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Martin Luther King Goes to the Mall (or WWMD?)

“It’s important to make an example out of these organizers, so that this never happens again.” This message was sent to the managers of the Mall of America by Sandra Johnson, the City Attorney of Bloomington, Minnesota, where the Mall is located. The “organizers,” whom she also refers to as “criminals,” assailants” and “ringleaders” were involved in one way or another with a peaceful, multi-generational, multiracial rally held in the Mall’s rotunda to draw attention to racist police brutality. Such events are what “must never happen again.”

Johnson’s over-the-top push make the defendants pay for the police overreaction has raised eyebrows in legal and business circles and alarmed civil libertarians. The Mall had earlier rebuffed her proposal to punish Mall employees for showing sympathy with the rally, citing “the potential for further press.” “Further press” is what the City Attorney appears determined to deliver. Continue Reading

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Rage, Hope, Love Fueling Black Lives Matter Movement

 

“The problem is poverty. The problem is racism,” said Rev. Victoria Safford of the White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church. “The problem is deep, deep, old oppression.”

Safford was one of more than 200 people who showed up outside an Edina, Minnesota court to support eleven people who have been charged with a variety of crimes after a December Black Lives Matter rally at the Mall of America. The problems of poverty, racism and oppression are at the root of what the Black Lives Matter movement is fighting against. What will it to take to fix it? Continue Reading

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Hooray for Mayor Hodges’ Courageous Soccer Stadium Stand!

Bill McGuire and his sports buddies the Pohlads, who own the Twins, and Glen Taylor, who owns the Timberwolves, want to build a stadium in downtown Minneapolis just for soccer.  And here’s the good news: They want to build it using private money.  And here’s the bad news: They want a rebate on sales taxes and they want a permanent exemption from paying local property taxes. Mayor Betsy Hodges went on record as saying “No,” and she said it in a public and detailed letter:
“There is no need for a subsidy for this facility, or this ownership group, whatsoever. The subsidy they are requesting will have a direct and negative impact on the taxpayers of Minneapolis. “First, the McGuire group is asking to avoid paying their fair share of property taxes—not just for a limited term of time, but forever. “The land where the MN United ownership group proposes to build the stadium is currently privately owned, so it currently pays property taxes [$334,000 a year] that would disappear if the soccer stadium were exempted from taxes. Continue Reading

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Body cameras benefit the police

Whether or not they care to admit it, I am positive that every student, professor and community member has an opinion on body cameras for police officers. Perhaps a body camera would have been useful in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson this past summer. But while body cameras are certainly useful in situations like Brown’s, they also reward the police officers who are doing a good job. Therefore, I am glad that many police departments are moving toward using them. Having cameras available for law enforcement officers is important for several reasons. First, it enables their superiors to determine whether the officers are doing their jobs well.  Most importantly, the use of cameras will help the fight to end racial injustice. A report by the Washington Post found that in three-quarters of fatal shooting cases since 2005, the police officers were white, and two-thirds of officers’ victims were black.  Prosecutors won’t press charges against officers unless there is a substantial amount of evidence. Continue Reading

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Bill proffered to unseal expunged criminal records for prospective teachers

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the number of Americans who have had contact with the criminal justice system has increased dramatically in recent decades.The agency estimates that about one in three adults has a criminal record. However, the records often consist of a non-violent crime, an arrest that did not lead to conviction or the convicted person was not sentenced to a term of incarceration.Judges can seal, or expunge, criminal records, including arrests, prosecutions and convictions for people who have demonstrated changed behavior after completing punishment.Expungement is especially helpful for job seekers whose offenses may show up on criminal background checks.Criminal records that remain sealed for those applying for teaching positions concerns Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton). She thinks it would put children at risk.She sponsors HF1401 that would require school districts to unseal expunged criminal records for prospective teachers.   Continue Reading

Mike Griffin of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC) leading a chat of "black lives matter" on the steps of City Hall during last week's "People's State of the City" rally.  Photo by Bill Lindeke.

