North Mpls Asian residents surveyed on police abuse, Black protest

 Conclusion of a two-part story

Volunteers with APIs4BlackLives-MN, 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, talked with Asian residents in North Minneapolis neighborhoods December 7 and 14 about their experiences with police and the Black Lives Matter movement. Last week’s story reported on Asian residents’ perceptions of police abuse and Black Lives Matter; this story focuses on the last two questions asked: “Were you in any way affected by the community members who were peacefully protesting at the North Minneapolis police station? What would you do to improve police and community relations?”

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Fourth Precinct occupation

When asked if they were in any way affected by the 18-day 4th Precinct occupation in North Minneapolis from mid-November to early December of 2015, 72 percent answered “no,” 14 percent answered “unsure,” and 14 percent answered “yes.” The 14 percent who answered “yes” cited traffic delays, a feeling of disruption, and helicopter noise.

One respondent said they had been affected because they were disturbed that “a young man had been shot by the police” and that they were “supportive of BLM-Mpls finding justice.” Notably, the residents predominantly answered that the protest did not affect them in a negative way, despite media coverage of the occupation that consistently framed the protest as a community nuisance.

Improving police-community relations

APIs4BlackLives volunteers asked residents what they would do to improve police and community relations. Eighty percent of the residents had suggestions and opinions on this topic.

Overwhelmingly, the responses from the door-knocking surveys call for more police transparency and accountability, better training for the police, and improved media coverage that represents the viewpoints and needs of communities of color, immigrant communities, and under-resourced neighborhoods.

Responses also conveyed a desire for better communication and relationship-building by the police in order to build trust and decrease discrimination and hostility during police interactions. Specifically, residents asked for more effort by the police to understand both sides of an issue during an interaction and more cultural competency training.

Racial profiling and being “too quick to shoot” were also cited as problems. Of those asked, 20 percent answered “don’t know” or “unsure” to the question of what could be improved. No respondents stated that there was nothing to improve.

Responses to the door-knocking demonstrate that the majority of Asian residents surveyed in North Minneapolis are engaged with and care about the issues of police conduct and with Black Lives Matter, even if they do not fully understand or agree with the actions of Black Lives Matter activists. The vast majority of Asian residents surveyed also expressed an interest in and a concern for improving police interactions in their community.

Further, the door-knocking conversations opened up dialogue about how Jamar Clark and police brutality, abuse and discrimination are relevant to API residents of North Minneapolis and their experiences with the police. Some residents commented on how their elected officials should be doing more to hold the police accountable. Many residents stated that they hold a respect for authority, but also hold the belief that their elected officials should represent them and use their tax dollars effectively for the benefit of their community.

Others recalled the killing of Fong Lee by the police in 2006 and connected that incident to Jamar Clark and the need for police accountability. All residents expressed a desire to have further conversations, highlighting the need to create space for further engagement at a community level in an accessible way for all residents, especially those in marginalized groups.

APIs4BlackLivesMN organized this survey not only to gather Asian perspectives on police abuse and Black Lives Matter, but also to further engage the Asian community in issues of racial and social justice. The stereotyped narrative that portrays Asians as apolitical and safe within invisibility undermines community collaboration in calling for police accountability.

We understand that the model minority stereotype acts as a wedge to divide communities of color. We recognize that though Asian and Black communities have different experiences of oppression, we share in common the work of fighting to end police abuse and discrimination.

APIs4BlackLivesMN is planning another door-knock in St. Paul this March to continue these conversations. Sign up and volunteer at http://bit.ly/AsianSTPHopesDreams.

For more information or to become involved with APIs4BlackLivesMN, visit their Facebook page APIforBlackLivesMattersMN or email them at api4blacklivesmn@gmail.com.

Eunha Jeong Wood and Kong Pheng Pha are members of APIs4BlackLives-MN Chapter.