First Avenue, Walker Art Center, schools: List cutting ties with MPD grows

Aaron Lavinsky, Star Tribune

Aaron Lavinsky, Star Tribune

On May 27, the University of Minnesota announced it was no longer contracting with the Minneapolis Police Department for large events. Minneapolis Public Schools voted to terminate its MPD contract June 2. The Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board might be next.

Things keep going this way, and those boys in blue might just end up in the red.

It's not only our public institutions, but cultural ones: On Wednesday evening, First Avenue announced that "for the safety of [their] guests, artists, and staff," they will no longer contract security with off-duty officers through the MPD.

"We will instead work with local organizations who represent our community, and who will protect and affirm Black and Brown lives," their announcement read. "The murder of George Floyd has made it abundantly clear that the presence of off-duty MPD officers at our events will not guarantee the safety of our patrons and does not support our community or our values as an organization."

The announcement came hours after the Walker Art Center announced that it too will stop contracting with MPD for special events, "until the MPD implements meaningful change by demilitarizing training programs, holding officers accountable for the use of excessive force, and treating communities of color with dignity and respect."

Even law firm Dorsey & Whitney is ending its prosecutorial pro bono program, instead shifting those efforts toward community work. They've been prosecuting misdemeanor cases brought by the Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office for more than 40 years, according to Bloomberg Law.

Of course, the question now is... What does this look like moving forward?

The school district has to devise a new safety plan by August 18. The Parks and Rec resolution -- which the board is taking public comment on Wednesday evening -- would block park police officers from responding to Minneapolis police calls... but spokeswoman Dawn Sommers told the Star Tribune they'd still respond to urgent situations outside of their jurisdiction.

“If there a critical emergency or something big ... our officers are sworn to protect people,” Sommers said. “They are going to respond when somebody needs help.”

The language in the Walker's statement is similarly squishy. They're calling for demilitarization, but not abolition, of the force. ("What do you mean until?" one Instagram commenter asked. "Just divest.")

The road to eliminating the police isn't easy, or short. But few know the gravity of this consideration better than Mahmoud Abumayyaleh, owner of Cup Foods, the corner store at Chicago and 38th where the call to police that killed George Floyd originated. In a weekend Facebook post, Abumayyaleh explained that it's state policy to call it in when a business thinks it's found a counterfeit bill -- and that they'd nonetheless no longer keep doing so.

"Work within your communities to find alternatives to policing, until the point that local and state officials decide to seriously hold police accountable once and for all," Abumayyaleh wrote. "We will continue fighting with our South Minneapolis community until justice is served, not only for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, but for everybody who is affected by police violence in our country."