Dinkytown panel compares 1970s, current activism

For one month in 1970, protesters occupied two buildings slated for demolition to build a fast-food restaurant called the Red Barn in Dinkytown near the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.One predawn morning in early May, police in riot gear cleared the protesters while bulldozers leveled the buildings. Within a day, the demonstrators built a peace garden on the site and, a year later, Red Barn gave up the idea of building another fast-food store in Dinkytown.Subsequent efforts to stop development in Dinkytown haven’t gone so well. Matt Hawbaker, who helped organize Save Dinkytown in an unsuccessful effort to stop a much larger development two years ago, said he felt awe and jealousy as he watched Al Milgrom’s “The Dinkytown Uprising,” a film about the Red Barn protest.Hawbaker and a panel of other neighborhood activists and residents compared notes April 20 with Monte Bute, one of the protestors featured in the film.“We went with a more political solution,” said Hawbaker, who noted that they came close to having the City Council block demolition of buildings to make way for the mixed-use Opus Development, now called Venue. “The projects that are proposed are not the best shot for independent business,” he said. “We got a Starbucks, a Great Clips and an offshoot of Goodwill.”He and Lynn Nyman, a manager for Loring Café and Varsity Theater, said that more than 60 percent of Dinkytown’s businesses are still local, adding that the area has been and continues to be an incubator of small business.Another panelist, Hung Q. Russell, chairman of the Marcy-Holmes Land Use Committee, called the film a well-drafted story narrative. Continue Reading

Columbus Statue Celebrates Genocide and Should Be Removed

Native American activist groups in Minnesota would like people to learn the real history of Christopher Columbus and quit putting him up on a pedestal at the State Capitol.“We all know in 1492 he sailed the ocean blue,” said American Indian Movement Chair Mike Forcia. “And in 1493 he stole all that he could see.”For more than 83 years a statue of Columbus has gazed from the Capitol toward Minnesota’s Justice Center. For Forcia, real justice would be removing the statue.“We need to deport Columbus,” said Forcia. “We can’t be celebrating genocide anymore.”Genocide isn’t a word most history books associate with Columbus, but he enslaved Native Americans. As governor of the large island he called Espanola (today Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Columbus’ programs reduced the native population from as many as eight million at the outset of his regime to about three million in 1496.Minnesota’s legislature is considering a bill that would change the engraving on the statue from “Discoverer of America” to “Christopher Columbus landed in America.” A co-sponsor of the House bill includes Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City), who taught high school government classes 35 years.That change misses the point, say Native Americans who marched through downtown St. Continue Reading

Black Folk: Cause for a Different Type of Reporting

Attorney, Jeff Hassan is Executive Director to the African American Leadership Forum. The mission of AALF’s Executive Director is to create full employment, build wealth, close the achievement gap, affect legislative policy and promote healthy living in the Twin Cities African American Community. To accomplish these tasks, Mr. Hassan must first address an age old issue that affect the thought process of every day Minnesotans, especially those who read the Star Tribune. These thought processes could very well inadvertently affect legislation and funding crucial to change necessary in the African American community. As a father is to his child and as a leader is to his tribe —Mr. Hassan is the Alpha Male, and he is very protective of African American leaders and passionately demonstrates this in his open letter to the Star Tribune today. Continue Reading

White Earth constitutional reform stalled by infighting

“The people of White Earth voted for a new constitution, and a judge upheld the validity of that referendum. So why don’t we have a new constitution at White Earth?” For Lorna LaGue, White Earth’s Director of Constitutional Reform, the question is rhetorical. After all, she’s had a front row seat to the clash taking place on her reservation between those who support the new tribal constitution and those oppose to it. Both sides are polarized, passionate, and deeply entrenched after years of infighting which surfaced in conjunction with the first White Earth Constitutional Convention in 2007.The latest dust-up — between White Earth Chairwoman Erma Vizenor, who supports the new constitution as “the will of the people” and those who oppose her efforts — has taken place in the pages of White Earth’s newspaper, Anishinaabeg Today.In the December issue Vizenor used her monthly column to explain that a gag-order had been imposed to prevent the tribal newspaper from printing information about constitutional reform efforts.“The White Earth Tribal Council voted to censor the press from printing any more information or updates on the Constitution of the White Earth Nation,” Vizenor wrote. “The vote took place on Nov. Continue Reading

