Black Voters Want Better Policing, Not Posturing by Progressives. New York Times Article by Nekima Levy Armstrong.

November 9, 2021

Black Voters Want Better Policing, Not Posturing by Progressives by Dr. Nekima Levy Armstrong

(Featured in the New York Times)

MINNEAPOLIS — This city always prided itself for being a progressive place where everyone could thrive. At least, that was true for white people. Black residents all too often faced persistent racism and inequality — in education, homeownership, income and employment — and in the way the police treated us.

For years, the Minneapolis police have persistently abused Black residents, even children. Several years ago I saw a white officer confront a Black boy who looked to be about 10, grab him by his shirt and slam him against the hood of a police car. I confronted the officer and notified the white police chief at the time. The chief shrugged as if there was nothing he could do.

It took the police murder of George Floyd last year, and an uprising by outraged residents, to finally call attention to the brutality and injustice Black people face every day here and around the country.

Those of us who had long fought for a reckoning over police abuse in Minneapolis expected to see a critical examination of the practices, laws, policies, contractual requirements and spending that undergird policing. We expected a well-thought-out, evidence-based, comprehensive plan to remake our police department.

Instead, what we got was progressive posturing of a kind seen throughout the country and a missed opportunity to bring about real change and racial justice.

This was made plain last week when voters rejected a proposal to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a new Department of Public Safety. While many white progressives embraced the ballot measure as a sign of progress, many Black residents like me raised concerns that the plan lacked specificity and could reduce public safety in the Black community without increasing police accountability. The city’s largest Black neighborhoods voted it down, while support was greater in areas where more white liberals lived.

The measure would have removed from the City Charter a requirement for a minimum number of police officers per resident and enacted “a comprehensive public health approach” to public safety “which could include licensed peace officers (police officers), if necessary.” (Emphasis added.) It would have also diluted the mayor’s power over the police by having the chief executive and the City Council share control, and would not have required the head of the proposed new department to have any law enforcement experience.

The proposal would have almost certainly created a cascade of unintended consequences that would have harmed Black residents by reducing the number of police officers and the quality of oversight without creating an effective alternative.

Supporters of the measure held no public hearings about it and made little effort to listen to Black residents’ concerns or the opinions of experts. The main issue that many Black people were worried about — the significant increase in gun violence, carjackings and homicides here in the past year or so — was largely ignored.

“Nothing about us without us,” opponents of the measure said, demanding a role in decision-making to make sure that any solution accounted for both Black people’s complex and troubling relationship with the police as well as the disproportionate damage crime and violence do to our communities.

Black voters were especially wary because the City Council members who pushed the measure had done little to rein in the Minneapolis Police Department over the years. The pledge that nine of them made to dismantle the department shortly after Mr. Floyd was killed was more about “looking” progressive to national and international audiences than about transforming policing in ways that most Black residents wanted.

The months of protests around the country and around the world motivated by George Floyd’s killing were intense and electrifying. But the aftermath of those protests help tell the real story. Far too many progressives took the route of proposing quick fixes, like simply cutting police funding, to address complex, longstanding challenges to policing. As election results in Minneapolis, New York City and elsewhere have shown, that’s not what the majority of Black people want.

What many Black people are demanding is a system that is effective, cost-efficient, non-militarized and transparent. We want officials to be accountable for who is hired, how they are disciplined and how they treat us. We want police leaders to admit that racism, white supremacy and misogyny are endemic in many police forces and we want them to commit to radically shift police culture.

For that to happen, there must be a re-examination of the purposes, practices, expenditures and almost unfettered power and discretion of the police. To responsibly reduce spending, elected officials must conduct a real cost/benefit analysis of hiring numerous officers to focus on low-level crime, traffic stops (as in the cases of Daunte Wright and Philando Castile), and small quantities of cannabis, to name a few. This would ultimately mean eliminating or reducing low-level traffic stops, repealing criminal laws and ordinances that do not improve public safety, and making a commitment to end the war on drugs.

Police departments must establish an early-warning system to flag problem officers and a robust disciplinary system when officers violate the law and people’s rights. Instead of continuing to allow police departments to investigate themselves when officers kill people, states should establish a special prosecutor’s office to investigate claims and bring charges when appropriate.

