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Rep. Ilhan Omar fired verbal shots at a state judge who struck down a ballot initiative aimed at defunding the Minneapolis Police Department, saying the ruling now deprives the city of the “flexibility” in needs to adequately protect residents.
“The court finds that the current ballot language is vague, ambiguous and incapable of implementation, and is insufficient to identify the amendment clearly,” Hennepin County District Judge Jamie Anderson wrote in his ruling on the measure. “It is unreasonable and misleading.”
The initiative seeks to replace the police department with a “public safety” agency that may or may not include trained police officers, according to reports, leaving city officials and Mayor Jacob Frey feverishly searching for a solution or workaround ahead of the November ballot.
Anderson issued his ruling Tuesday evening, just two hours before a 5 p.m. deadline for ballots to be sent to the printer’s office, The Associated Press reported.
“The rejected language for the proposed amendment to the city charter, approved by the City Council last month, would have asked voters whether to replace the police force with a new but mostly undefined Department of Public Safety that ‘could include police officers,” the newswire reported.
“It would have removed a mandate that the city has a police department and provide at least minimum staffing levels based on population. The council instead of the mayor would control the new entity,” the AP said.
The City Council approved revised language that Frey says they are now obligated to send to voters. The mayor, who has vetoed similar language twice before, said he’ll vote against the measure this fall, adding that he believes changes can be made to the police department without altering the city’s charter.
Omar, a Democrat whose 5th Congressional District includes the city, ripped Anderson’s decision in a town hall meeting in the city on Wednesday, blaming big-money interests for the ruling.
“The leaders who are opposed to progress in this city are not nameless or faceless,” she said, according to Fox News. “Using your network to obstruct the kind of progress so many people in this city want and were looking forward to is not something that should go unnoticed.”
“This ballot measure should be on the ballot,” she added. “As you can tell, I’m pretty upset about it.”
“We have people pouring in so much money to make us enslaved to a charter that the majority of us [oppose],” went on. “This is the opposite of what democracy should produce.
“The people had a vision for what they wanted, and there’s a judge, there’s a mayor, there is a police chief, and their monied friends who are telling us we can’t have a city that is flexible to our needs and to our demands. How else are we supposed to make progress if we can’t do that?”
In an op-ed published by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune last month, Omar talked up the initiative, claiming the police force, as is, has been a failure.
“The truth is the current system hasn’t been serving our city for a long time,” she wrote. “I have long said we need a public safety system that is actually rooted in people’s basic human needs.”
Omar is not alone in her support for the measure. Former far-left U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, now Minnesota’s attorney general, said Minneapolis residents want to see major police reform and “accountability” following the murder of George Floyd in the city last year.
“Fundamentally, communities across [Minneapolis] need & want the possibility for reform & accountability, which the current Charter blocks by locking us into an outdated model for law enforcement and safety. They want to end the cycle of inaction,” Ellison tweeted Aug. 31.
“This year the residents of [Minneapolis] have asked for and can take that first step of action on the ballot. As a resident of [Minneapolis] where George Floyd’s murder sparked a national call for real reform, I will vote Yes for greater public safety & more human rights for all. #Yes4Minneapolis.”
In July, Anderson ordered Frey and the City Council to hire more police officers in response to a lawsuit from residents who said they did not feel safe in the city. The order “means the city must employ 730 sworn officers by June 30 of next year,” Fox9 reported.