Charles Kentrell Jones's homicide memorial draws complaints
Charles Kentrell Jones had only been out of juvenile hall for a few weeks when he was gunned down in a north Minneapolis alley last August. The 17-year-old was only a few blocks from home when he was killed in a spray of bullets.
A makeshift memorial to Jones sprang up at the base of a tree near where he fell. It was ornate, complete with religious figurines, a Bible, and glittery ribbons wrapped around the trunk.
Now, neighbors are complaining that it ought to come down.
Residents began calling the Folwell Neighborhood Association in November, complaining that months after the incident, enough was enough.
"It's something they want to move on from. They hope that the family affected would also move on," says executive director Roberta Englund. "That was the intent of having this particular memorial removed."
Unlike other memorials to victims that have popped up all over the neighborhood--and the city--this particular memorial was well-kept, and did not include liquor bottles, moldy stuffed animals, or gang signs. It appears maintained, though no one is sure who is doing it.
Still, neighbors are sick of looking at it. And no one felt comfortable ripping it down. In December, the association turned to Ward Four City Councilwoman Barbara Johnson. She wasn't sure what to do either.
"I don't want to do it disrespectfully," she says. "But if it happened in front of your front yard and you didn't know this person you might feel some resentment."
Enough people complained to Minneapolis's 311 that the operators asked Public Works Director Mike Kennedy for guidance. As it turns out, Minneapolis does have some guidelines on how to deal with memorials, but they haven't been exercised since Kennedy drafted them in 2007.
Kennedy says the operators are now up to speed. Residents can report a memorial to 311. After two weeks, the city will clean it up. They collect any material left and store it at the Street Department for 30 days, in case someone wants to pick any of it up. If no one does, they chuck it. And he won't editorialize the content. Everything goes--stuffed animals, bottles, signs, photos, everything.
"We don't try to distinguish between what's the good stuff and what's not," he says.
Before he sent out a crew to Jones's memorial, Johnson volunteered to try to find family to take the items first. She says so far she hasn't had any luck.
Kennedy says he will hold off clean-up if family members contact him and pledge to keep it tidy. He is also tweaking the language of the guidelines so that contacting the appropriate City Council member is the first step, in the hopes that victim's families can be reached before a cleanup.
In the meantime, Jones's memorial remains, though by now it's been through a few snowfalls. Englund says she's fine with it still being there, so long as someone is making an effort to eventually take care of it. She's pleased there is now a procedure by which the city will respond to complaints in the future.
"There is a difference between when a memorial is a tribute and when it becomes debris," she says.
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