Gathering the Movement in North Minneapolis

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The statistics are grim: 26 gun-related deaths have occurred to date this year in Minneapolis, with the majority of those deaths occurring on the North Side, long known for gun violence.

In contrast, all of Minneapolis experienced six gun-related deaths in 1950 and nine in 1960. None of the deaths in either year took place in North Minneapolis.

These and other facts relating to gun violence were discussed Thursday night at a forum arranged by the Peace Foundation, a Minneapolis anti-violence group. The forum, called Gathering the Movement brought together a diverse array of groups and individuals to present information and discuss ways to curb rising gun violence in North Minneapolis. Among those present were a representative of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; a Minneapolis police department homicide detective; a North Memorial Hospital trauma surgeon; members of anti-violence group MAD DADS; gun violence prevention groups Million Mom March and Protect Minnesota; the youth group Northside Youth StandUp; and Shane Price of NorthPoint Health and Wellness’ Violence Prevention department.

A survivor of gun violence also spoke to the group, along with a young man who had spent time in prison for gun violence and has since turned his life around.

The event’s most galvanizing moment came with forum moderator Sondra Samuels’ description of the youth group’s experience with Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Northside Youth StandUp apparently sent a request for a meeting with the governor after the much-publicized fatal shooting of 14-year-old Charez Jones in North Minneapolis in June. Pawlenty was said to have declined a meeting and offered to send his safety commissioner instead. Group members found this unacceptable and questioned Pawlenty’s priorities in light of the governor’s personal involvement and swift call for reinstating the death penalty after Dru Sjodin, a Caucasian, was murdered by a Hispanic. Charez Jones was African-American.

Calls to Pawlenty’s office seeking comment were not returned.

Forum attendees were also encouraged to contact Pawlenty’s office to urge that he become personally involved in helping to find solutions to rising levels of gun violence in Minneapolis.