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2008 Columns
Quarter 2: April thru June ~ Columns #13 - #23

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June 25, 2008 Column #23: The mystery continues: an update on MPD Black police officers

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

For the past couple of months, many have waited breathlessly for the clearing up of a rather puzzling mystery.

A couple of months ago, the major White press in the Twin Cities reported the high-profile suspension of two African American officers with the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD). The first was Mike Roberts, the longest serving African American officer — 29 years — in the history of the department. A second officer, Lt. Lee Edwards, is the former inspector of the Fourth Precinct.

There was also a third African American officer named as "a person of interest" by both the federal authorities and the MPD. For political reasons, he was never suspended.

An assumption about part of the mystery is that the City doesn't know what to do now that the suspension and investigation of the two police officers has become a political albatross around the neck of the City and its police department.

The mystery continued when, a little over a week ago, rumors swirled that Lt. Edwards had been exonerated. When that question was posed to MPD Chief Tim Dolan, he indicated that he would not comment. However, later that day, according to White media, the Internal Affairs Unit indicated that both Lt Edwards and Officer Roberts were under continued investigation.

On the 26th of June, a settlement conference will be held, presided over by a federal magistrate, a procedure consistent with the rules of the federal court. An interesting aside is the fact that depositions are being taken from the five Black Minneapolis police officers who filed suit in federal court on December 3, 2007.

One of those being deposed was Lt. Edwards. An interesting theory has emerged that raises serious questions about the fairness of a trial on behalf of these five African American police officers.

Since the early summer of 2007, according to a sworn statement by Chief Tim Dolan, who himself is under criminal investigation, an intense investigation of these Black officers and others was being conducted. That investigation included electronic surveillance, including wire taps.

Those wire taps included conversations between African American police officers who have filed suit and their attorneys, which raises the question of a series of breaches of judiciary procedure.

Now the City, of course, is saddled with this story and these statements. There will be serious consequences if the court shows that not only during the course of discovery for evidence, but also before that discovery began, the right of confidentiality between the Black officers and their attorneys was intentionally and knowingly violated.

It is clear that, according to the department's own statements, Officer Roberts was under electronic surveillance, and in the course of that surveillance he was engaged in numerous conversations with the five Black police officers of record and their discussions with their attorneys.

It is now clear that the conversations of Sgt. Adams, Sgt. Hamilton, Lt. Harris, Lt. Arrodondo and Lt. Edwards with their attorneys about their lawsuit were being intercepted, and thus the City is using that information to help prepare its defense for the Settlement Conference scheduled for June 26, 2008.

It was clear as early as September 11, 2007, that advanced information among Black police officers was being intercepted. In fact, it seems quite clear that when the executive committee of the Minneapolis City Council met the morning of September 12, 2007, and were briefed by Civil Rights Department Director Michael Jordan with respect to his meeting the previous day with at least 10 African American police officers, City officials had been reviewing the electronic intercepts prior to that meeting and were fully aware of the concerns of African American police officers.

Yet they did nothing to address those concerns.

As has been widely reported, Jordan was quoted in a newspaper article in the Star Tribune in October 2007 saying he chose to take no action whatsoever. It is clear that the City has been comfortable with these intercepts, yet the lawsuit of December 3, 2007, seems to have caught them off guard -- they thought that their secret investigation was well disguised and would not be uncovered.

Of course, City officials never expected that by the first week in March of 2008, the head of their own department, Chief Tim Doan, would himself let the cat out of the bag. This then caused the Police Federation to ask for a criminal investigation. That investigation has such serious consequences that Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman sent the complaint on to Dakota County.

It will be very interesting to see what happens in the coming weeks and months. There are numerous questions that will have to be answered. Courts don't look favorably on tampering with discovery.

In the meantime, the mystery of the allegations against African American Officers Adams, Roberts, Edwards, and a fourth officer identified as KP seems to be treated as a regrettable and unfortunate incident; as if, since there is no blood, there is no foul, no harm.

It makes one wonder who is watching the watchers. Stay tuned.

Posted June 30, 2008, 1:54 p.m.
[Published in the Minnesota Spokesman Recorder, June 25, 2008]

June 18, 2008 Column #22: Long chain of perseverance led to new Fire Chief Jackson

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

Alex Jackson, on June 9, 2008, became the first African American nominated to be permanent chief of the Minneapolis Fire Department (MFD). Congratulations, Alex.See Strib, June 10, 2008 ( Fire chief nominee is longtime integration activist )

In honor of this milestone, we pause to look back 60 years to 1948, when a young man, Matt Little, became a civil rights activist and columnist for this newspaper. He began a chain of perseverance when he raised the question about integration and the lack of Negroes in the MFD.