Police departments should analyze data to decide where officers are needed most and even where other resources, like mental health professionals, should be assigned. Receiving input and oversight from the public are important components to shifting police culture, as well as listening to Black people and taking our concerns seriously.

Black lives need to be valued not just when unjustly taken by the police, but when we are alive and demanding our right to be heard, to breathe, to live in safe neighborhoods and to enjoy the full benefits of our status as American citizens.

That all takes hard work, not just rhetoric, political posturing, and empty promises.

Dr. Nekima Levy Armstrong is a civil-rights lawyer and the founder of the Racial Justice Network and executive director of the Wayfinder Foundation.

The Racial Justice Network (RJN) is a multi-racial, grassroots organization, committed to fighting for racial justice and building bridges across racial, social, and economic lines.

Minneapolis Mayoral Forum : Replay of the Live Zoom

On Wednesday September 22nd, Racial Justice Network facilitated a conversation between 7 of the Minneapolis Mayoral Candidates.

This was a virtual gathering to explore local community topics through a racial justice lens. Empowering the community to make informed voting decisions in the city elections.
The following candidates participated:
  • Jacob Frey
  • Kate Knuth
  • Sheila Nezhad
  • A.J. Awed
  • Clint Conner
  • Jerrell Perry
  • Paul E. Johnson

The conversation was moderated by Civil Rights Attorney and Activist, Dr. Nekima Levy Armstrong.

Letter to Gov Walz, Re: Winston Smith

JUNE 10, 2021

The Honorable Tim Walz
Governor of Minnesota

130 State Capitol
75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd
Saint Paul, Minnesota, 55155

Penned from–

Members of the Racial Justice Network

In response to the violent and horrific death of a Black man and father, Winston Smith, who was killed last week by Sheriff’s Deputies from Hennepin and Ramsey Counties under the authority of the U.S. Marshals

Dear Governor Walz,

As the world watches Minnesota and our demands for genuine transformation, accountability, and transparency within our system of policing, we face yet another violent and horrific death of a Black man and father at the hands of law enforcement.

Winston Smith was killed last week by Sheriff’s Deputies from Hennepin and Ramsey Counties under the authority of the U.S. Marshals.

The public has received scant details about what happened and why and even those details have changed repeatedly over the last few days. Not only has the public been told that there is no body camera or dash camera footage available, which is unfathomable in 2021; but now we are being told by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) that the identities of the officers will not be revealed because they were supposedly acting undercover.

It appears that no one is accepting responsibility or taking accountability for the police killing of Winston Smith.

As Minnesota residents, we deserve better and we demand better. Since you became Governor, multiple people have been killed by police under very questionable circumstances. Yet, we have not seen the calls for more transparency, stronger policies to protect the public from unwarranted police violence, and a more robust disciplinary system be addressed by you or your administration with a sense of urgency. 

We have made clear for many years that the BCA is not a credible or competent agency for investigating killings by police officers. In addition to their lack of credibility, the BCA has major conflicts of interest which should result in the agency’s immediate removal from investigating the police killing of Winston Smith.

As you may know, Ramona Dohman, the current head of the U.S. Marshals for the District of Minnesota is the former boss of Drew Evans, the BCA Superintendent; stemming from her time as Commissioner of Public Safety for Minnesota.

Further, the Star Tribune recently reported that some BCA agents have been deputized by the U.S. Marshals to become members of their task force(s). Thus, we believe that it is impossible to expect a fair and impartial investigation. What we have seen thus far is evidence of a cover-up of the killing of Winston Smith.

We, the members of the Racial Justice Network, are calling for the following demands to be met:

  • Immediately bar the BCA and all law enforcement agencies from participating in the US Marshal’s Northstar Task Force and any other federal task forces;
  • Immediately remove the BCA from investigating the shooting of Winston Smith and request an independent federal investigation;
  • Create an independent panel to review task force agency conduct and the memorandum(a) of agreement/understanding between Minnesota law enforcement agencies and federal law enforcement agencies. The independent panel should report findings and recommendations to the public; and there should be accountability for officers who engaged in civil rights and human rights violations of civilians;
  • Hold Minnesota law enforcement officers who participated on the NorthStar Task Force that killed Winston Smith accountable under law. Their identities should also be released to the public, as well as any footage regarding this police killing;
  • Pass meaningful police reform legislation and use your executive power and resources to establish an Independent Office of the Special Prosecutor to investigate and prosecute killings by law enforcement officers in the state of Minnesota.

