AJ Awed – Ward 6 Special Election

Question 1: What leadership experience qualifies you for the City Council?

While I could talk about my experience serving on the Board of Directors for Community
Mediation and Restorative Services, my work as Vice President of the Somali American Bar Association, or my work protecting tenants from predatory landlords, I would rather answer this question in a different manner. Many candidates can tell a story of situations where they see themselves as “leaders,” but our campaign is about changing how we view leadership and changing what we expect from our representatives in city government. As a Democratic Socialist and a student of history, I am certain that top-down politics simply does not work. Too often we see candidates running on “progressive” platforms that promise to make ordinary peoples’ lives better, but after electing the most progressive City Council in the country, Minneapolis has been unable to deliver on those promises. I believe that a big part of the problem is detachment of elected officials from the communities they are supposed to serve. Throughout history, the only time we have truly advanced the interests of working people is when we have worked from the bottom-up. The skills that I have acquired being a part of my community, listening and learning from my neighbors, and organizing with them to advance our shared interests is what has prepared me to bring their demands for change to City Hall. Our campaign wants to champion the causes of the people in those spaces traditionally closed off to them. In doing so, we will lead as a community. The strength of our leadership will be measured in our actions and the results we deliver–not the promises we make or the words we say.

After a week of protests and unrest following the murder of George Floyd by a
Minneapolis police officer, 9 out of 12 members of the City Council pledged to
defund and dismantle what they consider to be a fundamentally broken police

Question 2: Do you share the assessment that MPD is fundamentally broken?

I am an abolitionist. I believe we need to defund, disarm, and abolish the MPD. Our current
model of policing is based in white supremacy and it absolutely does not deserve to be
preserved. The MPD has proven themselves to be a violent, unaccountable agency that has taken the lives of far too many and terrorized our streets for far too long. No amount of reform will force them to get off our necks.

Question 3: Do you support defunding and dismantling MPD? If so, can you define what that means to you?

Yes, I support defunding and dismantling the MPD. I envision replacing the MPD with a new
agency staffed by people trained in de-escalation tactics, social workers, and mental health

While I think it is difficult right now for many of us to imagine a world without a violent police force, I believe the first step is for all of us is to ask ourselves– what do we really need to feel safe in our communities? I think we can all agree that, to feel safe, each of us needs stable housing, food security, access to healthcare and mental healthcare, a support system of people who care about us, and compassion from our fellow neighbors. As we go about abolishing the police, we must simultaneously invest in violence prevention. That means making sure that none of our neighbors are sleeping on the streets or in the parks, that we all have safe and stable housing, that people living with drug addiction are receiving the treatment and support they need to be sober and healthy, and that we all have access to jobs that pay livable wages. At the end of the day, we will not be able to prevent violence without addressing the root causes of it. Ultimately, that means fixing Minneapolis’ racial and economic disparities and undoing racial capitalism.

On June 26, the City Council voted unanimously for a ballot measure that would give voters the chance to remove MPD from the city charter and replace it with a new department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention.

Question 4: What do you think are the most important structural changes that would be made by this charter amendment if approved by voters? Would you vote for or against the charter amendment, assuming it makes it onto the ballot in November?

The most important structural change to the City Charter is the removal of the Police Department and the establishment of a new Community Safety and Violence Prevention Department that will approach public safety through the lens of public health. I will absolutely vote for the charter amendment in November. If passed, I believe we will need to be vigilant, though, in ensuring that the new department does not take on the characteristics of the old police department. We will also need to ensure that the remaining Division of Law Enforcement Services is demilitarized and stripped of any authority to respond to non-violent incidences. While abolition is a process, we need to make certain that our goals are clear from the beginning. It may take some time, but our ultimate plan must be to prevent any residual element of our current policing system from remaining intact. If we accept that our current model of policing is rooted in white supremacy, we have no choice but to act with the intention of fully dismantling it.

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