Jordan One Year Later: What's Different, What's the Same

A year ago this friday, august 22, A botched drug raid at a north Minneapolis home resulted in a child's being injured by errant police gunfire. Fanned by rumors that the child had been killed by cops, longtime tensions between the police and the Jordan neighborhood's mostly African American youth erupted into what was variously described as a "melee," "riot," and "uprising." Vehicles were torched, rocks were thrown, and news crews were assaulted as dozens of people gathered in the streets.

At one point, the MPD's Fourth Precinct Commander Tim Dolan withdrew his officers and allowed members of community organizations--most notably Shane Price of the African American Men Project and The City, Inc.'s Spike Moss--to take the lead in a mostly successful attempt to defuse the situation. In the days and weeks following the disturbance, Jordan began to come to terms with its newfound notoriety.

In the months to come, new conflicts took shape. A grassroots activist, Don Samuels of the Jordan Livability Forum, decried the MPD's hiring of The City, Inc., to patrol the streets and pick up litter in the neighborhood, and agitated for stronger partnerships between the police and those who actually resided in the community. Samuels eventually parlayed the attention he received into a berth on the Minneapolis City Council, replacing Joe Biernat, who was convicted on federal extortion charges last February.

Then, seemingly, news about Jordan vanished from the headlines--violent crime statistics in the neighborhood are down marginally from a year ago--only to reappear this summer after a series of shootings that prompted Samuels to mount a highly publicized fast and vigil. Eventually, Governor Tim Pawlenty assigned a dozen state patrol officers to help quell the violence.

As the first anniversary of the "Jordan melee" drew near, City Pages convened a roundtable to discuss crime, economic development, police-community relations, and other issues. Two of the invited participants did not attend: Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said he needed to concentrate his time on preparing the city's budget, and Don Samuels was in Jamaica attending his brother's funeral. (A separate interview with Samuels appears on page 20.) But the half-dozen participants who did show up engaged in a polite but pointed 75-minute give-and-take.


City Pages: Since the melee that occurred in Jordan last August 22, what has changed in the neighborhood and what hasn't?

Steven Oates: The Jordan Area Community Council, which is the NRP [Neighborhood Revitalization Program] group that exists in Jordan, has increased its membership because of the melee. It has also forced the community to look more comprehensively at how we deal with livability issues, drugs, children, and dysfunctional families. We have a new council member who is very active in the community and has brought a lot of attention to these issues.

What has remained the same is that we still have drugs. And I'm gonna say this: We still have judges who are too lenient and should be more forceful in terms of really distinguishing who are persons who really need help. Because one of the good things about the neighborhood now is that we have done a lot of research on 30 or 40 of the bad guys, and they have tremendous rap sheets. And the residents are looking at it and going, "How can these people still be walking around and not in jail?"

Shane Price: Because I've been around a long time--not to say nobody else has--I'd like to go back to when the population was still majority European in the Hawthorne and the Jordan communities, and when NRP dollars and other kinds of opportunities for neighborhoods abounded. What we struggled with was that these communities were not ready to accept new residents as full participants. I met--and Steve Oates, you were there and felt it too--a lot of racial opposition for trying to engage the young people in the community in the process and get some of the neighborhoods to cut funding loose for youth programming. So I would add to the equation that, in some ways, race matters.

City Pages: So what you are saying is that Jordan is paying for past neglect?

Price: I wouldn't call it neglect. They were not ready for the influx of African Americans that came from Chicago, Gary, other places. So they really didn't know what to do. That was part of the shortsightedness on the part of NRP's organizational structure.

Michelle Gross: I want to throw in something here, as Shane Price says, to keep the conversation honest. There was a reason why the incident in Jordan happened. A particular incident sparked it, but a lot of other things led up to it. There was a lot of concern in the neighborhood about police. We go into the neighborhood and talk to people. And we have gotten many reports about people standing at bus stops in the morning with their work clothes on, trying to get to work, and police come up and photograph them, harass them, let them know that they are loitering, at a marked bus stop. This is not good policing, especially when it is happening while other people are down on the corner selling drugs and stuff. Bust the people that are doing wrong and leave the other ones alone.  

