Justice for Justine calls for transparency as Noor trial begins

Dozens gathered at the Hennepin County Government Center Monday to call for transparency in the courtroom as the trial for former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor begins.

The group Justice for Justine is expressing their frustration with the courts and with how other cases of officer-involved shootings have been handled. Justine Ruszczyk Damond was shot and killed by Noor in July 2017. 

“As this trial begins today, we are glad that officer Noor is being prosecuted and hope that he is held accountable for his crimes,” activist Katherine Hamberg said.  

As jury selection begins in the trial, dozens rallied for more transparency from officials.

“We must express our outrage at the intentional and calculated decisions by the judges to limit the public’s ability to follow this trial,” activist Todd Schuman said.

From the 28-seat courtroom to a judge’s ruling to withhold showing key evidence in the case, the coalition of social justice organizations, which includes Justice for Justine and the NAACP, say the restrictions violate the First Amendment.

“We call on the judges to relocate the trial to a bigger venue, repeal the restrictions on evidence being shown outside the courtroom and augment the overflow room with more space and higher quality audio/visual equipment,” Schuman said.

Schuman also said in a release that "'space is so tight that the Ruszczyk and Noor families are literally seated in the same row shoulder-to-shoulder, and only a handful of media outlets have been granted permanent access for the duration of the trial.'"

The group is also bringing attention to what they call racial injustice in cases of police-involved shootings.

“I cannot help but wonder if it is more than a coincidence that the only two officers in Minnesota to be charged with homicide in recent years were both people of color,” Hamberg said.

“Right is right and wrong is wrong. It doesn’t matter what the color the cop is, if you take someone’s life you are to be prosecuted with the fullest extent of the law,” activist Mel Reeve added.

In the nearly two years since the fatal shooting, emotions remain high and calls for change grow louder.

“We are calling for drastic reforms within policing in the state of Minnesota,” said activist Nekima Levy Armstong. “We are calling for the POST Board to do its job and to make sure that there is accountability for police officers who violate the law.”