighborhood blocks.

Outside the governor’s residence, protest organizers told the crowd they were impressed by the turnout after making the call to walk out two days earlier. They also stressed the importance of protest.

Students rally outside Minnesota governor’s mansion on February 8, 2022. (Photo: Anthony Soufflé / StarTribune)

“If we stop, they’re going to keep killing us,” said Ezra Hudson, a co-founder of MN Teen Activists. “They don’t care.”

Mutombo said she regularly thinks about how young Black men are when their shooting deaths make headlines. She mentioned Locke, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, and 12-year-old Tamir Rice.

“We should be Black and proud, not Black and scared,” she said.

The February 8 protest followed similar demonstrations over the previous weekend in response to Locke’s killing.

Protests of various kinds have continued on a daily basis.

Walkouts continue

On February 9, students from North Community High School in Minneapolis left their classes and staged a sit-in at the Minneapolis City Hall demanding justice for Amir Locke.

“Until there’s change, we’re not going to stop,” said Khadija Ba, a senior at the school. “Those officers need to be prosecuted, they need to be stripped of their badge… If you are a police officer and you murder an innocent person, you should serve your jail time, period. I think that once we start making those changes, that change is going to come.”

Khadija Ba, senior at North Community High School in Minneapolis, speaks during February 9 sit-in at the Minneapolis City Hall. (Photo: Still from video by Georgia Fort)

Students from St. Anthony Middle School and High School also staged a walked out on February 11.

The St. Anthony Middle School’s Student Diversity Leadership Group organized the action on two days’ notice. The middle school is composed of students in grades 6-8. High school students also joined the action, which grew to about 250. 

St. Anthony Village is a suburb of Minneapolis with a population of some 9,000. Originally established as an overwhelmingly white enclave, its population has grown more diverse and working class in recent years. The city was the site of numerous protests over the murder of Philando Castile in 2016 at the hands of a St. Anthony police officer. 

Students chanted for justice for an ever-growing list of names of those killed by the police nationally.

African Americans and other students of color also described the trauma they experience on a daily basis because of cop violence, as well as their frustration with the refusal of the school administration to address their complaints of racism and micro-aggressions that occur in the classroom. They exhorted white students to join them by speaking out when they witness racism in the school and the community.

Students walked out of their classes in St. Anthony Middle School and High School on February 11, 2022, to protest the killing by the police of Amir Locke. (Photos: Stills from video by Sandi Sherman)

“Respect our existence or expect resistance,” read a sign held by one of the protesters.

Additional actions, including walkouts and performances, are organized over the coming week, many led by youth.

Sandi Sherman contributed to this article, reporting on the St. Anthony Village action.

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