6:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. My phone buzzes with a text. “What are your thoughts on Walz ordering the National Guard to Brooklyn Center?”
Governor Walz did not just call out the National Guard. He called out the whole armada of police and military forces assembled under the banner of Operation Safety Net. Operation Safety Net (OSN) was set up to protect property and police from any protests or violence happening after the Derek Chauvin trial. Over the past week, OSN proved unsafe in the highest degree for human beings.
I hoped the National Guard would not be like the police. I hoped that the “citizen” part of their citizen-soldier identity would keep them from the violent, fearful, and racist police mentality that killed Daunte Wright. Instead, they proved indistinguishable from the other branches of the rotten tree that is policing in the United States.
Trevor Noah spoke eloquently about that rotten tree in relation to the police attack on Caron Nazario, a uniformed, active-duty Black military officer in Virginia. His analysis is sadly accurate:
“We’re told time and time again that these incidents that Black Americans are experiencing are because of bad apples, right? There are bad apples in these police departments who are doing these things. They use chokeholds that are not allowed, they use excessive force, they’re violent in their words and their actions to the people they’re meant to be protecting and serving. These are bad apples, we’ve got to root them out of the force. My question though is: where are the good apples?…
“We don’t see a mass uprising of police saying ‘let’s root out these people.’ We don’t see videos of police officers stopping another cop from pushing an old man at a Black Lives Matter protest or from beating up a kid in the street with a baton. We don’t see that. So my question is: where are the good apples? Honestly I believe we don’t see them—not because there are no good people on the police force. I think there are many people who are good on the police force. That’s why they joined, because they want to do good. But I think it’s because they, themselves know that if they do something— they’re going against the system.
“The system is more powerful than any individual. The system in policing is doing exactly what it’s meant to do in America. And that is to keep poor people in their place. Who happens to be the most poor in America? Black people. You monetize them, you imprison them— which monetizes them again. It’s a system. It’s not broken, it’s working the way it’s designed to work….
“Once you realize that, I feel like you get to a place where you go: ‘oh, we’re not dealing with bad apples. We’re dealing with a rotten tree that happens to grow good apples. But for the most part, the tree that was planted is bearing the fruits that it was intended to.”
Over the past week in Brooklyn Center, we saw the fruits of that tree.
Star Tribune photojournalist Mark Van Cleave: “On Monday night I was shot in the hand by a rubber bullet fired by police in Brooklyn Center while covering a protest. The impact broke my ring finger in two places requiring surgery. I won’t be able to pick up my camera again for at least six weeks.”
Did the National Guard shoot Mark Van Cleave? Or was that the Minneapolis police? Or Hennepin County sheriff’s deputies? Or University of Minnesota police? Or a Minnesota state trooper? In the dark or in the blinding glare of flash bangs, can you tell who shot the rubber bullet? When you are maced in the face at close range, can you tell who wielded the canister? Does it matter?
KARE 11 reporter Gordon Severson: “Here are the #’s from U of MN doctors: 89 people injured by #LessLethal weapons during #GeorgeFloyd protests. 32 people sent to ER due to tear gas. 10 hit in eye by rubber bullets. 16 suffered traumatic brain injury. 7 required emergency surgery.”
That’s one hospital. And that only counts the number of people who made it to a hospital.
The Brooklyn Center city council passed a resolution banning tear gas, rubber bullets, and other aggressive crowd-control tactics. That didn’t make any difference. Minnesota’s OSN armed forces inflicted massive violence on protesters, journalists, and medics at the protests. The violence spilled into the neighborhood that OSN supposedly protects:
“Children suffering from tear gas exposure, even though they are at home and in bed. A man hit in the hand by what appeared to be a pellet from crowd-control munitions. A guest arrested while trying to park his car.
“The Sterling Square Apartments are a two-building complex that stands directly across the street from the Brooklyn Center Police Department. For the last several nights, the lawn in front of the buildings has become the center of protests over the killing of 20-year-old Daunte Wright. Law enforcement has repeatedly deployed blunt crowd control tactics that disrupt the protests, but also sweep in people who live nearby.”