The truth of what happened to Winston Smith and so many other individuals who have been killed by police in Minnesota, remains hidden beneath the thin blue line of injustice because of policy failures at the highest levels. 

Governor Walz, the world is watching. We demand change. We demand a response from you and decisive action. We are not looking for lip service, politics as usual, or empty rhetoric. Even with all eyes on Minnesota, we continue to experience the same violent policing and adherence to qualified immunity that encourages lethal tactics and abuse of citizens. We demand change, not more empty promises.


Racial Justice Network

Community Calls For Boycott of Benihana Due To Racist, Dangerous Abuse Against Black Customers

Media Contact–

Media Contact: Raeisha Williams
Email address:
Phone: 404-493-2577



Community Calls For Boycott of Benihana Due To Racist, Dangerous Abuse Against Black Customers

Please be advised that on Wednesday, March 31, 2021, at 4:00pm in front of Benihana Golden Valley, 850 Louisiana Avenue, South Golden Valley, MN 55426, community members will be speaking out against racist and discriminatory behavior towards African American customers by Benihana’s management.
“Our community is already dealing with the stress and trauma of witnessing what happened to George Floyd after a store owner called 911 on him. As a Black woman and mother of a toddler, I was nervous and fearful of how the police were going to treat us once they showed up on the scene. I was not only concerned for my safety, but the safety of the other Black women who were present, along with my elderly mother. Would any of this have happened if we were white women?”, said Raeisha Williams, founder of Guns Down Love Up.

On March 29, 2021, five Black Women, including an elder and toddler, were refused services after asking for their table to be properly cleaned and to speak with the manager. The police were called by the manager of Benihana’s Golden Valley location in an attempt to intimidate, criminalize, and physically remove the five women from the restaurant. The manager on duty, Kim, verbally threatened to have the woman arrested if the women did not get up from the table in which they were seated and leave the restaurant. The request from the manager came without explanation and/or reason.

“This was the modern-day Jim Crow refusal of service to customers based on the color of their skin,” said Rosemary Nevils Williams, elder, activist and co-founder of the African American Center of Minnesota, in response to being forcibly removed from the restaurant.

“As a St. Paul Public Schools board member, I don’t expect special treatment when I go out to restaurants, but as a Black woman who works on behalf of my community, I do expect to be treated with dignity. I was excited about celebrating my birthday with my wife and my closest friends, but the Benihana manager’s discriminatory treatment turned my celebration into a nightmare. I don’t want to see other Black customers treated like second class citizens in businesses they patronize,” said Chauntyll Allen, founder of Black Lives Matter Twin Cities and Love First.

The Parties’ Demands Include:

• Immediate termination of the racist and unprofessional manager, Kim;
• A Boycott of the Golden Valley location;
• A public apology from the Benihana Corporation;
• Anti- Racism training for the staff, with a focus on unlearning anti-blackness;
• A corporate wide policy against calling the police on African Americans and other communities of color; and
• Benihana Corporation to pay the Culinary Arts tuition of five African American students each
year, during the existence of the company.

RJN in solidarity with Leslie E. Redmond's open letter and call for true justice.

Demand removal of Racist Mike Freeman
from the Conviction Review Unit.

You do not need to live in Hennepin County in order to sign!

MARCH 20, 2021

The Honorable Tim Walz
Governor of Minnesota

130 State Capitol
75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd
Saint Paul, Minnesota, 55155

The Honorable Keith Ellison
Attorney General of Minnesota

445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1400
St. Paul, MN 55101-2131

Penned from–

Members of the Racial Justice Network,
Criminal Justice Subcommittee.

In response and support of Leslie E. Redmond’s recent open letter & call for true justice to fellow CRU Advisory Board Members, Community Stakeholders, and Elected Officials.

You can read Leslie E. Redmond’s letter here.