Dueling State of the City Events Reveal Rift Between Rhetoric and Reality of Inequality

These days it’s hard to tell whether Minneapolis is united about being divided. Last week, two contrasting “state of the city” events — Mayor Betsy Hodges official speech at the American Swedish Institute, and a rally the next morning organized a North-side grassroots group — illustrated the ongoing tension between the rhetoric and reality of racial inequality in Minneapolis.Hodges’ speech, an annual tradition for mayors across the country, emphasized the themes that led her to an easy victory in the 2013 election. As Gino Terrell wrote on the Daily Planet earlier this week, Hodges stressed education, income inequality, and climate change, as part of her plans for the upcoming year. But the well-received speech comes only months after Hodges’ efforts to devote city resources to addressing inequality became surprisingly contentious. During budget debates at City Hall, Hodges’ plans to address racial inequality sparked a small controversy, particularly in parts of the city that are struggling the most with foreclosures and racial inequality. While debating the budget, Council Members Yang and Warsame and other Council Members  voted to defund part of Mayor Hodges’ key proposals in favor of more “meat and potatoes” issues that impact neighborhoods like Jordan or Cedar-Riverside, home to many  of the highest proportions of people of color in the city. Continue Reading

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St. Patrick’s Day disturbances create concerns

“Banish bias, but keep downtown livable,” blared the Star Tribuneeditorial of Monday, March 23, 2015, warning about unacceptable public behavior threatening urban revival while avoiding the frustrations of exclusion felt by African Americans.Since 2006, I have written over 100 columns and blog entries about the need for plans to deal with this, which have gone unheeded (they are listed in our “Solution Paper #47”). The Star Tribune is belatedly reinforcing what this column and newspaper have reported (see column of January 14, 2015: “Promises, Promises, Promises…with no follow through”). We need to signal to young African Americans that the broader community is listening to their expressions of frustration, concern and anger.The solution is not to continue touting prosperity for one segment of the population while carrying out calculated bias against another segment hindering their prosperity. Backlash will dramatically drop if paths to prosperity are open through education and jobs.The St. Patrick Day flash-mob “fun entertainment” disruption (over 300 young people enjoyed fighting with each other for over two-and-a-half hours on the streets of downtown Minneapolis) also caused injuries, including the shooting of two individuals, one in front of Target Field, the other one on West Broadway. Continue Reading

A warning at the #blacklivesmatter demonstration at the Mall of America.

MOA outwitted after Twitter fiasco

 Black Lives Matter exposes U.S. economic hypocrisyThe Mall of America (MOA) got caught with its underwear around its ankles last week when it tried to launch a #itsmymall Twitter campaign to promote the mall and to try to overcome the black eye it gave itself after its inane, but predictable, response to the peaceful anti-police violence protest last December.MOA has been trying to prosecute, persecute and defame activists from Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, primarily because its protest took the position that the mall is public space, because it takes and receives public dollars and public subsidy. In an absolute stroke of genius, Black Lives Matter Minneapolis with its pro-Mike Brown, Eric Garner and anti-police violence protest in December, exposed the hypocrisy of private enterprise receiving public funding and public subsidy while enforcing private property rights.By hosting a protest at the mall, Black Lives Matter treated the mall as a public space, a town square, since receiving public dollars makes it, well, public. Ironically, by launching a campaign (#itsmymall), implying that the MOA is the people’s mall, it makes the point of Black Lives Matter, which is, it is a public space. So which is it, MOA, our mall or your mall?It also reveals that the MOA is experiencing financial pain as a result of the Boycott Mall of America campaign launched by Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter and all of us who joined the protest are correct: So-called private entities that take public monies (or public anything) that comes from taxpayers should not be afforded the rights of private property or private enterprise.What Black Lives Matter inadvertently exposed was the slick underbelly of U.S. economics, and that is that this system uses its citizens and their money to support the enrichment of big business. Continue Reading