Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.

As Protests Against Police Brutality Continue, Walker Art Center Suspends MPD Contracts

The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis announced that it will no longer contract the services of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) for events until the law enforcement agency “implements meaningful change by demilitarizing training programs, holding officers accountable for the use of excessive force, and treating communities of color with dignity and respect.” In a statement posted on Instagram, the institution said: “Enough is enough. George Floyd should still be alive. Black Lives Matter.”

The move makes it the first institution to break from the police amid the ongoing protests, calls for alternatives to policing, and demands for justice for George Floyd, who was killed by MPD officer Derek Chauvin on May 25. All four officers involved in Floyd’s arrest were fired after his death, but only Derek Chauvin, the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Earlier today, however, the charge against Chauvin was upped to second-degree murder, and officers Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao were charged with aiding and abetting murder.

Following fierce backlash on social media, the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City also attempted to distance itself from the police. The institution came under fire for allowing patrol units to be stationed on its grounds last week as protests against police brutality took place nearby. The Kansas City Police Department (KCMO) confirmed to Hyperallergic that a “command post area” had been set up on the museum parking lot on Friday, May 29, in response to hundreds of protesters gathered at the nearby Country Club Plaza.

Museum director Julián Zugazagoitia issued a statement on Monday expressing solidarity with activists. “The museum’s security approved this request from the KCMO Police Department on Friday, and this was not unusual, given the spirit of our long history of cooperation,” he said. “When I was made aware of this on Saturday, I was in touch with police to ask them to relocate, which they did on Saturday and Sunday.” Zugazagoitia also defended the lag in the museum’s response: “The reality is we’re not operating under normal circumstances,” he said, citing the pandemic. “I wish I could have been quicker with my statement. We don’t have the tools that we normally have.”

Another Kansas City institution, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, which expressed its solidarity with those protesting Floyd’s death on Twitter—“We stand against racism, we grieve these lives taken by violence and we remain committed to providing a platform for artists to amplify the issues of our time,” the museum wrote—has also faced scrutiny over its ties to the carceral state.

Museum trustee Mariner Kemper, whose parents founded the museum, is CEO and chairman of the $7 billion UMB Financial Corp, which represents the bondholders of the publicly owned, privately operated Wyatt Detention Center in Central Falls, Rhode Island. When the Wyatt’s board voted to stop receiving Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees, UMB sued the board chairman, Joseph Molina Flynn, and the city of Central Falls for $130 million last April. The suit claimed the removal of ICE detainees would negatively impact the company’s assets and prompted protests from activist groups and artists.