Citizen petition drive to remove MPD from charter kicks off Saturday

    Minneapolis Police officer William Martin stands outside burning buildings near Lake Street in Minneapolis, Minnesota, following protests and property damage surrounding the police killing of George Floyd. Photo by Tony Webster/Minnesota Reformer.

    A citizen petition drive to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department kicks off Saturday, with the goal of gathering enough signatures to let voters decide the fate of the embattled department when voters go to the polls in November.

    Organizers, who need to gather 12,000 signatures, offered few details of their proposal, but it’s expected to be similar to a City Council plan that would eliminate the police department and put a new public safety agency in its place.

    The council’s plan would take the police department out of the city charter — which is like a constitution — and replace it with a new public safety agency under the control of the City Council rather than the mayor, with a division of peace officers.

    The group gathering signatures, which is called Yes4Minneapolis, would also remove the police department from the city charter, and create a new public safety department. The same group registered as “Vote Yes 4 Minneapolis,” recently reported a $500,000 donation from the Open Society Policy Center — which is backed by the family of billionaire liberal activist George Soros — to campaign for a policing charter amendment.

    Corenia Smith, campaign manager for Yes4Minneapolis, said the City Council amendment is a backup plan in case the groups have trouble gathering enough signatures, but they intend to lead with her group’s effort.

    Smith declined to share details like whether their proposal would maintain a division of peace officers.

    “It’s not quite fair to speculate or guess about what the council will and won’t do and so right now, that is what it will do,” Smith said. “The people have demanded a new department of public safety, and so we’re going about that by implementing a people-powered petition to make sure it’s on the ballot this fall.”

    She said the petition drive is being driven by a grassroots coalition — including Black Visions Collective and Reclaim the Block — that will have an organizational briefing on Friday before announcing all the groups involved.

    Although they need 12,000 signatures to get on the ballot, they plan to get 20,000 to ensure there are enough valid, registered voters’ signatures, she said.

    The launch will be from 1-4 p.m. Saturday at Moon Palace Books.