Perseverance: Twenty years later, in 1968, the then-chair of the Civil Rights Commission, William W. Smith, now deceased, and yours truly as vice chair attempted discussions with the MFD. We finally had to initiate a federal lawsuit.

Perseverance: In 1971, Federal Judge Earl Larson ruled in favor of the African American applicants who had been turned away from seeking employment with the MFD.

Perseverance: In early 1972, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Judge Larson and ordered the full integration of the department.

Perseverance: In 1979, the federal court imposed sanctions and appointed a supervisory committee, reporting directly to the federal court, to ensure the implementation of the consent decree known as Carter v. Gallagher.

Perseverance: In 2001, the case was finally lifted after 21 years of oversight. During that time, violations of the consent decree led to two $500,000 fines for noncompliance (paid with taxpayer dollars) in 1992 and 1996.

Perseverance: On June 8, 2008, one of those young men who had walked through the door of opportunity 27 years earlier, Alex Jackson, was nominated to be the next chief of the Minneapolis Fire Department.

History is important to our understanding of the need for perseverance in the pursuit of freedom and opportunity. Listen to no one who says otherwise.

Like those who came before him, Alex Jackson demonstrated that with dedication, perseverance and commitment, the dream can be achieved. But, as Matt Little in 1948, the Civil Rights Commission in 1968, the supervisory committee in 1979, and all those other milestone figures of the past 60 years of perseverance will tell you, it is the dedication, commitment and vigilance that are so vital to success.

Alex, we wish you the best, and we pray for the continued growth of opportunity and diversity within the Minneapolis Fire Department and, by extension, the City of Minneapolis.

Media reform
The National Conference on Media Reform was in Minneapolis June 6-8 (we attended and will report more later). We discovered there that the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder is one of the best at reporting and meeting the highest ideals of journalism. The reform sought is to end the monopolies on news broadcasting and to stop the erecting of "toll booths" on the information highway by the media monopolies.

Posted June 18, 2008, 3:02 p.m.

June 11, 2008 Column #21: How can we save North High School? Its end looks near, a sacrifice to Northside gentrification

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

Shut the doors. Close the building. Burn it to the ground. However it is done, the result is the same: Kill a community by taking away its schools to force the citizens to move.

That is what we face with the rumors-made-fact that North High School, a symbol of significant pride within the African American community, is on the chopping block. The road is being paved for Blacks to move out and Whites to move in, beginning the process of disappearing another Black community and adding to the other great disappearance, Hollman/Heritage Park.

We got a hint of this when the ambitious plan to streamline the Minneapolis education system started with the physical facilities. The schools to close? North Side. The schools to continue? South Side. The North Side's protests were brushed aside.

Despite the one absolute that North High would not be touched, the suspicion lingered that this was not true. Until now, there was no smoking gun, no proof. Also, the community was still healing from a very irresponsible statement by an elected politician who said the school should be burned down. That began the watch for other indicators that something was in play.

Telltale indicators began to pile up: a very popular principal going to a suburban high school called Cooper; little discussion about programs for the future; the changing in North High's boundaries; the move of Area Superintendent Ben Perry, positioned to guarantee North High's safety, who received and accepted the offer to be the superintendent in West Memphis, Arkansas; and the nearly 100-year-old Henry High at the far north end of Minneapolis being designated as the school to receive a significant influx of students from within North's former enrollment boundaries.

All this worked to shrink the enrollment of North High School. The final smoking gun was the purposeful transferring out of students from North High.

Last week, I put the question of North's closing to Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent Bill Green at a meeting at the Minneapolis Urban League. Although the superintendent indicated that North was not about to be closed, he also offered no guarantees for how long it would stay open.

One of the protocols used for a number of closings in North Minneapolis a year ago was the shrinking enrollment that allegedly rendered schools no longer economically feasible to keep open. The same rationale was made for Jordan Park and W. Harry Davis, schools less than five years old at the time of their closings.

Of course, there is a different standard for the enrollment protocol when you talk about those schools in predominantly White neighborhoods in the southern part of the city.

The forecast is that North represents a registration of 530 for this September. Sources deep inside the school system indicate the number is closer to 400 and slipping fast.

Now, procedure says that if the board prepares for another round of school closings, or just the closing of an institution with a great tradition such as North High School, the public has a right to know, and the affected community certainly has a right to express its opinion, be it in support or in opposition.

