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For Mayor Jacob Frey of Minneapolis, a Walk of Shame

2020-06-07 04:46:23
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It was humiliation on a scale almost unimaginable outside of cinema or nightmare.

But for Mayor Jacob Frey of Minneapolis, a 38-year-old civil rights lawyer who swept into office in 2018 on promises to fix the broken relationship between the community and the police, it was all too real.

There he was on Saturday, retreating through a sea of protesters yelling, “Go home, Jacob, go home!” and “Shame! Shame!” after he refused to commit to defunding the Police Department. As he walked away, the crowd continued to chant “Shame! Shame!” — a moment reminiscent of the excruciating walk of shame from “Game of Thrones.”

The scene in Minneapolis, which ricocheted across social media, reflected the intense pressure protesters nationwide are putting on elected officials to commit to sweeping changes in the nation’s law enforcement system after the death of George Floyd nearly two weeks ago.

Across the country, calls to defund, downsize or abolish police departments have gained new traction since Mr. Floyd, a 46-year-old black man from Minneapolis, died after a white police officer pressed a knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes.

On Wednesday, Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles announced that he would cut as much as $150 million from a planned increase in the Police Department’s budget. And in New York, Corey Johnson, the City Council speaker, and Daniel Dromm, a council member from Queens, vowed even before the latest protests to cut the Police Department’s $6 billion budget.

In Minneapolis, at least four members of the City Council have called for dismantling the Police Department, where four former officers have been charged in Mr. Floyd’s death.

“And when we’re done, we’re not simply gonna glue it back together,” Jeremiah Ellison, a member of the City Council, said on Twitter this week. “We are going to dramatically rethink how we approach public safety and emergency response.”

On Saturday, Mr. Frey was pressed to state his position on the issue by protesters who had massed outside his house.

Looming above the mayor on a stage, a woman with a microphone asked him if he would commit on the spot to defunding the Minneapolis Police Department.

“It is a yes or no,” she said, instructing the crowd to be quiet and reminding them that the mayor is up for re-election next year. “And if he says no, guess what we’re going to do next year,” she said, adding an expletive for emphasis.

She then handed the microphone to Mr. Frey, who said in a barely audible voice muffled by his face mask, “I do not support the full abolition of the police.”

With that, the protesters began their chants of “Go home, Jacob, go home!” and “Shame! Shame!”

After Mr. Frey walked away quietly, a spokesman reiterated that the mayor’s position on the issue had not changed and that he prefers instead to work with the city’s police chief, Medaria Arradondo.

“Mayor Frey is unwavering in his commitment to working with Chief Arradondo toward deep structural reforms and uprooting systemic racism,” said the spokesman, Mychal Vlatkovich. “He does not support abolishing the police department.”


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