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Hajin Cho / Gavel Media

The Death of Amir Locke: When will America Change?

In the early morning of Wednesday, February 2, twenty-two-year-old Amir Locke was peacefully sleeping on the couch of his cousin’s apartment in St. Paul. He was wrapped up in a white blanket, dozing off with plans of moving to Dallas to be closer to his mother and pursuing a music career. That’s when Minneapolis police quietly turned a key and entered the apartment, proceeding to shout, point their guns, and kick the couch Locke was sleeping on. Locke, who was a licensed gun owner with a concealed carry permit, emerged from under the blanket holding his gun. Within seconds he was shot three times and killed. 

No-knock warrants are search warrants that authorize police to enter without first knocking and announcing their presence, and are used in extreme cases in which the safety of the police could be compromised or the destruction of evidence could pursue. They have recently come under much-needed scrutiny, especially in regards to the killing of Breonna Taylor in 2020. And in November of 2020, Minneapolis changed its policy stating that officers would need to announce their presence after opening the door and before entering the buildings or apartments. 

The warrants issued in the apartment Locke was staying in were in response to a nearby homicide. Not only was the apartment not his own, but Locke was not named as a suspect in the warrant at all. The warrant was issued against his cousin who was later arrested on Tuesday, February 5th. 

In a confused and scared state, Locke did what many Americans claim to need a gun for—he grabbed it for protection. He was startled awake as police officers shouted in his face, and in a moment of fear grabbed a source of protection that ring-wing politicians continuously fight for. So why aren’t they angry about this? Why aren’t they angry that a man got killed for exercising his Second Amendment right? Locke didn’t even have his finger on the trigger, he wasn’t pointing the gun directly at an officer, and yet, was still murdered. The Right’s lack of anger towards the killing of an innocent Black man shows that their fight for the Second Amendment only goes as far as skin color. The pro-gun Right has rallied behind people going against law enforcement to do what they feel is right, as seen with the recent shooting involving Kyle Rittenhouse. Yet when a Black man is killed for holding a gun in a raid he’s not even a suspect in, they’re silent. 

The death of Locke sparked protests in Minneapolis and Saint Paul this past weekend, as well as school walkouts organized on Tuesday, February 8th. 

Protestors marched in downtown Minneapolis last Saturday, taking up more than a block on their walk to the police station. They chanted and held signs demanding justice. Locke’s own father was in attendance, still mourning the loss of his son. Many of the protestors in attendance were also involved in marches following the murder of George Floyd just two years prior, expressing anger and frustration at the position they were once again in. The murder of George Floyd prompted a huge movement to demand systemic change and social justice, yet how much of that has happened? In just two years not only has another murder in the same city occurred, but countless other incidents. How many more marches will have to ensue before change gets implemented? How many more innocent people will have to die? 

Students across Minnesota were called to wear black and walk out of school on Tuesday to protest the killing and demand change. The event was organized by Minnesota Teen Activists, who demand the banning of no-knock warrants, transparency, and demilitarization of the Minnesota Police Department. They are also calling for the resignation of both the Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and the interim MPD Chief, as well as for the officer who shot Locke to be fired. A rally was held at St. Paul Central High School where they proceeded to march to the Governor’s Mansion. 

Mayor Frey announced a temporary ban on no-knock warrants in the city last Friday while they review the department’s policy, but it’s not enough. Locke’s tragic death has not only shone a light on how little change has been implemented since the death of George Floyd, but has further exposed the racist tendencies of law enforcement and right-wing gun advocates to protect and defend only those they deem fit. There needs to be serious policy change to prevent the loss of more innocent lives, and the country as a whole needs to take a critical look at how much longer we can treat these events with mere thoughts and prayers.