The rumor of the demise and closing of North High School raises the ugly question of a continued program of gentrification, very racial in nature, for moving Blacks out and Whites in. In this way, an area of "valuable city real estate" is being cleansed of its working-class residents, a process whereby upscale (mostly White) settlers move into rundown (mostly minority) neighborhoods.

We wrote of the gerrymandering of Ward Five in our first book. Now the school district is being gerrymandered. It is no accident that there have been 1,600 foreclosures in North Minneapolis, which could reflect approximately 800 K-12 students.

Our communities of color need guarantees that this gentrification done in the name of "progress" will not be the order of the day, especially when all citizens of Minneapolis will be asked to support another referendum. Will the Black community's leadership again remain silent? Stay tuned.

Obama advances

We congratulate Senator Barack Obama on becoming the presumptive presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. Let us hope that his becoming the standard bearer for the Democratic Party will not become just a footnote in history, a footnote about winning the nomination but not the presidency.

As many now talk about the need for the Democratic Party to begin to heal, that discourse suggests to some that the senator from Illinois accept the senator from New York as his VP running mate. Late-night newscasts last Thursday indicated that the two Democratic contenders met privately to discuss the future and, I assume, their relationship.

But one has to assume that sometimes marriages or relationships of convenience are not the best thing for both parties. Hillary Clinton being the VP on the ticket with Barack Obama does not seem to represent that which would guarantee the safe future of the first African American to be elected president of these United States. Stay tuned

Posted June 11, 2008, 11:55 p.m.

June 4, 2008 Column #20: Stadiums go up while compliance system breaks down

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

For three years we have sounded the alarm (examples: 4-20-05, 12-14-05, 6-7-06, 7-19-06, 5-9-07, 12-19-07) about the exclusion of Blacks on major construction contracts, especially the legislature-authorized stadiums for the Minnesota Twins and the University of Minnesota.

We have used this column to express our concern about the potentially great opportunities denied African Americans and the lack of response by our so-called Black leadership. This lack of response led me to file a Civil Rights Complaint with the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department last June, charging violation of civil rights statutes by MA Mortenson and the Baseball Authority.

Not surprisingly, the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department suppressed and obstructed this complaint. We are aware that certain arrangements were made with MA Mortenson to make the complaint go away.

Over the past year, we have met with Civil Rights Department officials five times to request a status report, only to be given the runaround each time. We will continue to press for our legally due response.

So, we were not surprised at the story the Star Tribune ran three weeks ago reporting the total collapse of the diversity plan for the Twins baseball stadium. As we have long noted, the University of Minnesota doesn't even bother to disguise or hide its violations of the law.

Despite the great lengths Jerry Bell of the Minnesota Twins and Steve Cramer of the Minnesota Baseball Authority have gone to, insisting on adherence and compliance to the law, they remain frustrated. Even the Star Tribune has begun to periodically report on this.

In October of 2007, the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department signed a lucrative contract to monitor and report to the Baseball Authority and the Minnesota Twins. The only problem I have seen is the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department refusing to exercise its power of enforcement. They obviously have no intention of enforcing the law that is continuously breached by MA Mortenson and, by its silence, the City of Minneapolis.

So, when we hear some Black leadership groups talking about picketing and lying down in front of the bulldozers, we become rather amused at this woeful street theater. If it were not for the tragedy that has befallen our community -- no jobs, no service contracts, no nothing -- we could make this into a comedy and have Amos and Andy in the lead roles.

Watch closely as the violation of the rule of law continues.

Book reading and discussion

I will be doing a book reading and signing for my new book, A Seat for Everyone , at Magers Quinn Book Store, Sunday, June 8, at 6 pm, at 3038 Hennepin Ave. South.

Posted 6-5-8, 9:55 p.m.

May 28, 2008 Column #19: Cops help bad guys threaten good citizens

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

In mid-April of this year, a North Minneapolis family was celebrating the graduation of their daughter from a local high school with joy and a sense of Providence pointing to her educational future.   We will not name this family because of the threats and the danger that has been directed towards them due to police mis-behavior.

As we write this column, this African American family is preparing to flee their North Minneapolis residence to what they hope will be a safe shelter elsewhere. The events of this story raise serious questions about the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) cozy relationships with some of the street gangs who commit mayhem and murder upon the streets of Minneapolis.

This family has been devastated by the conduct of some MPD officers. It all started the week of April 27th. While stopped at an intersection in North Minneapolis, our young student was caught in the cross fire of a gun battle between rival gangs.

