Activists Call for Police Reform in Wake of Justine Damond’s Death

Justine Damond, a 40 year-old Australian woman living in Minneapolis, was shot and killed outside her home by police Saturday night after she called 911 to report a potential assault. The yoga and meditation instructor and a personal health and life coach working in Minneapolis was set to marry her fiancé, Don Damond, in August.

Damond was wearing pajamas when she approached a police vehicle in an alleyway behind her home and spoke to two officers inside through their window. During that process, one of them abruptly shot her through the vehicle door. Even though all Minneapolis police officers have been required to wear body cameras since the end of 2016, following the murder of Philando Castille by a police officer in the Twin Cities area, the officers’ body cameras were switched off at the time of the incident.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) issued a press release in which they stated they would be conducting a investigation on the incident and performing an autopsy. It states that the investigation is in its early stages, but that as soon as more information is obtained regarding the exact cause and manner of Damond’s death, the BCA will share its findings with the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office for review. Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, who said that she was “heartsick and deeply disturbed by what occurred,” made clear that she has been and would be continuing to ask the BCA to release as much information as possible as quickly as possible.

Members of the Minneapolis chapter of the Women’s March gathered to pay tribute to Damond through a vigil. Leslie Redmond, vice president of the Minneapolis NAACP, was among the members of the vigil, stating she was there to stand in solidarity with the family and community members. “It is unfortunate that we are here today after another community member has lost their life to the hands of a police officer,” said Redmond. “Enough is enough… We want to make sure that justice prevails. We don’t want to see business as usual. We don’t want to see the status quo again. This is a beautiful community… you don’t expect for situations like this to happen. However, Martin Luther King Jr. talked about how injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

While African-Americans bear the brunt of police brutality in the U.S., Damond’s killing is still a stark reminder of the excessive police violence that is becoming commonplace across the country. “As we can see from this case,” Nekima Levy-Pounds, a civil rights attorney and police reform activist, pointed out at the vigil, “[the police] did not release much information. Why? Because I don’t believe that they have anything they can say that would justify Justine being killed at the hands of the police.”

“I’m thankful that her life was not in vain because we’ve all come together out here across differences,” said Levy-Pounds, who called Damond’s death a wake-up call for the ways in which civilians have been endangered by police brutality. “Across racial lines, socio-economic lines—that is what it’s is going to take to change things. We would not accept her death, we should not accept these answers, we need to demand justice.”

While police violence is disproportionately targeted at people of color, this epidemic clearly surpasses racial boundaries and demands reform.

Ciarra Davison is an Editorial Intern at Ms. and an undergrad at UCLA, where she studies English and writes for the Politics section of FEM Newsmagazine. She dedicates her time to standing in solidarity with all oppressed groups and individuals and fighting for equal rights. She also enjoys traveling and dancing while cooking.

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