Four-year-old Tenea Anderson was scared by the flash bangs outside her apartment building. She hid under her bed. Her mother told Sahan Journal:
“‘I honestly didn’t know or couldn’t find the words to try to explain to my 4-year-old daughter what is going on in the world we live in today’…
“‘People are not overreacting,’ she said. ‘I mean, as far as needing and wanting some reform in the police that protect us. Nobody’s exaggerating — especially minorities and people of color. We really are racially profiled a lot — more than people could ever know.’…
“But when she went back to visit her apartment this week, she was shocked by what she saw: trash filling the parking lot; spray paint on signs; blood on the doorstep. She’s worried about tear gas seeping into rooms where her neighbors’ babies sleep….
“[S]he also doesn’t know how to explain what’s happening to her daughter.
“’I don’t want to scare her any more than she already is — especially regarding law enforcement — and make her feel like she can’t trust them or they’re not here to protect her, even though that’s how I feel,’ Manier said. ‘I don’t want to put that into her little 4-year-old brain.’”
On Thursday afternoon, District Court Judge Wilhelmina M. Wright issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) enjoining all “agents, servants, employees, and representatives” of the Minnesota Department of Safety and the Minnesota State Patrol from committing violent and threatening acts against journalists.
On Thursday night, the violence continued. Minnesota’s OSN armed forces blatantly disregarded the judge’s order. An April 17 ACLU letter to Judge Wright described what happened that night:
“Photojournalist Timothy Evans’ experience is especially demonstrative and horrific. Mr. Evans was covering the Daunte Wright protests outside of the Brooklyn Center Police Department last night. (Evans Decl., ¶ 2.) He was wearing press credentials attached to a lanyard hanging from his neck, had a large “PRESS” sticker attached to his backpack, and was carrying two cameras, one on his arm and the other hanging from his neck.
“Around 9:45 p.m., law enforcement announced an unlawful assembly and ordered the protesters to disperse. State troopers and other law enforcement rushed the crowd, and Mr. Evans moved back, yelling “PRESS! PRESS!,” in an attempt to get out of the way of law enforcement. A trooper ran to Mr. Evans and immediately bear-sprayed him. (Evans Decl., ¶ 4.) Mr. Evans fell to his knees. He was then tackled. When Mr. Evans repeatedly told the trooper, “I’m press! I’m press!,” the trooper responded, “I don’t care.” (Evans Decl., ¶ 5.) He spun Mr. Evans onto his stomach, at which point Mr. Evans held up his lanyard with the attached press credentials. The trooper punched Mr. Evans in the face, told him to shut up, ripped the lanyard from around Mr. Evans’ neck, and threw the credentials in the dirt. Mr. Evans continued pleading with the trooper that he was press, and the trooper responded, “[T]oo bad, you should have gone when you had the chance, shut the fuck up.” (Evans Decl., ¶ 5.) Another trooper saw Mr. Evans and approached him. Hoping this trooper would help him, Mr. Evans said, “I’m press.” The second trooper told Mr. Evans to “shut up,” hit Evans in the back of his helmet, and smashed the left side of his face into the ground. (Evans Decl., ¶ 6.) Mr. Evans was then zip-tied, and left sitting on the curb. Eventually, a third trooper released Mr. Evans from the zip-ties and told him, “I can escort you out but you have to leave.” (Evans Decl., ¶ 8.) “
Meanwhile, police killing continues.
“Just seven hours before prosecutors opened their case against Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering George Floyd, a Chicago officer chased down a 13-year-old boy in a West Side alley and fatally shot him as he turned with his hands up.
“One day later, at a hotel in Jacksonville, Fla., officers fatally shot a 32-year-old man, who, the police say, grabbed one of their Tasers. The day after that, as an eyewitness to Mr. Floyd’s death broke down in a Minneapolis courtroom while recounting what he saw, a 40-year-old mentally ill man who said he was being harassed by voices was killed in Claremont, N.H., in a shootout with the state police.
“On every day that followed, all the way through the close of testimony, another person was killed by the police somewhere in the United States.”
There is more, so much more, to say. Here are three powerful statements by Minnesotans that say more than I can:
- You. Are. Not. Welcome. Here. Being Black in Minnesota by Michael Kleber Diggs, a St. Paul poet.
- What ‘Minnesota Nice’ Sweeps Under the Rug by David Lawrence Grant, a Twin Cities playwright.
- Minnesota Values White Comfort More Than Black Lives by Justin Ellis, a Minneapolis native now writing a book about how Black families in Minneapolis endure the racism they experience.