Coming from a concerned and law abiding family, she did the right thing: she gave police a statement about the shooting, in which 15 shots were fired, and identified the two gunmen. But to her shock and dismay, within days of giving her statement to the police, the suspect in question began a series of telephone calls to her, one of which was intercepted by police, threatening her and identifying to her written statements she had made to the MPD

On Saturday, the 3rd of May, members of this street gang attempted to force her car to the curb in North Minneapolis. She was able to flee, reach the Fourth Precinct, and call the detective investigating the case. She was understandably terrified for her life. She was told to wait at the station. She did, for two hours. You guessed it: the detective never appeared. She then took shelter outside her home in another part of the city.

On the 8th day of May of this year, the mother asked for and received a meeting with Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan, at City Hall. She and her daughter provided a written statement to Chief Dolan, to Fourth Precinct Inspector Mike Martin, and to Special Assistant to Mayor RT Rybak, Sherman Patterson, the full circumstances of the terror they were facing, expressing their fear and apprehension. They expressed their belief that the daughter's statement to police was somehow released to street terrorists by police, as it was read to her over the phone by one of the gang members. They were assured there would be a significant increase in protection for the family. How do I know this? I was in the meeting.

As of the writing of this column, the 22nd of May, 2008, the gunman is still at large, the family is preparing to flee their home in North Minneapolis, and no one has provided or shown the decency to reengage the family and give them a sense of caring or a progress report on the breach that led to information being provided to street level thugs.

Our concern is based on the belief that the police do this routinely. We don't want repeats of what happened a few years ago, in both North Minneapolis, along 26th street, and in South Minneapolis, just off 4th Ave and 37th Street, where two young African Americans were executed, gangland style, after MPD officers leaked their information to rival gangs.

And so one would thing there would be serious concern and a sense of urgency to bring these street gang thugs to justice (which there would be if this was a white woman). But that is not happening. And so a God fearing, law abiding African American family has been forced to flee the safety and comfort of their neighborhood, with their confidence and respect for the MPD and law enforcement and the rule of law forever shaken.

This is indeed a dark moment in the pursuit of justice and protection of the African American. See recent events in Washington D.C. (rehiring 17 fired cops on a technicality) and Atlanta (cops lying and planting evidence), for how Minneapolis ways have spread to others.

As one commentator put it, "The one good thing to come out of the case is we got to see just how vast, deep, and pernicious the culture of corruption and disregard for civil rights ran in Atlanta's police department." So too in Minneapolis. As another commentator put it, "Cops work in a largely autonomous institution that sanctions, and even encourages, racialized injustice and terrorism."

As Thurgood Marshall said, "Mere access to the courthouse doors does not by itself assure a proper functioning of the adversary process."

What concerns us most is the silence of Black organizations and City officials. As Martin Luther King, Jr., said, "Not only will we have to repent for the sins of bad people; but we also will have to repent for the appalling silence of good people."

Posted 5-29-08, 11:31 p.m.

May 21, 2008 Column #18: History in the making: Police Federation requests criminal investigation of MPD Chief Dolan

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

In preparing for the Republican National Convention, Democratic Party officials of the City of Minneapolis on city hall's first floor (police) and third floor (mayor) have, until now, done everything possible to put forth the best possible appearance of stability and integrity in the units of government that would be involved in guaranteeing the safety of Republican delegates coming to the Twin Cities for the early-September convention.

Thus, you can imagine the shock and dismay of the executive and legislative branches of government in Minneapolis, when, on May 12, 2008, attorneys for the Minneapolis Police Federation requested, in writing, under Minnesota statute, that the Hennepin County sheriff, Rich Stanick, investigate Tim Dolan, the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) chief.

The attorneys set out in their request the specific intentional criminal violation of the privacy act committed by MPD Chief Tim Dolan. Never before in modern times has the Police Federation asked for a criminal investigation and action against a sitting, incumbent chief of police.

The Star Tribune and other local media are, of course, caught in the middle. As this column is being prepared, they have neither printed nor uttered a single word about this historic request.

We have said in this column on numerous occasions that this type of disaster was bound to happen. In August of last year, in the story on Lt. Michael Keefe, we warned that these types of consequences could be forthcoming.

One of the problems now facing the MPD and the City is that a specific series of rules for addressing security for the convention are now in play. The one that is most disturbing to the first and third floors of city hall is the agreement, reached among all parties, that any law enforcement officers under current investigation shall not be allowed to enter or work inside the convention site.

