By Charles Hallman
After the latest rash of violence on Minneapolis’ North Side over the last couple of weeks, community residents and civic leaders are all searching for ways to stop it. Many are calling this the 21st Century’s version of “a long, hot summer” in the city.
“We need to come up with real solutions this time,” stated Bishop Divar Kemp, who was among nearly 30 persons who attended a July 9 mid-morning meeting in the basement of New Salem Baptist Church on Fremont and 30th Avenue North held just hours after three Black women were shot in the area during the early-morning hours. “We are having a long, hot summer,” he said.
Over a dozen shootings have occurred in the city so far this summer, reported Minneapolis Police Lt. Richard Zimmerman, who was among several officers in attendance at last week’s meeting. He told the MSR that what’s been happening of late causes him to fear a return to “Murderapolis,” a term referring to the city when its homicide rate was setting records back in 1996. “We are up to 16 homicides this year, with 11 of those on the North Side. That’s amazing.”
“I’m not afraid to walk the streets. I’m not afraid to get mugged or get robbed. I’m not afraid to get killed. If it happens, it’s meant to happen,” said Jacob, age 19.
Minneapolis Police Lt. Arthur Knight said that helping him and his fellow officers stop the shooting by providing pertinent information on “these ridiculous shootings,” which he quickly points out are not accidents, isn’t “snitching.”
“We [as community members] know the people out there who have handguns,” said Knight. “We know people who are out there doing dirt. Sometimes they are our relatives or our friends. Ninety-five percent of my shooting cases are Black males. We need to start doing something about that. I would like to stop things before it happens.”
However, Jacob doesn’t agree with the police lieutenant: “Snitching wouldn’t end the violence at all,” he believes. “It would make the situation worse.”
Despite this topic that sometimes leads to heated discussions among the attendees, last week’s two-hour meeting mostly stayed on point.
“I find his new approach [useful] of getting the right people together and getting stuff done,” observed KMOJ Program Director Candace Breedlove on Al Flowers, who facilitated the meeting. His Community Standards Initiative (CSI)
program, based at New Salem, sponsored the two-hour meeting.
Turning Point Executive Director Peter Hayden strongly suggested “a position paper” be created. “We can’t wait a week to have [another] meeting. We have to break up into groups, and we will have to meet two to three times a week, so that we have something to report seven days from now.”
This “position paper,” Hayden said, “also must include all parties — community residents, City officials and police,” he pointed out.
Hayden later explained, “What we do most of the time when we come to meetings like this is we get our frustrations out. But we got [to take] a second step — put those words and articulate them so not only do they go to the mayor and whoever, but also [ensure that] the community understands and put those frustrations down [in the paper as well].
“We got to present that position paper…to the mayor…and lay that out,” he reiterated. “This report [has] got to state what the issue is.”
“I think Peter Hayden is really on point,” said KMOJ General Manager Kelvin Quarles. “So many times when it gets bad like this and we have these types of meetings, everything kind of floats away.”
Zimmerman concurred: “I think having a focus group is an excellent idea.”
“I know that there are going to be differences in this room, but we have to work together,” stated Minnesota State Representative Raymond Dehn before he left for another meeting. “I’ve had good fortune working with several people in this room surrounding this issue, but we haven’t seen the results we wanted to see. But we can’t be walking away from the table just because things aren’t changing right away.”
“If this room doesn’t come together, and you’re pointing fingers and fighting with each other,” noted Thomas Berrie, “the kids are saying, ‘Why am I listening to them?’ I know a lot of people here mean well, [but] you need people like myself [and others]” working on addressing the local violence problem. “We’re from the streets. We speak that lingo.”
“I believe you need more young people at these meetings to hear what they got to say,” offered Octavious, age 19.
“This is a real issue,” pleaded Queen Kimmons, who told the MSR that there are several “hot spots” on the North Side, such as Camden, Lowry, Penn and Broadway. “It’s territorial within the territory,” she pointed out.
Some, however, openly asked why Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges wasn’t at last week’s meeting. City Spokeswoman Kate Brickman told the MSR that Hodges was neither “aware of, nor invited to” the meeting. “We are always eager to hear [and] talk with residents,” noted Brickman.
Said Hayden, “I know we want to stop the shootings, but we have young people out in the street. They have no job, no education, so the only way we can communicate is by [fighting]. We don’t have respect [for each other]. If you look at me a certain way, I interpret what your look means rather than me asking [you]. That’s a problem we have.
“We have needs. These are not just young people shooting people, but they are high [on drugs] shooting people,” he said “Where are the treatment programs for them?”
“I’m sick of talking,” concluded Ferone Brown. “Are we going to get moving?” Brown said he is currently working with present gang members on better choices.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.