By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Last summer when it started getting warm, the parties--and the misdeeds of the drunk and stoned teenagers at them--began to draw notice. In June, a fight broke out on 50th and Penn, a high-school brawl with Southwest teens on one side and students from nearby Washburn High on the other. The Southwest Journal, a community newspaper based in the area, reported that a juvenile associated with the 2-1 Click was arrested and charged with breaking another kid's jaw with a baseball bat.
A community meeting shortly after the incident produced a barrage of complaints against the Click: Home and business owners in the area complained of 2-1 graffiti on their property. Kids were breaking into garages and cars. Pissing in neighbors' yards. The kids were confrontational and abusive, and had threatened a woman at knifepoint, area residents complained.
The kids and some of their parents countered that the police were harassing area teens, sometimes at gunpoint. Minneapolis police had launched a "zero-tolerance" onslaught designed to drive the 2-1 out of business. They stopped teenagers in their cars on any pretext they could think of. They maintained a constant presence in Pershing Park.
Most upsetting to parents, the MPD classified the 2-1 Click as a criminal gang. Minnesota law defines gangs loosely, and attaches additional penalties to crimes committed for the benefit of a gang. "The things that define it as a gang are identifiable clothing, and gang signs or graffiti, in addition to one or more members engaged in criminal activity," explains Inspector Brad Johnson of the MPD's fifth precinct, which includes Pershing Park.
Parents and area residents were incensed. "Now it wasn't just juveniles causing some problems around the neighborhood," says Paul Hokeness, a neighborhood resident involved in the controversy. "Once it's labeled as a gang, that puts it in a whole different world. I've worked in inner cities before and I've seen real gangs, and I'm not being naive... but I didn't truly see this as a real gang."
It was this semantic debate that captured headlines last fall: Is 2-1 a gang or not? Police sent a letter to parents of kids associated with 2-1 warning of drive-by shootings and firebombs. Sue Donahue, a resident who became a kind of ad hoc media spokeswoman for the 2-1 teens and their parents, told the Southwest Journal that "we have more of a problem with the police and their power running amok than we do with a gang of kids."
The kids themselves complained that they felt oppressed. "The more disrespect the police gave them, the more violent they got toward the adults, no matter who they were," says Moy. "If you live in the neighborhood you're going to be disrespected because somebody else disrespected them. It's a cycle."
Minneapolis City Council member Steve Minn, campaigning for re-election, accused parents of being "in denial," an accusation echoed by Johnson. "A lot of people said, 'It's just a group of kids,'" the inspector says. "Yes, that's true. But based on the state definition they are a gang. People didn't want that. People don't want gangs and people don't want to believe that there are gangs."
Eventually a handful of parents, police, and teens, including Donahue, Hokeness, and Johnson, hit on some practical solutions. Parents met with Johnson to clear the air. Hokeness organized a band of teens to clean up the graffiti around the neighborhood. Some of the older teens in the crowd went on to jobs or GEDs. Others moved away.
Brancheau sent her son out of the state to a sort of wilderness therapy group. "I could sense he wanted to get out of it but didn't know how to get away from his peer group," she says. "The athletes don't want to be around you because people might think they're using drugs, and they don't want to get kicked off the team. And then [Greg] was skipping school a whole lot, and his grades looked like heck, so he feels 'yuck' about that. So you become more and more encamped. Any kid does. So I found a way to get him out of here."
Winter brought its own calm to Pershing Park. And for a while it was quiet in southwest. It seemed like 2-1 was a thing of the past.
Then Henry Moormann turned up dead in a parking lot.
"Henry's in there in a box," Nancy Moormann jerks her head at the wall dividing her kitchen from the spare bedroom. "I brought him home, and I was moving him around and I didn't know what to do with him. 'What am I going to do with you Henry? You're under foot again!'"
Nancy Moormann wants eventually to scatter her son's ashes at Leech Lake at the resort where she and Henry and her daughter spent idyllic summer retreats. "His happiest times were when he was let loose up there," she remembers. "He loved the lack of structure. He adored it. He could come and go. He never had to check in with anybody." She shakes her head. "I'm sure he was smoking lots of marijuana there too."