How will the commander of the MPD monitor, supervise, and command the responsibility of his department and his subordinates when he could possibly be barred from the site of the convention because of the allegations against his office?

Such a crisis raises questions about the $50 million budget set aside by the Congress of the United States for both long-range and short-range plans for convention security and, therefore, the eligibility of the Minneapolis Police Department to draw down against the $50 million, given the request for a criminal investigation of the police chief, a legal issue which must be settled quickly. Stay tuned.

School closing?

Rumors are flying again regarding the closing of North High School. Official notification of closings is required. None has been issued. Such is needed for White gentrification. We should counter with Black gentrification and keep our land in our hands.

Posted May 21, 2008, 4:55 pm.

May 14, 2008 Column #17: Michael Jordan and MPLS civil rights: Pirate captain and pirate ship

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

Michael Jordan and his merry band of statistical brigands cause us to question not only what we hear, but what we see. In the recent department report on Contract Compliance for the first quarter (Jan.-Mar.) of 2008, Michael Jordan reports statistics that would make any civil rights pirate blush over their haul.

It reminds us of the opening scene in the1952 film The Crimson Pirate, where the pirate captain warns against believing anything you hear, only what you see — and then says, "No, believe half of what you see." Jordan is asking us, "Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?"

The Minneapolis Civil Rights Department makes it hard to believe anything we hear or see of that department, and thus, by extension, of the mayor's office.

Jordan reports what some will see as cause for congratulations: That on nearly $700 million worth of construction projects, minority skilled participants totaled 26.59 percent of the workers, while 26.58 percent were minority unskilled workers. Hallelujah.

He wants us to believe that 53.17 of the workers were minorities. So tell me, dear readers: When you have walked or driven by construction projects, did you even see one percent that were Black, let alone half?

So here is the big question: How, if half the workers are minorities, was so little money paid out to minorities? Here are the numbers for two categories of closed and two categories of open projects. On closed projects, 3.11 percent of actual paid dollars went to minorities. On closed projects of $1 million or more, .71 percent — meaning less than one percent — of the dollars paid went to minorities. For active projects, 1.67 percent. For active projects over $1million, the amount is 1.72 percent.

According to KARE News and according to the report "The Skilled-Unskilled Wage Differential in Construction: Minnesota Economic Trends," prevailing wages run anywhere between $12 to $25 for non-union and/or non-government construction jobs, or $25-$50 for union and government projects.

So, how is it that nearly half the workers were paid less than four percent of the monies paid to workers? Either they were working for 50 cents an hour, or the Civil Rights Department is counting workers who may have been on a job site for a few hours or a day or two and add them all up to get their bogus statistics.

Who knew we wouldn't be able to believe what we heard from them, nor even half of what we see? What do we see? What do we know? Last year, Michael Jordan almost bragged that the City could achieve compliance on any project and never employ a single African American.

People of good intention should have been concerned. Where are they?

So, comforted by the City's indifference, Civil Rights Department Director Michael Jordan submits his historical first-quarter report of 2008 to the Minneapolis City Council and to the mayor, who continue to show indifference.

And so, comforted by Minneapolis official and unofficial indifference, Director Jordan, in a most cavalier manner, wrote, "The department will continue its close observation of future projects and other contracting opportunities, to ensure that the compliance status is maintained or improved with the objective of maximizing opportunities for women and people of color in the areas of construction and in the purchase of goods and services."

Yet, no surprise, there is a total absence of any figures dealing with the purchase of services or goods. Why? Simple. The City does not find it necessary to make such commitments.

So, out of $700 million in projects, Jordan and the City see nothing wrong that only about $11 million went to the protected communities. The department and the City don't feel required to meet the demands and expectations of their own statues, ordinances and laws, as is now being done in St. Paul.

Mr. Jordan, the mayor and the City of Minneapolis are showing the Republican delegates coming in September how to run a plantation in the most efficient and effective manner, making sure that the "slaves" are lucky to get bread and water. Hey, don't be mad at us. It's not our report.

But April 18, 2008, was a most historical day and event, with the major focus being, "Don't even give them cake. Starve them and offer no opportunities."

No cabs for Blacks

In the coming weeks, we'll do a much more in-depth of analysis of this specific act of discrimination in Minneapolis. For now, just know that there are many out there who have felt the frustration of having Minneapolis and suburban taxicabs refuse to stop for them, despite the ordinance that they must do so and the requirement of licensing that they do so.

If you are in downtown Minneapolis on a Friday or Saturday night and you are Black, don't try to flag down a cab. It's worse than in New York City. They'll drive around you, pick up a White passenger and go right on.

