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A 12-year-old competitive swimmer in Superior, Wisconsin, was almost disqualified from a YMCA-sponsored meet for wearing a Black Lives Matter swimsuit in solidarity with the growing movement demanding justice in the fatal police shooting of Amir Locke.
Even as officials told the young athlete, whose name is Leidy Lyons, that she could avoid the punishment by changing into a different outfit, she stood her ground and refused.
“She is very passionate about social justice,” Leidy’s mother, Sarah Lyons, told local NBC affiliate KBJR. “She has been through a lot already at a young age. It’s a big part of her, which I think is wild at 12.”
Leidy was eventually allowed to compete with the help and support of the Duluth, Minnesota, NAACP, who called the punishment “dehumanzing.” And the independent officiant who claimed the swimsuit violated the USA Swimming policy against political language has since been banned from future events at the YMCA in Duluth where the competition took place.
Lyons’ activism is just the latest example of the widespread support and demands for justice in the tragic shooting of Locke, the 22-year-old Black man killed during the execution of a no-knock warrant in Minneapolis last Wednesday. In the years since the murder of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and others, rage over the treatment of Black Americans at the hands of police has been building, and protesters have learned their actions can make a difference. Just days after Locke’s death, Black mothers, teenage students, and others have stepped up to demand resignations and reform.
Just before 7 a.m. on Feb. 2, a Minneapolis Police Department SWAT team entered Locke’s apartment and found Locke in his bed armed with a firearm that his family says he owned legally. Within 10 seconds, officer Mark Hanneman fired his gun three times, according to police body cam footage of the raid, injuring Locke, who later died at the hospital.
Police later told the public that Locke wasn’t the target of the warrant but rather his 17-year-old cousin, who was arrested Tuesday. The teen lived with his mother in the same building where Locke was shot and killed, according to documents obtained by Minnesota CBS affiliate WCCO.
On Monday, Black mothers, who often speak out against the police brutality and gun violence affecting their children, marched to the Minneapolis City Hall to demand the resignations of both the officer responsible for shooting Locke and the interim police chief of the Minneapolis police department. (Former Chief Medaria Arradondo, who oversaw the department during the May 2020 murder of George Floyd, quietly retired from the post on Jan. 16.)
“When somebody is not doing their job, when somebody is causing harm on the citizens that you’re responsible for, your constituents, it is your responsibility to fire everybody until you can fire the cop,” Black Lives Matter Twin Cities organizer Chauntyll Allen said Monday, according to The Grio. “We’ve had how many days now for you to work? What are y’all doing? It does not take that long for you to work.”
Over in St. Paul, Minneapolis’ sister city, middle and high school students staged a massive walkout demanding change on Tuesday.
Organized by both the Black Student Union and the nonprofit organization Minnesota Teen Activists, hundreds of students gathered outside Central High School in St. Paul and marched to the governor’s mansion holding signs and chanting.
For the city where Floyd was murdered, Locke’s death marks just another infuriating tragedy involving police violence against Black men and women. As the city grapples with the fallout of Locke’s death, the federal trial against the former Minneapolis cops who watched Derek Chauvin murder the 46-year-old Black man continues.
Locke’s shooting also bears similarity to that of Breonna Taylor’s. Both Locke and Taylor were asleep in private homes during a police raid that neither was the target of.
No knock warrants allow police to enter a home or building armed without announcing their presence in hopes of detaining an alleged suspect. For years, the practice has been criticized for being dangerous, particularly for Black Americans. Cities in Kentucky, like Louisville and Lexington, and states like Virginia have banned the practice altogether.
Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey enacted an immediate moratorium on no-knock warrants in the days after the fatal shooting and has since announced that his office is working with civil rights activists and legislators to revise police policies regarding the practice.
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