Shortly after 6:00 p.m. on Dec. 30 in South Minneapolis, only a few blocks away from where George Floyd was killed, the Minneapolis Police Department took the life of another Black man Dolal Idd.
Police chief Medaria Arradondo initially did not name Idd, calling him only a “felony suspect.” Citing “initial witness statements,” he claimed that Idd fired first at officers who were conducting a “traffic stop.” He promised that body camera footage of the incident would be released to the public by the next afternoon.
These statements were repeated uncritically by local corporate media. The Star Tribune, in particular, manipulatively reproduced selected statements from police dispatch — such as “Shots fired! Officer needs help!” — to create the impression of hapless, innocent cops assailed by a violent shooter.
This did not forestall the rapid gathering of hundreds of protesters at the site of the killing near a Holiday gas station at the intersection of Cedar Ave. S and 36th St. E.
Police attempted to intimidate people gathering in the street the night of the killing as soon as it became clear that a demonstration was occurring. Dozens of heavily-armed cops swarmed the area and blocked several intersections, and large vans were brought forward, implicitly threatening mass arrests. Ultimately, no arrests were made that night. Instead, the police were widely mocked on social media for displaying cowardice per the dispatch radio, requesting shift changes because listening to protester anger was apparently exhausting for them, and begging for authorization to use tear gas or other weapons on a nonviolent crowd.
The demonstration that started in the evening of Dec. 30 dissipated in the early hours of Dec. 31, before the community even knew the name of the victim. At the same time, Dolal Idd’s family’s home was subjected to a violent raid by Minneapolis police, terrorizing his family, including children who were handcuffed. It was only after this terrifying ordeal that they were told that Dolal had been killed. (SahanJournal.com)
It wasn’t until after Dolal Idd’s father, Bayle Gelle, spoke up about the raid and his son’s death that body camera footage of the killing was presented to the public. (SahanJournal.com)
The footage that was shared with the public in afternoon of Dec. 31 was 27 seconds long. From only one single cop’s perspective, it was partially obstructed by the cop’s own rapid arm movements, and did not in any way prove that Dolal initiated the encounter or even that he fired at the police at all.
The politics of the MPD’s various decisions to publish or not publish video footage of this Black man’s death are transparent to the community. Late in August, a Black man shot himself near Nicollet Mall and rumors initially spread through social media that he had been killed by police. The police possessed security camera footage unambiguously disproving this and they wasted no time publicizing it openly on Twitter to the dismay of mental health professionals.
In other instances, however, families struggle for years for any access to video footage of their loved one’s deaths. In the case of Thurman Blevins, who was killed by police in 2018, the police released a highly curated and edited video that they believe exonerated them. The case of Dolal Idd apparently falls into this last category. Ultimately, body camera footage is essentially a tool in the media war on Black life in the United States. Its deployment is controlled by the very same racist police system whose operations it supposedly is meant to hold accountable.
Nevertheless, determined mass struggle can compel greater disclosure. Jaylani Hussein of the Council on American-Islamic Relations spoke on behalf of Idd’s family at a memorial vigil and rally on the evening of Dec. 31 at the site of Idd’s killing. He emphasized that the police department would prefer to release nothing whatsoever, and that even such limited and manipulative releases as were made that afternoon were only in response to mass struggle.
“That video did not come out because we asked for it. That video came out because they know that boots have been on the ground, and that people in the city of Minneapolis are gonna continue to demand justice. … I’m proud of you last night for coming out!” Hussein said. He also emphasized that inclement weather would not prevent the people from hitting the streets to demand justice: “Minnesotans, we know this weather. Don’t act like it’s too cold outside — it ain’t too cold when you see somebody being killed in the streets. It’s not cold!”
The killing of Idd comes nine months after the MPD killing of George Floyd, which sparked a global uprising against racist police brutality. In June 2020, nine members of the Minneapolis City Council gathered with movement activists in Powderhorn Park and declared their intentions to abolish the MPD.
Yet since then, the city council has only reduced the department’s budget by approximately $9 million dollars or roughly 5 percent, which is proportionately less than the roughly 15 percent budget cut that every other city department had to endure in June 2020. Democratic Mayor Jacob Frey even publicly considered vetoing the majority of this “defunding.”
Feature image: Liberation graphic. Dolal Idd (left); people gathered in protest shortly after police killed Idd at the site of his death.