Wow. Some Republicans will feel right at home, as if they were comfortably in Johannesburg in the 1960s.

Stay tuned.

Shootings update: As of midnight May 8, 2008: 32 shot and seven homicides since March 25, with still very little press coverage.

Posted 5-14-08, 10:27 p.m.

May 7, 2008 Column #16: The door slams shut on civil rights; after 40 years, St. Paul Human Rights Dept. will cease to be

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

In early 1959, an active-duty African American U.S. Navy Commander, James Tillman, arrived in the Twin Cities for a one-year appointment to head up the new Interfaith Housing. According to articles then in the Minneapolis Tribune, the Minneapolis Journal, and the St. Paul Dispatch, Mr. Tillman was to create an operational structure for the Human Rights Department in St. Paul and its commission, and for the Civil Rights Department in Minneapolis and its commission.

Completed by 1967, these organizational structures gave the Black communities of Minneapolis and St. Paul a great sense of pride. Many felt these departments were a great step forward to ensure the protection of the franchise of the African American and others of color.

But on Thursday, May 1, 2008, in, ironically, the Martin Luther King, Jr. center in St. Paul, in the Canteen Room, 85 citizens learned otherwise as they were given the St. Paul plan. The plan fires another shot across the political bow of a soon-to-be-disappearing ship of hope, a plan for dismantling the dream of everlasting protection and inclusion.

First and foremost, it is clear that the first target is the department's current executive director, Tyrone Terrill. It is obvious that he is considered to be a force too dangerous to be allowed to preside over the dismantling of his department.

Secondly, it is clear that the model being used is that of one of the greatest failures of civil rights enforcement anywhere in the United States, the disastrous Minneapolis Civil Rights Department. And so, just months away from the convening of one of the highest profile political gatherings, the Republican National Convention, the Twin Cities are showing America how to methodically disenfranchise African Americans and others of color.

The powers at be will say the plan represents new opportunities for entrepreneurs and vendors to enjoy the economic pies of procurement contract awards and other considerations. But up close and intensely examined, we see instead steps to dismantle over 40 years of effort.

The plan provides for no sanctions or penalties for contract violations, nor for denying opportunity. It falsely claims to challenge those who enjoy the fruits of prosperity to give more of the economic pie to those who have been denied and are disadvantaged. In this era of nullification and reversal, only those with no understanding of the reality of the big picture would buy into that.

So, once again the African American is being disenfranchised, shattering the dream while we are asked to rally around the flag and sing "We shall overcome." I don't' think so.

Stay tuned.

Shootings Update: As of midnight May 1, 2008: 32 shot, six dead since March 25, and still little press coverage.

Posted 5-7-08, 3:15 a.m.

April 30, 2008 Column #15: Targeting the Black police

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

For four years in this newspaper, we have laid out in our columns (see especially August 13, 2004; June 21, 2006; May 23, 2007; and August 15, 2007 and September 26, 2007) a growing and troubling trend: the undermining of Black police officers in this city.

It is oftentimes said that the proof is in the pudding. The April 20, 2008 Strib piece reinforces our columns (although that was not the Strib's intent). Under Mayor Rybak and under Police Chief Tim Dolan, the Black police officers are becoming an endangered group of pubic servants.

The so-called investigation and allegations against former inspector, now Lt. Lee Edwards and 29-year veteran Mike Roberts are a direct outgrowth of an unchecked culture of racism, discrimination, and bias, which poisons every fiber of the police department and, by extension, the City of Minneapolis.

This column and the Black Police Officers Association have cried out for an examination of racial targeting and cleansing. In our August 15, 2007 column, we predicted "the bleaching" of the MPD.

The April 24, 2008 Strib story continues to amplify the unchecked bleaching, or racial cleaning, of the African American officers and other officers of color.

Reasonable and intelligent people would conclude that this kind of racial cleansing is unhealthy for the city, unhealthy for relationships, unhealthy for racial harmony of the mutual populations, and unhealthy for the image of the city on both the domestic and international stages.

And yet it is clear that our mayor, city council and, much more importantly, our corporate community continue to demonstrate little or no interest in stopping this purge, this racial cleaning, this targeting of Black police officers in the MPD.

Maybe now many will have a better understanding of the need of five Black officers of command rank to file their lawsuit on Dec 3, 2007. They were trying to send a signal, appealing to the better side of those in positions of responsibility and power, to act in a reasonable and responsible manner.

