Decarcerate Minnesota—It’s Time

Moose Lake razor wire“Supporters of the Decarcerate Minnesota Coalition will gather Thursday, July 2, 2:00-5:00pm in the parking lot of the Department of Corrections at 1450 Energy Park Drive in St. Paul, MN to ask DOC Commissioner Paul Schnell to meet their demands for releasing a large number of Minnesota prisoners impacted by COVID-19. The timing of the rally before Independence Day is targeted to condemn the criminal justice system’s violation of U.S. ideals of liberty and justice.” [Press release of protest on Google docs

I won’t be there—can’t go to any pubic gatherings at this time. But I hope that many people go, and I hope that more people think hard about what is happening in and what is wrong with our prisons, here in Minnesota and across the country. Continue reading

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Friday Night Massacre

Screen Shot 2020-06-20 at 9.15.53 PMAfter a Friday night fiasco, it now looks like Trump has succeeded in firing U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, the prosecutor who put Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, in jail and who is investigating his current personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and a number of other cases involving Trump administration misconduct. While Berman resisted when Attorney General Barr tried to finesse the firing on Friday night, he acquiesced when Trump himself (maybe) issued the order on Saturday. The whole episode looks unnervingly like Nixon’s Saturday night massacre, when he fired prosecutors conducting the Watergate investigation. Continue reading

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What does ending the Minneapolis Police Department mean?

MGN_1280x960_00608P00-BMKXPOn June 7, nine members of the Minneapolis City Council said they will “begin the process of ending the Minneapolis Police Department.” What that means, and when it will happen remain open questions.

The Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) is not going to disappear overnight, or even after the next city council meeting. The process will take time and community involvement and will be strenuously resisted by the police. The council members suggested a vague but ambitious timetable of “over the next year,” and pledged, “We’ll be taking intermediate steps towards ending the MPD through the budget process and other policy and budget decisions over the coming weeks and months.” Continue reading

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#IAmASuburbanMom

Screen Shot 2020-06-07 at 9.25.26 AMIf you’re on Twitter, you have probably seen the hashtag,  and the outpouring of anger from suburban moms. If not—keep reading!

Paul Gazelka, the Republican majority leader in the Minnesota State Senate, started it all, when he asked: “Where’s the apology to the moms out in the suburbs scared to death about what’s happening all around them, and seeing the glowing fire in Minneapolis-St. Paul?”

State Representative Jamie Becker-Finn tweeted her answer:

I am a suburban mom.  I don’t need an apology. I need the GOP Senate to support meaningful legislation to address systemic racism and police brutality. I need the GOP Senate to be more than just sad and sorry that #GeorgeFloyd was killed by police. #IAmASuburbanMom

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Taking an Eye, Taking a Knee

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Linda Tirado was shot by police on Friday, May 29. “I was aiming my next shot, put my camera down for a second, and then my face exploded,” she told the New York Times. She is a photojournalist, who had press credentials and a camera, and was covering the protests in Minneapolis. She lost her eye.

Soren Stevenson was shot by police on Sunday on University Avenue. “I’ll never be able to see out of this eye and I believe they’ll be removing this eye at a certain point,” he told CBS News. He was at a peaceful protest, well before the 8 p.m. curfew, friends said.

Both were shot with what the police call “less-than-lethal” weapons, what most people call rubber bullets. Though technically non-lethal, these weapons can maim and kill. Continue reading

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Goodbye, Mailbox

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Last week, my neighborhood had a mailbox here. 

All across St. Paul, corner mailboxes disappeared on Monday.

“A big flatbed truck loaded with mailboxes,” one neighbor told me. They had a mailbox on the corner in front of their house. I had walked over yesterday to mail a letter, not long after the mailbox disappeared.

Strange, I thought, but despite my news addiction, I had not heard anything about mailboxes being removed. Maybe this one was just going to be replaced. I was out for a walk anyway, so I headed over the Lake Street bridge, expecting to encounter a mailbox on some corner in Minneapolis.

Nope. Continue reading

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Is This the Morning After?

Black Lives Matter

I hope this is the morning after. I hope that tonight will bring no more fires, that familiar streetscapes will emerge from behind their plywood masks, that the work of rebuilding can begin in earnest on Lake Street and wherever fires and vandals destroyed parts of our cities. I hope that today and tomorrow and next week and next month and next year, Minnesota’s elected leaders will stick to the promises they made to address both the brutal history and culture of the Minneapolis Police Department and the deep racial disparities arising from structural racism in Minnesota. Continue reading

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Protest and Response

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If your windows were broken, your family business destroyed, in the protests and violence following the killing of George Floyd, how would you respond? With compassion and understanding, if you were any of business owners whose responses were compiled by Andrea Fjeldberg on her Facebook page. They focused on what is most important: the life and tragic death of George Floyd, murdered by Minneapolis police on Monday, May 25, 2020. They understand that this murder is part of structural racism in Minnesota, and they demand change and justice. Continue reading

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Who’s Rioting and Why

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Local voices tell the same story: white men in vans setting fires, protesters trying to stop arsonists, a white man with a hammer smashing windows, people coming from outside to destroy community institutions. The governor and other public officials insist that the rioters come from out of town, many from out of state.

Is that true? Where are these “outsiders” from?

The first reports from public officials proved less than accurate, and right now we just don’t know. We won’t know with any certainty and accuracy until all of this is over.

We do know that community residents are fiercely defending their homes and businesses and institutions. They are outraged by the burning of family businesses and community institutions. Continue reading

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Update in the Middle of It All

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Images of the Twin Cities burning made headlines around the world.

May 29, 2020—11 a.m.

I monitored news channels and Twitter until something past 2 a.m. this morning. My cities, my streets were burning. This morning I woke to news of the arrest of a Black CNN reporter, and then of his camera team, as they broadcast from Lake Street, as they asked police where they should go, and offered full cooperation.

All of this comes in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd on Monday, which lit fires of rage against the Minneapolis Police Department, with its long history of brutal racism.

The violence and destruction was not/is not all about protest or grief or anger. Some of it is about deliberate looting and destruction by people coming into our communities for that purpose.

Lake Street in Minneapolis and University Avenue in St. Paul are filled with small businesses: minority-owned, immigrant-owned family businesses. So much remains to be known, remains to be said, remains to be understood and acted on. So this is a report from the middle, compiled as I listen to Governor Tim Walz, Attorney General Keith Ellison, and Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington speak in a press conference and promise that the state response will not be just law enforcement but also a long-term commitment to changing the racist structures that have made Minnesota good for white people and simultaneously awful for Black people, for Native people, for people of color.  Continue reading

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