Recent days have highlighted the fundamental flaw with the Minneapolis Police Department: It derives its authority from a “monopoly on violence” rather than the trust of its community. A police statement and the charging documents for former officer Derek Chauvin in George Floyd’s death used a tired defense, saying Floyd was “resisting” officers. Not only does video of the incident not show that, it is a hollow argument. Minneapolitans have a natural right to struggle for breath regardless of who is choking them.
Similarly, the MPD’s decision to meet protests and riots by sporadically lobbing tear gas and flashbang devices into crowds reveals the absurdity of trying to use violence to impose order. While the MPD, assisted by the National Guard, will almost certainly overpower any rioters, it will be an empty, pointless and temporary victory.
Demanding the MPD stop relying solely on violence to protect our community is not some pie-in-the-sky idea. It is something that has worked for a century in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. Cities in those countries rely on policing by consent, with many officers in the U.K. not even carrying guns. In places like London, police are simply citizens who derive their authority from the community’s trust that they are enforcing law and order. They rely on de-escalation and creativity to keep their neighbors safe. They also enjoy a fraction of the deaths by cop that we see in the United States. The MPD needs to take many steps to gain our trust, but a policing-by-consent model could provide a map for moving forward.
Gene Hummel, Minneapolis
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To people who ask, “Why are outraged communities destroying themselves?” I can only point out that every time a police officer kills an unarmed, unresisting person, the American community is destroying itself.
Every time a political party acts to limit voting, the American community is destroying itself. Every time a school is underfunded, every time science is ignored in favor of ignorance, every time a privileged person prevails because of privilege alone, the American community is destroying itself. Every time a billionaire profits off people who aren’t being paid a living wage, every time a tax bill is passed to advantage the wealthy, every time the media reinforces divisive narratives at the expense of truth and actual journalism, the American community is destroying itself.
When you ask, “Why are they destroying their grocery stores; where will they get food?” you could ask, “In what ways are we all destroying our environment? Where will we all get food?” When you ask, “Why are they doing what they are doing?” you could ask yourself, “Why am I calling my neighbors ‘them,’ when in fact we are all ‘us’?”
Every time you turn the other way in the face of injustice or your civic responsibilities, you help destroy America.
The American community has been destroying itself for over 40 years, most recently by electing a vile leader who encourages divisiveness, lawlessness and violence. So if you think it’s foolish for communities to destroy themselves, well, America has been doing it for decades. Before you ask why “they” are destroying “their” community, check yourself as to the ways in which you are helping destroy your own American community.
Robert M. Alberti, Minneapolis
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I am outraged by the number of times the video and pictures of George Floyd’s death have been senselessly circulated, both through social media and by major news sources. The video is dehumanizing, it’s traumatic, and it causes desensitization. I can’t understand why we are subjected to watch a video of a person’s death multiple times. It is extremely traumatic and disrespectful to the community, the family and the memory of George Floyd. His loved ones can’t watch the news or open social media without having to watch his death, again and again. You may feel uncomfortable or upset watching the video, but the mere fact that one is able to watch it shows how desensitized our community has become to this sort of violence.
Why are we so comfortable watching a video of someone’s death? And why has it become so acceptable to share it with everyone through social media and news sources? When we see these images over and over again, they lose their ability to inspire emotion and become simply another “tragic death.” A person shouldn’t need to see the video in order to take action or feel emotion. If you need to see it to believe what happened or to “see all sides,” you are part of the problem.
There are other ways to raise awareness that don’t involve sharing the video. Please, stop sharing the video and be aware of the damage and trauma this causes.
Rebecca Wilts, St. Michael
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As someone who spent 26 years of their life in the Twin Cities, married a girl from St. Paul and have children and grandchildren living in the metro area, I am heartbroken by what I see happening in Minnesota.
I am appalled and disgusted by the actions of the police officers involved in the death of Floyd. I can understand the anger and pain that his family must be feeling, and I respect their recent appeals for peace in the city. I also support the rights of individuals to peacefully protest the situation. I agree that racism in the United States is a serious problem and that systemic changes are needed.
However, I am also appalled by the stupidity and behavior of the young people I see who have taken to the streets to wreak havoc and damage on Minneapolis and St. Paul. Burning down the Twin Cities will not create social justice but rather drive a further wedge into a divided citizenry.
I went to high school in Newark, New Jersey, during the race riots that occurred in the late ’60s. I saw the destruction that occurred, the damage it did to the city and the racial division and conflict that resulted. It has taken decades for that city to respond and racial injustice still exists in the area. I hope Minneapolis does not become another Newark.
I also remember the reputation Minneapolis gained in the ’90s as “Murderapolis” and how long and hard the city had to work to overcome that stigma. I fear that the notion of “Minnesota Nice” may quickly go up in smoke in the blazes we see on TV each evening.
As someone on the outside looking in, the protesters are doing nothing to positively promote their cause or the image of the Twin Cities. These protesters would do well to heed the words of Martin Luther King, who said, “In spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace. ... We adopt the means of nonviolence because our end is a community at peace with itself. We will try to persuade with our words, but if our words fail, we will try to persuade with our acts.”
John King, Naples, Fla.
A small act of kindness, appreciated
My husband and I are in our late 80s and live in condominium on the fifth floor. Ever since the COVID-19 epidemic, our daily newspaper stopped being delivered to our door. We thought about stopping the newspaper because of the trouble of dressing and going down to the lobby (where they get dropped off) each morning to get our paper was going to be too much for us. The first day as I was going to go downstairs to get the paper, someone had placed it front of our door! Then the next day and the next. This went for 10 weeks. Last week, there was a note on our paper that said, “Last day. Going back to work.”
Every day for 10 weeks we did not have to labor to go get the paper. Although we did try, we never found out who this mystery delivery person is. We want to thank you, whoever you are. We appreciate your kindness.
Curtis and Yasuko Stengel, Minnetonka
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