BEHIND THE STORY | Agreeing to Disagree

This might be surprising, but I run with a pretty liberal/progressive crowd. In my “real” life as well as on social media, most of my connections are people that generally have values surrounding helping the environment, working toward social justice, free speech- that kind of thing. So I’ve found myself a bit in a kerfuffle around this whole vaccination debate. I had no idea it was such a prevalent belief among otherwise sane, progressive people to question whether vaccinations were an okay thing with which to partake. I thought the “anti-vaxxer” movement was just some fringe conspiracy movement. It turns out some of my very dear friends and people I really respect have reservations about vaccinations. Continue Reading

BEHIND THE STORY | Paying for public servants

I thought law enforcement officials were supposed to be public servants. Like teachers, police and other law enforcement serve the citizens of a local area and are paid by taxpayer dollars. The latest threat to ten organizers of the December Black Lives Matter protest at the Mall of America, however, purports a different view. By charging these organizers with the cost of riot police and extra security ordered by the Mall of America, Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson shifts our relationship with the police to extreme anarchist libertarianism, where citizens are individually charged for the “use” of these public servants, even when they didn’t request them.Imagine if parents were sent a bill any time their child had to stay after school for detention, or needed extra attention from their teacher. The idea is absurd, of course. Continue Reading

BEHIND THE STORY | Civil Rights in 2015

2014 was a year of outrage. With national protests led by communities of color in cities all over the country, there has been a palpable urgency demanding an end to the status quo. Incidents like the death of Michael Brown or Eric Garner or racist team names or institutional disparities are nothing new. It wasn’t the fact of racism that marginalized voices grew in sonancy, it was the organizing and leadership in response to recent incidents that reached a fever pitch.Is it possible, as we float into 2015, 50 years after the Selma to Montgomery marches that led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and also the year that Malcolm X was assassinated, that we are entering into a new Civil Rights Era?In the Twin Cities we saw these voices rise in powerful actions such as shutting down 35W, a large-scale protest at the Mall of America, a protest at a football game that drew thousands of people and even a packed City Council meeting demanding our local leaders follow through on the promise of racial equity.These dramatic moments inspired conversations online and in print and most importantly in personal conversations with family members and friends and acquaintances. Conversations about structural racism leaked out of academia and into the mainstream. Continue Reading

BEHIND THE STORY | Public dollars, private land and freedom of speech

Two years ago, I attended one of the most amazing acts of public expression I think I’ve ever experienced. It was at the Mall of America- a Round Dance held in the rotunda where I witnessed over a thousand people, mostly Native American, sing and dance in a circle as drums played. Not a protest, exactly, it was really more of a healing prayer and a call to action, precipitated by the Idle No More Movement, which got started in Canada over tribal sovereignty issues.Related article: Thousands protest at Mall of America, spark mall shut-down; 12 arrestedI’m not exactly why the 2012 roundy was allowed to occur by MOA security without a hitch when in the following year, a similar action was nipped in the bud. Last year, I reported for The Uptake how Idle No More organizers received letters not to attend a planned action, and were arrested upon arrival. The protest did not take place.It’s possible the 2012 round dance was given prior permission while the 2013 one didn’t. Continue Reading

Bloomington threatens to arrest Black Lives Matter organizers, not protesters

A Black Lives Matter protest planned for Dec. 20 at the Mall of America hit a snag this week when Mall of America officials threatened to remove any protesters and potentially have them arrested. The protest is part of a national movement aimed at raising awareness about police violence against people of color.Related stories: [PHOTOS] #BlackLivesMatter momentum continues, protesters march on downtown Minneapolis[PHOTOS] #BlackLivesMatter protesters halt 35W traffic: “We’re ready for change”A letter, signed by Mall of America Management, was sent by courier to the homes of several of the organizers, saying that advocates were allowed to protest on the Alpha Business Center Lot, adjacent to the mall, but that any protesters inside of the mall would be subject to removal, as the Mall of America is private property.Black Lives Matter organizer Michael McDowell said the letter was delivered to his house by courier on Dec. 12, though he didn’t receive it until Dec. 13. Continue Reading

BEHIND THE STORY | Public art as a tool for racial equity

From her first day on the job, Mayor Betsy Hodges has made racial equity the guiding principal of her administration. A hopeful message, that commitment to racial equity held with it a promise of finally leveraging the disparity gaps that plague nearly every facet of our city. Given that brave commitment, Hodge’s intention to cut funding for public arts in next year’s budget is all the more baffling. Instead of embracing the power of art to address the disparities that make our city unequal, Hodges intends to cut public funding altogether for next year.As Betsy Hodges notes in a statement, the funding designated for this year hasn’t been used yet. “Through the end of October, the City had only utilized $115,709 of the $605,000 made available in the 2013 budget and none of the 2014 budget of $480,000,” Hodges writes. Continue Reading