Hundreds of American demonstrators in Minneapolis protest police killing of young Black man

A demonstrator holds up a sign accusing the Minneapolis police of murder at a protest for Amir Locke, a Black man who was shot and killed by Minneapolis police’s SWAT team, at a protest in Minneapolis, Minnesota, US, February 4, 2022. (Reuters photo))

Hundreds of American protesters have held a demonstration in downtown Minneapolis demanding justice in the police killing of a young African-American man, Amir Locke, during a botched raid on his apartment earlier this week.

The protesters, chanting Locke's name and the slogan "no justice, no peace," demonstrated on Saturday at Government Plaza in Minnesota's largest city three days after the 22-year-old was shot on his couch by police, Reuters reported.

Locke was shot Wednesday by officers carrying out a search warrant on the apartment in the northern US city, where the police killing of George Floyd in 2020 sparked nationwide protests against racism and police brutality.

Video of the incident shows an officer using a key to unlock the door and then a SWAT team entering the apartment while shouting, "Police, search warrant!" They open fire as soon as Locke, sleeping on a couch, starts to rise from beneath a blanket, with a gun in his hand.

The total time between the officers' entrance and the shots fired was less than ten seconds. Locke died from his wounds in hospital. An incident report said he had two wounds in the chest and one in the right wrist.

The parents of Locke said their son was “executed”, and vowed not to stop fighting until he “gets justice.”

Locke’s parents, Andre Locke and Karen Wells, said on Friday their son was a law-abiding citizen and respectful to all, including to police. Wells said some of their relatives were with law enforcement and they had coached Locke on how to act in encounters with officers because of the danger to “unarmed Black males.”

Police have said they were exercising a "no-knock" search warrant, which authorizes officers to enter private property without first alerting occupants or announcing their presence.

The neighboring Saint Paul Police Department had issued the warrant in relation to a homicide probe. Locke was not named in the warrant, and Minneapolis police have acknowledged it was not clear how he was connected to that investigation.

On Thursday, police authorities said the county attorney's office was reviewing the shooting, and that video from the incident appeared to show Locke's gun pointed toward officers when they opened fire.

Protesters on Saturday said Locke had a right to possess a weapon in his own home and police never allowed him to disarm himself after they stormed into his apartment without warning.

Locke’s parents also said their son was startled from his deep sleep when police stormed the apartment and reached for his legal firearm to protect himself. They said Locke had a permit to carry a gun.

At least 500 protestors gathered in below-freezing temperatures, demanding an unconditional ban on “no-knock” warrants, the dismissal and arrest of officers involved in the shooting, and the resignation of the mayor and police chief, Reuters reported.

At the protest, a number of speakers demanded racial justice and condemned police violence against Black people, who have been disproportionately targeted by heavy-handed, and discriminatory law enforcement tactics.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump said Locke’s family was “just flabbergasted at the fact that Amir was killed in this way” and disgusted at how the raid was conducted. “They didn’t even give him a chance.”

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey imposed a moratorium on no-knock warrants on Friday two days after Locke was shot and killed by police.

He said his office will cooperate with law enforcement to review department policy with the help of two experts who helped devise Breonna’s Law, the ban on no-knock warrants that was imposed in Louisville, Kentucky, following the death of Breonna Taylor in a raid at her home in 2020.

The mayor’s office said that under the moratorium, a no-knock warrant can only be served if there is an imminent threat of harm, and even then, the warrant must be approved by the police chief.

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