MINNEAPOLIS Hundreds gathered Thursday in a Minneapolis neighborhood for a rally to demand justice and mourn the victims of police shootings across the United States, including Justine Damond, the 40-year-old Australian native who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer last weekend.
Damond was fatally shot on Saturday by police officer Mohamed Noor after she had called 911 to report hearing a potential sexual assault taking place near her home in the citys upscale Fulton neighborhood.
On Thursday evening, members of Damonds family were surrounded by activists from across the city in a display of solidarity.Damonds fiance Don, his son Zach and his mother Sharon Sebring stood side by side with the family of Philando Castile, the black man who was shot and killed by a police officer in Falcon Heights last year during a traffic stop.
We gather here to grieve together in solidarity with the families, the families of those killed by police, Ashley Harness, a pastor at Lyndale United Church of Christ and a resident of the neighborhood, said during the rally. Justine Damond, Philando Castile, Jamar Clark, Marcus Golden, Tycel Nelson, Terrance Franklin, and all those who have been killed by police in Minnesota and beyond.
Help us, help us hold our unjust system accountable without fanning the flames of anti-Somali fear or Islamophobia, she continued, referring to the heritage of the officer who killed Damond. Help us to bear together in community our grief that looks like everything from tears to rage, all of which are holy.
As the sun began to set, gatherers chanted anti-violence messages, including: She called 911, No justice. No peace. Prosecute the police and The people united will never be defeated.
In heartfelt and inspiring speeches, Damonds friends and neighbors also didnt shy away from difficult questions, recognizing that their neighborhood rarely faces the kind of police violence other communities in the city see on a regular basis.
Im here today because this tragedy is close to home for me in a way I never experience, Sarah Kuhnen, one of Damonds neighbors, said in a moving speech to the crowd. I have to be honest here and explain my privilege.
I have felt completely safe in my new neighborhood as a white woman, as a mother, a wife and a citizen in this city, she continued. Today, I feel scared. I dont feel safe in my neighborhood.
This is not about one police officer this is about a broken system. … It is past time for me and other white people to wake up. … We all deserve to feel safe, including our Somalian neighbors.
John Thompson, Philando Castilles best friend, said there were too many mothers crying.
I never thought Id be speaking on behalf of a white woman getting murdered by the police. Its not about race. Its not about white. Its not about black. Its about the police chief killing us, Thompson said. We will not accept this anymore.
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges was also at the gathering, but declined to comment to reporters, saying she wanted to focus on speaking with the community members instead.
Thursdays event was organized by Damonds neighbors, as well as Womens March Minnesota and The New North, an intersectional movement.
The neighbors of Justine organizing this event feel strongly that this space be one that honors not just Justine, but ALL of those who have been killed by police in our city, organizers wrote on the events Facebook page. Lives lost to police violence deserve a MARCH, deserve justice, deserve recognition of the systemic racism and white supremacist culture that kills.
Questions remain about what exactly motivated Noor to shoot Damond in the abdomen on Saturday night. Noor and his partner had been called to the alley behind Damonds home to investigate reports of a possible assault. When Damond approached the police car on the side of the driver, Noor shot her from the passengers seat.
An attorney for Noors partner, Matthew Harrity, saidits possible the officers were concerned about being ambushedat the time.
Earlier Thursday, Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau said Damon didnt have to die. She based her analysis on information released by the states Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is conducting the investigation into the shooting.
On our squad cars you will find the words, To protect with courage and serve with compassion. This did not happen, Harteau said during a press conference.
Nick Visser contributed to this report.