Dear Governor Walz and Attorney General Ellison,

As members of the Racial Justice Network, we stand in solidarity with attorney and former Minneapolis NAACP President, Leslie E. Redmond. We echo Ms. Redmond’s concerns and we further demand that the Conviction Review Unit show integrity in its mission and take responsibility to ensure that a process is put in place that is fair, equitable, community-centered, and justice-oriented.

Ms. Redmond highlighted major issues surrounding community credibility, integrity, and urgency as it pertains to the advisory board that you have established. As members of the Twin Cities’ community, we have seen similar issues arise time and time again in the way that elected officials in Minnesota handle matters regarding criminal justice.

We stand with Ms. Redmond in her disapproval of who has been chosen to serve on the advisory board. Most notably, we recognize the lack of adequate community representation within this group. There are numerous community members with “lived experiences and proximity to community-based solutions,” as Ms. Redmond put it, who would arguably be more qualified to help correct the omnipresent racial disparities within the criminal justice system in Minnesota.

Additionally, there is no excuse to ignore that one of the most egregious perpetrators of this broken system, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, has a seat at the table. As Ms. Redmond pointed out, he has stood in the way of releasing innocent people from prison, like Myon Burell.

The impact of Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman’s overzealous prosecutions in black and brown communities can be felt all over Hennepin County. Furthermore, he has refused to prosecute white suspects who murdered or seriously injured Black people. We saw this happen recently when Freeman announced that he would not be charging John Rieple with the murder of Calvin Horton.

Mike Freeman should not be allowed to review or participate on any justice reform board.

It is unsettling that Ms. Redmond was corrected when she called this group the “Conviction Integrity Unit,” which is an accepted interchangeable name for a CRU. The word integrity, implies action. Integrity implies responsibility. To prevent innocent people from remaining in prison is integrity; it is justice. That is precisely what we expect from the CRU.

We agree with Ms. Redmond’s call for urgency. With all eyes on Minnesota as an epicenter of the movement toward racial justice, these changes need to be implemented swiftly. Community credibility, integrity, and urgency must be at the forefront of the Conviction Review Unit.

We demand that Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman be immediately removed from this advisory board and replaced with community members that have been impacted by the racist criminal justice system.


Additionally, we stand in solidarity with Ms. Redmond and all of the concerns she outlined in her open letter released on March 17, 2021.



Members of the Racial Justice Network,
Criminal Justice Subcommittee

CC: Conviction Review Unit – Advisory Board Members

We need you to sign the petition.

You do not need to live in Hennepin County in order to sign!


Join us for : We Are Undefeated - a Photoshoot & Book Giveaway

Thank you On Site Public Media for this wonderful video featuring Titilayo Bediako!

Join the Racial Justice Network, WE WIN When We Read, and Love First Community Engagement for

A photoshoot and book giveaway

26 March  2021 from 3pm- 5pm
1221 Marshall Ave, St. Paul, MN 55104

You’ll receive Black children’s books by Black authors, have an “Undefeated” themed photoshoot, enjoy some treats, and so much more!

See the event on FacebookVisit We-Win.orgLearn about We Win When We ReadLearn about Love First Community Engagement

Annual Holiday Gift Giveaway!

We Win Institute and the Racial Justice Network present this year's Holiday Gift Giveaway!

Join us on Saturday December 19th from 12pm-3pm at Zion Baptist Church for Gift Bags, Food Boxes, Toys, Music, Hot Cocoa, and MORE!
We are COVID-19 safe - This will be both an indoor and outdoor event with limited access indoors + social distancing.
Face masks are required!

Let's Break Bread Together : Free Pimento Community Meal

It's been a rough few months for us all. Let’s take some time out and break bread together.
Join us for a FREE lunch catered by our favorite Jamaican Restaurant, Pimento Jamaican Kitchen. Pimento will be serving their fan fav Jerk Chicken. Q Bear ???? from KMOJ will be spinning on the ones and twos.
Come out and a bring ya friends and family! All are welcome. Join us in spreading love and good vibes in our community.
This event is brought to you by Racial Justice Network, Guns Down Love Up, and Pimento Jamaican Kitchen, and sponsored by Target Corp.