However, apparently in the case of the targeting of Black police officers in the city of Minneapolis, what constitutes reason and prudence is to target, to eliminate, to hurt and to shatter the careers of these very fine men and women. It is truly a dark day for the image of liberalism when we are faced with the silence of liberal institutions as they both endorse and encourage the targeting and disappearing of the African American officers in the Minneapolis Police Department. Stay tuned.

Shooting Update: As of midnight, 4-24-08: 25 shot, four dead, in 25 days (and still little press coverage). There were 36 shootings in Chicago the weekend of April 19, with nine dead. Is that ahead for us?

Posted May 1, 2008, 11:58 p.m.

April 23, 2008 Column #14: Dream of justice shattered for Charez Jones and family

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

"Mere access to the courthouse doors does not by itself assure a proper functioning of the adversary process." — Thurgood Marshall

The life of 14-year-old Charez Jones was snuffed out in June 2007 after a birthday party, when she was caught in gang crossfire. Since that June day, her family has prayed for and expected justice on behalf of their granddaughter, daughter, niece, cousin, friend. The shooting created dangerously high tensions in our city.

When arrests were made later that summer, those who wanted to take another approach were convinced to stand down and allow the system to work. But then the system broke down, first in the fall of 2007 when a Hennepin County judge dismissed charges against one of the two defendants, and again last Wednesday, April 16, when Hennepin County District Judge Kathryn Quaintance dismissed all charges against the second defendant, 17 years of age.

The disappointed prosecutors and investigators and the stunned members of the Jones family watched in disbelief. It was a shattering experience and a betrayal of trust that had been hard-earned and hard-fought-for by the community.

But it is the reasons and the circumstances that cause this columnist to raise serious legal and moral questions about the importance of a Black life in the Hennepin County court.

Not reported in the April 17 Strib front-page story were comments and statements by Judge Quaintance that were legally and morally questionable as well as insensitive. They further eroded the trust, respect and confidence in the judiciary system that a community has tried so hard to embrace, especially when she made statements questioning the importance of the trial and the time and energy she is expected to commit to it.

According to the record, Judge Quaintance set a trial timetable of five days, start to end, because she had to be out of the city taking some courses and preparing for her re-election.

Further, the record also shows that Judge Quaintance questioned the need to empanel a jury even though nine had already been selected, indicating she felt the cost for justice was not justifiable, even in this case of a 14-year-old child who had been brutally gunned down.

For a sitting judge to imply that there is not enough importance in the findings of fact and providing conclusions of law without hearing testimony, nor allowing a jury of 12 citizens to determine guilt or innocence, is more than disturbing — it is frightening.

The message to the streets is that lawlessness and murder and mayhem will no longer be closely scrutinized, particularly if the victim is Black. This puts our police and community in danger.

In the same Strib article, a police inspector of the Minneapolis Police Department confirmed that gang rivalry has escalated since Chavez Jones was murdered, pointing out the strong possibility of retaliation. The circumstances that have emerged, the statements by the judge, and the rejection of the hard work of investigators and prosecutor all support the observation made by the father of Chavez Jones, present at every hearing, that Judge Quaintance should have recused herself of presiding over this trial.

But, the chief judge of the Hennepin County Court declined to direct her colleague to do so. We think here, in the interest of justice, in the interest of fairness, and in the interest of respect for the judicial process, particularly from a Black community under siege, that an appeal of the chief judge's decision is in order.

As a longtime observer of how the politics of this state ensures strong political consequences for any county attorney who goes before the supreme court of the State of Minnesota to ask for a sitting judge to be removed from a murder case, we know how hard it is to do, and even harder to do it twice.

But then, that's part of what you take on as an elected or appointed official (in this case, elected) when you choose to ask the voters to place you in a position of responsibility. But likewise, a judge of the court seeking the support and trust and most certainly the respect of the voting public that put him or her in the sensitive position of guardianship must also be held accountable for unreasonable, inconsistent conduct on the bench.

This reminds us of Thurgood Marshall's words: "Mere access to the courthouse doors does not by itself assure a proper functioning of the adversary process."

The least any of us can do who have command of some kind of platform, be it a column, TV show, or leadership of organizations in our community, is to speak up. This shattering of a dream in the pursuit of justice cries out for corrective action so the wrong can be righted and the soul of a 14-year-old child can at long last be laid to rest, having enjoyed the application of justice and fairness to a journey that was not of her making or her choosing.

Shooting Update: As of midnight 4-17-08, since March 25: 23 shot, four dead (24 days of little press coverage), and 10 more shootings since our last column. Since March 25: nearly one shooting a day.

