North Mpls Asian residents surveyed on police abuse, Black protest
First of a two-part story
APIs4BlackLives-MN is a coalition of Minnesota Asian and Pacific Islander (API) individuals and organizations that work for social justice in solidarity with Black Lives Matter-Minneapolis and St. Paul. The coalition seeks to address anti-Blackness in Asian communities, advance cross-community collaboration, and increase API participation in political and racial justice issues.
Volunteers with APIs4BlackLives-MN talked with Asian residents in North Minneapolis neighborhoods on the weekends of December 7 and December 14, 2015 about their experiences with police and with the Black Lives Matter movement. They sought to assess the level of awareness about and engagement with the issues of police abuse, the killing of Jamar Clark, and the local Black Lives Matter movement.
The Minnesota API community is predominantly comprised of South Asian, East Asian, and Southeast Asian people. However, coalition members also understand that the different communities and ethnic groups in Minnesota are more multi-faceted and complex than just these categories.
In general, the term “API” is used to include all those who identify as Asian and/or Pacific Islander. Throughout this article the term “Asian” is used when referring to the residents surveyed, and the term “API” is used when referring to broader Asian and Pacific Islander identities and communities.
Volunteers door-knocked in pairs, with each pair consisting of at least one volunteer who is able to speak Hmong or Vietnamese. The data for the door-knocking lists were not disaggregated by Asian ethnicity; however, the Asian residents on the list identified primarily as Hmong or Vietnamese. Volunteers knocked on 394 doors and were able to speak with 74 households.
Residents were asked four questions:
- Has your family faced police abuse here in North Minneapolis (i.e. racial profiling, wrongful arrest, wrongful suspicion, police physical aggression, searching without warrant, and being pulled over, ticketed, or followed without a reason, etc.)?
- Do you know about the group Black Lives Matter? If yes, what are your thoughts about it?
- Were you in any way affected by the community members who were peacefully protesting at the North Minneapolis police station? If yes, can you share?
- What would you do to improve police and community relations?
Responses about police interactions and police abuse were frequently contradictory. When asked if they had faced police abuse, 73 percent of respondents answered “no” and seven percent answered “unsure.” However, a number of the respondents who stated that they had not experienced police abuse then went on to describe situations involving what would ordinarily be characterized as police abuse, such as excessive force or racial profiling, indicating that they did not relate to the term “police abuse.” Instead, most respondents used the term “discrimination” to describe what happened to them.
One resident described how the police had pointed a gun at his unarmed, elderly, non-English-speaking father’s face in their driveway one night after following him home in his vehicle. Due to the language barrier, his father was unable to understand or comply with the officers’ commands. The police quickly escalated the situation by drawing their firearms when immediate compliance was not shown, despite pleas from the resident explaining that his father did not speak English.
Another resident relayed how the police had gone through their purse during a traffic stop without giving them a reason why. Others described how they were accused of having drugs when being pulled over, although without the police having any valid reason for suspicion.
A number of respondents commented that “they try to stay out of the way” or “politely talk to them [the police].” Those who responded “yes” to having experienced police abuse also shared personal experiences about being pulled over frequently, being given tickets with high fines for minor infractions, and cited a lack of reciprocal dialogue by the police when they were retained or pulled over. They stated that the police rarely attempted to understand both sides of the situation, and that they were treated as guilty from the onset of the police interaction.
Black Lives Matter
When residents were asked if they support the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, the highest response was “unsure” at 51 percent, with 38 percent answering “yes,” and 10 percent answering “no.” Those who answered “unsure” stated that they were not sure what Black Lives Matter is or stated that though they agree that Black lives do matter, they did not have a full understanding of what the activists were trying to do.
Some who answered “yes” said that they support Black Lives Matter and also think that all lives matter. Others said that they respect authority but think the tapes [of Jamar Clark] should be released and that the killing should not have happened.
In regards to the specifics of Black Lives Matter, although many respondents indicated that they either did not know what Black Lives Matter is exactly or were unsure of its purpose, few residents outright opposed BLM. Some respondents said that they have “seen a little bit about it in the news,” but have not seen in-depth coverage that goes beyond stating that a protest occurred.
Non-English speaking residents said that they were unable to access information about BLM or the Fourth Precinct Occupation. One resident said that the media had made the protests appear violent even though it was peaceful. For those who answered “unsure” about their opinion of BLM, a common message was that they “support all minorities” but felt confused about the issues.
These responses indicate that the media lacks a clear and accessible dialogue on these topics.
Next week: results from questions three and four
Eunha Jeong Wood and Kong Pheng Pha are members of APIs4BlackLives-MN Chapter.