Former and current Dinkytown activists will compare notes

Dinkytown activists from the 1970s and those of today will compare notes on a panel discussion from 4:15 to 5:30 p.m. Monday, April 20, in the back room of Pracna on Main at 117 Main St. S.E., Minneapolis.The discussion will follow a showing of “The Dinkytown Uprising,” a film by Al Milgrom about the month-long demonstration in which protestors occupied buildings to stop construction of a fast-food franchise called the Red Barn. The film traces the lives of prominent leaders of the 1970 protest to see where they are today.Some protesters in the film will participate in the discussion that is free, and admission to the film is not necessary to attend the panel.Panelists will include Monte Bute, who was among the protestors who successfully kept the Red Barn out of Dinkytown, and Matt Hawbaker, who helped organize Save Dinkytown two years ago. This more recent group failed to prevent the demolition of businesses to construct a mixed-use midrise apartment building that opened last fall.The panel will explore contrasts and similarities between the two protests and the changing nature of the small business district near the University of Minnesota.Bute, an associate professor of sociology at Metropolitan State University, was among the 1970 organizers featured in Milgrom’s film. Others featured in the film may participate as well.“I came to realize that by our mid-40s that [the philosopher] Camus was right,” Bute said in the film. Continue Reading

Al Milgrom’s long to-do list: Second of two parts: Film Society founder becomes filmmaker

Al Milgrom, who founded the first long-lasting film society in Minnesota, has become a filmmaker himself with his first feature length film, “The Dinkytown Uprising,” on the demonstrations to stop construction of a fast-food restaurant. [Link to great trailer: https://vimeo.com/121387504]During the takeover, the protestors – some of whom were university and high school students – cooked their own food in the former diner, published their own newsletter, and created a “hotel” for staying on site, where one of Milgrom’s subjects admitted to losing his virginity. The film “Easy Rider” was listed on the marque of the Varsity Theater across the street.In 1970, Red Barn, a chain that folded in the 1980s, would have faced competition in Dinkytown from Burger King, which went out of business in Dinkytown in the late 1990s, and McDonald’s, which has been in Dinkytown since 1960. Bob Lafferty, who owned five Twin Cities Red Barn franchises, met occasionally with protesters and Milgrom shows some tense but friendly banter between them.With speakers on a megaphone in the background, Milgrom caught some of the personal exchanges. “You need fast food on a campus,” Lafferty said. Continue Reading

Bill would require that Met Council get Legislature’s OK on housing plans, funds

The Legislature would gain control of the Metropolitan Council’s housing purse strings, under a bill sponsored by Rep. Bob Vogel (R-Elko New Market).HF1969 would also make the Metropolitan Council’s long-range plans and goals for affordable and life-cycle housing in the seven-county Twin Cities metropolitan area subject to legislative approval.[Right: Rep. Bob Vogel]The House Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance Committee laid the bill over Wednesday for possible inclusion in a later bill. There is no Senate companion.Kim Crockett, chief operating officer at the Center for the American Experiment, questioned whether housing falls under the Metropolitan Council’s legislative authority. She praised Vogel’s bill for “reasserting the prerogative of the Legislature in the area of housing.”Judd Schetnan, Metropolitan Council government affairs director, agreed with Crockett that housing isn’t like the sewage or transit systems his agency runs. But Vogel’s bill would make housing more of a system than it is today, he said, and he asked whose interests the bill served. “We’ve not heard from cities who have asked for these changes.”One local official backing the bill is Plymouth Mayor Kelli Slavik, who told committee members the Metropolitan Council goal for her city — 932 new units of affordable housing in the decade ending in 2030 — “doesn’t make sense. Continue Reading

Somali students protest hostile racial school climate

Somalis are under attack in St. Cloud because of their race (they are Black), their religion (they are Muslims), and their immigration/refugee status (they are perceived to be untrustworthy aliens).In the 1990s Somalis began to trickle into the city, and now they are probably the largest Black ethnic group, surpassing the number of Black Americans. Like Black Americans, they also experience intense racial and cultural animus. As compared with the White population, Somalis are sharply different in four categories: race (White European vs. Black African), religion (Christian vs. Continue Reading

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