Posted April 23, 2008, 12:24 a.m.

April 9, 2008 Column #13: Is it Censorship, Shoddy Reporting or Star Tribune Policy? Or is this to calm the nerves of the Republicans?

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

Is the Republican National Convention ready for "Murderopolis," the nickname we "earned" in 1992?

March 25 - April 3, 2008 was one of the bloodiest weeks since 1992. Why haven't 100s of thousands of readers of our major newspapers heard of the thirteen youth of color shot in the City of Minneapolis, with two fatalities, during this 10 day period. Why the news blackout with the exception of a small piece on p. B2, of the Strib, March 30?

The media and our public officials refuse. I don't. The casualty list of 12 African Americans and one young Asian student, a female at North HS hit by a stray bullet, is true, as I received calls and was personally at the scenes, and saw the bodies lying in the street or on the grass.

We all know that if 13 white teenagers had been shot on our city streets, we would have seen editorials calling for public safety and order, seeking a declaration of a state of emergency. The Governor, the Mayor, and the Congressionals would all be holding press conferences.

We would have seen the ecumenical community calling for an end to this "cycle of violence" and we would have seen corporate Minneapolis demanding public officials enact a plan of action to protect the white community. But, as these were not white children, there value lies in anonymity as does the anonymity of the trauma these shootings bring to communities of color.

On early Saturday morning, March 29, at approximately 12:45 am, at least six gunmen, firing heavy weapons, shot four African Americans at two separate locations, 14th and Thomas Avenue North and in the 2700 Block of Plymouth Avenue North. Twelve hours later the same gunmen opened fired at two more African Americans, killing one.

As we write this column, a 14 year old African American male, shot three times at the McDonalds on Lyndale Ave North on the far north end of Minneapolis, fights for his life with a bullet lodged next to his heart. And yet, by 4-3-08 editions, neither the major paper reported these tragedies nor did city officials issue any comments.

13 shot in 10 days. Why the press blackout? At what point will our major media and City Hall stop their callous disregard for the importance of the preservation of the people of color and specifically African Americans?

This is not what the Republican Party expected when they selected the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul for their convention. Is the press black out because the city doesn't want to tarnish the $50M they are getting to keep order?

Equally unnerving is the silence of our Black leadership: organizations, churches, and the City's Civil Rights Department and Commission. Not a word about this epidemic of violence, this state of emergency, this threat to the African American community.

Leisure leadership. Good for them. Not good for our community. City Civil Rights Department leadership often cannot be found on the job. We reject this dismissive and cavalier manner that has become the cornerstone and reputation of those Blacks in city and community positions of leadership.

13 shot, two killed, in a 10 day period. It is early April. Snow is still on the ground. Biting wind still sweeps across the Minnesota prairie. What do you think it will be like here in the hot and humid days of June, July and August? Can there be a guarantee that our Republican guests will be safe in this, our Shangri la? The only problem: this is not a Shangri la for people of color. It has become a place of terror, a place unsafe, a place uncaring, a place without compassion for the youngest of our population of color.

Tonight, wherever you may be reading this column, if you are a person of color, offer a prayer for you and yours. And if you are of the other community, we still welcome you. Pray for our survival, for it appears than only God is concerned.

The killing of minds in our schools

Related in a different way to the shooting of bodies is the "shooting" of minds. As we know, "a mind is a terrible thing to waste". "Death at an early age" was a book on education decades ago. We're still piling up the wasted minds.

Free public education is an American invention. And yet the USAToday reported last week that Minneapolis urban schools are the 5 th worst in the nation, 45 th out of the 50 major cities: our graduation rate: 43.7%. Our suburbs: 75.4%. Nationwide average: urban 51.8 and their suburbs 75.4%.

Education enables the change from social stagnation to social mobility. It is not white. It is smart (Department of Education: "90% of our fastest-growing jobs require education or training beyond high school").

As we remind: "No education, no job, no housing, no public safety, no hope." That means half of urban and a quarter of suburban 9 th graders drop out (were pushed out?). And yet not a peep from Black or white leadership nor the DFL.

Posted 4-9-08, 2:35 p.m.

Ron hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm. Formerly head of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission and the Urban League, he continues his “watchdog” role for Minneapolis. Order his book, hear his voice, read his solution papers, and read his between columns “web log” at

Permission is granted to reproduce The Minneapolis Story columns, blog entries and solution papers. Please cite the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder and for the columns. Please cite for blog entries and solution papers.

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