Holding a candle for Phil Quinn until justice comes.


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Notes from the “Remembering our Warriors – Justice for Phil Quinn” – candlelight vigil, St. Paul,  December 15, 2015.

 Hillary Clinton and the Wild Hockey game clogged roads throughout the Twin Cities tonight.  As the multitudes gathered to cheer their candidate or their team, 23 of us stood outside the Ramsey County Sheriff’s office holding candles. Most of those there were friends and family of Phil Quinn, the 30-year-old father killed by police on September 24, 2015  when his family called for medical assistance. Phil suffered from schizophrenia and he was having an episode. He was cutting himself. His family wanted a medic but what they got was the St Paul police, who surrounded the house guns drawn. Instead of talking to Quinn, they shot  and killed him.

Please now, if you are reading this, check yourself. Have you removed yourself somehow from this story?  Why?  You know — if you are honest — that you have known and loved someone with mental illness, and/or someone who on occasion needed outside help.

When the official helpers act in a criminal manner, turning crisis into irrevocable tragedy, the system is rotten at its core.   Native Americans have known this for centuries.  The vigil tonight, sponsored by Idle No More  and Native Lives Matter was called not just to remember and seek justice for Phil Quinn, but to mark the 125th anniversary of the murder of Tatanka-lyotanka (Sitting Bull) and all of the Native lives taken by police violence since.

Those who perpetrate police crimes should seek no comfort from the small turn out tonight. Phil Quinn’s story will be told at the December 19, rally for justice in Minneapolis, and there are plans for a January 9 action focused on the Quinn case. The people are getting together. Native Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter precisely because all lives matter, but our judicial and mental health systems proceed as though only white and wealthy lives matter.

It was cold on that corner outside of the Sheriff’s office, but the love shared with strangers standing in solidarity made it feel toasty.  We hugged each other, thanked each other for being there, told and heard stories about a kind-hearted and dearly-loved man shot down.

The struggle continues. Phil Quinn and the people who loved him matter. If you love someone with mental illness; if you are human; show up and say his name.