Minneapolis cops have killed another Black man. In the early hours of Wednesday, February 2, a Minneapolis police SWAT team executing a no-knock search warrant relating to a homicide investigation entered an apartment using a key fob. Within nine seconds, Officer Mark Hanneman had executed 22-year-old Amir Locke, shooting him three times. Locke, who was sleeping on the couch when the cops burst in, was not even who the cops were looking for. He was not named on the warrant and was not a suspect in the case.
In the immediate aftermath of the murder, the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) and mainstream media made sure to emphasize that Locke had been armed — as if that somehow justifies the murder. Locke did have a gun, which he legally owned. MPD interim chief Amelia Huffman claimed that Locke pointed his gun at the cops — a narrative contradicted ty the cops’ own body cam video, which was released to the public. The video shows Locke lying under the covers on the couch and being awakened by the cops storming into the apartment before being killed — all within nine seconds.
Following Locke’s murder, Mayor Jacob Frey issued a moratorium on no-knock warrants in the city, except in cases of an “imminent threat of harm.” It’s a meaningless gesture; in November 2020, after the cops killed George Floyd, MPD announced its own policy change that was supposed to restrict the use of no-knock warrants except in certain “high-risk circumstances such as a hostage situation.” Media reports show, however, that the practice continued despite this restriction.
The latest “moratorium” announcement from Frey came only after police in neighboring St. Paul revealed, after Locke was killed, that it had asked for a standard search warrant but that MPD had insisted on a no-knock operation — revealing that Minneapolis police were likely violating their own policies.
The Murderous History of No-Knock Warrants
The murder of Locke is remniscent of the Breonna Taylor case in Louisville. She was killed by police in her sleep after cops entered her apartment, also on a no-knock warrant. Since then, despite Taylor’s senseless murder, Kentucky has enacted only a partial ban on the practice.
The similarity between the murders of Locke and Taylor is not a mere coincidence. No-knock warrants are typically carried out late at night or early in the morning to catch victims while they are sleeping. What could possibly go wrong? A New York Times investigation showed that between 2010 and 2016, 81 civilians and 13 cops died during such raids.
No-knock warrants have also been a big part of the racist war on drugs that began back in the 1970s, which has disproportionately targeted Black and Brown people.
Locke was murdered as the federal trial is wrapping up for the three Minneapolis ex-cops charged with with violating George Floyd’s constitutional rights as they stood and watched Derek Chauvin murder him.
Community groups have called for protests in response to Locke’s murder. Meanwhile, Governor Tim Walz, fearing another rebellion from community members, has asked the National Guard to be on standby.
Cops are Killers
All too often, cops — who routinely brutalize the working class and especially people of color — get away with outright murder. The Twin Cities, however, have had some recent cases where killer cops have been convicted. But don’t think this is because the “justice system” works. It is mass protests and uprisings that sparked a global Black Lives Matter movement and then the specific protests around each cop killing that have delivered these guilty verdicts. Action in the streets is what has brought forth any semblance of accountability for the racist police system.
There was public outrage following the acquittal of Minnesota cop Jeromino Yanez for the 2016 killing of Philando Castile. Mass mobilizations became the norm after police murders, and guilty verdicts have since been returned for former cops Mohamed Noor for killing Justine Ruszcyck Damond in 2017, Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, and Kim Potter for killing Daunte Wright last year in a Minneapolis suburb.
The 2019 conviction of Noor, a Black cop, for manslaughter in the killing of Justine Ruszcyk Damond (a white woman) while on duty was the first conviction of a killer cop in decades in Minnesota. The race of the cop and the victim were not lost on Minnesotans who began to demand greater police accountability.
Co-opting the Movement to Abolish the Police
As the movement against killer cops has grown, there has been a concerted effort by the ruling class to co-opt it — and when that’s unsuccessful, to repress the movement violently. The repression of the George Floyd uprising and the subsequent co-optation efforts by Democratic Party-friendly non-profits — all aimed at watering down police abolition movements — is evidence of this.
A few months ago, a ballot proposal to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a department of public safety was rejected by voters and the pro-police mayor Jacob Frey was re-elected with greater powers under a “strong mayor” model, giving him total executive powers over the city operations. Frey has since assembled a public safety work group to give him recommendations. This group is a hodgepodge of pro-police, celebrity activists and community policing voices — and is a naked attempt to co-opt and silence any dissent.
Amir Locke’s murder by Mark Hanneman, despite the recent convictions of killer cops, is evidence that the racist institution of policing — which was established for the purpose of catching runaway slaves — cannot be purged of police murders. Black and Brown people are not safe from cops, even when asleep. As long as there are cops, they will kill.
Locke’s murderer must be charged and convicted, but we cannot depend on the racist “justice” system to put an end to the irreformable racist institution of policing and the capitalist system it protects. For that, we must continue to mobilize.