Marques Armstrong had just got out of the shower one morning this fall when he heard gunshots that seemed to come from his Minneapolis backyard. After ducking, he ran upstairs to check on his wife and daughter, then looked out to see a car speed away.
It was a depressingly routine occurrence on the city’s predominantly Black north side that reaffirmed Armstrong’s staunch opposition to a proposal on Tuesday’s ballot to replace the city’s police department and a required minimum number of officers with a new Department of Public Safety.
“Everybody says we want the police to be held accountable and we want fair policing. No one has said we need to get rid of the police,” said Armstrong, a Black activist who owns a mental health practice and a clothing store. “There needs to be a huge overhaul from the ground up, but we need some form of community safety because over here shots are ringing out day and night.”
The ballot proposal that goes to voters Tuesday has roots in the abolish-the-police movement that erupted after George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer last year. It has drawn strong support from younger Black activists who were mobilized by Floyd’s death, as well as from some Black and white residents across this liberal city.