Tim Dolan: One of the things we do is take photographs of people together. If you are wearing a jersey with the number 22 on it, as we take your photograph when you are with your buddies, you are less likely to be involved in a shooting wearing that number 22, knowing that officers know what you are wearing that night. So those photographs--and we don't make them public--are a very effective gang suppression tool that my uniformed officers will use when we are working with gang issues.

City Pages: Are the police their own worst enemy sometimes? Shane, when you were out on the streets during the melee, you encountered a lot of African American anger against the police department. Yet when I talked to council member Samuels, he said he has been calling John Delmonico, the head of the police union, since March in an effort to work on common strategies. And Delmonico won't even return his calls.

Oates: When I go into African Americans' homes to recruit for the Jordan Area Community Council, they will start in that the police are doing everything under the sun. And I say, "Well, when was your last incident with the police?" And they say, "Um, my cousin had that incident." "Oh, okay. How long ago?" "Well, two years ago." When you start to dig into what the real deal is, it is not that they necessarily have had some bad personal experience with the police, but it is this sort of cultural history about the police that comes forward, and they internalize it as their own experience.

Natalie Johnson Lee: With all due respect, I have a completely different take on that, because I get a lot of the police brutality calls in my office. And the number one complaint that I get, and how most of the incidents get out of hand, is the way in which the police officers address the folks. Sometimes it is just a matter of answering a question [politely].

But one of the things you asked is, what has changed? At the council level, what happens now, Jordan is the number one example that comes up in [anti-crime] conversations. It used to be Phillips. It becomes very important to capitalize on that attention and do some policy work to begin to change some of the stuff in Jordan. But the challenge in these inner city communities, especially in north Minneapolis, because Don and myself are elected officials of color, is, we get pulled away a lot from doing policy work. Because we are responding. Don can't do policy work and a vigil. There is an interesting kind of balancing.

City Pages: Do you have the institutional support from City Hall to get done the kinds of things you would like to get done in Jordan and other communities?

Dolan: The silver lining here is that Jordan is getting a lot of attention now. If you look at gang violence in the city of Minneapolis, it is not African Americans this year; it hasn't been about African Americans. It is about Hispanics. And they are still killing each other and they are shooting today. That's not really getting addressed very much. But we'll take advantage of the situation as long as we've got the limelight.

Gross: Since the incident in Jordan, our group and a lot of other organizations tried to bring in federal mediation [to deal with police-community tensions]. And in my mind, there was tremendous pressure brought down from City Hall to maintain the status quo. We ended up being very frustrated and walking away from the table. We are still in the neighborhood all the time, taking complaints directly from people. It's not like we are talking about your aunt or cousin or mother got into this hassle long before or something. And a lot of the people we deal with feel very trapped--between people who are selling drugs and involved in criminal things, and the police, who are also doing some criminal activities against some of the people in the community, as well as some very good things. I understand this whole thing about people taking photographs at bus stops. But not at 7:45 in the morning when people are standing there in business clothing and briefcases trying to get downtown to their job.  

City Pages: In the last few weeks, Don Samuels has chosen symbolism over policy to help draw attention to this. He has gotten 12 state troopers to come into the city, six of them on the north side in Jordan. There is huge distrust of law enforcement in the neighborhood already, and the troopers aren't really enough to remedy the problem. So is this a positive step or not?

Oates: Let me tell you what I have seen. Out in front of the chicken place on Emerson, the state troopers [assisted in] a big narcotics bust. This is the first time I've seen this. The street was cleaned down, people were off the street, folks who were taking the bus were taking the bus. And the next day, when it cooled down, the same guys were out there doing what they had been doing. Now, I'm a conservative, I will confess that. I know there's going to be some police brutality, and I know what police do, they are human beings and they're not social workers and the whole thing. But, I'll tell you, I'd rather have this, a little bit of mistakes, than have the criminal element, who have no regard for my rights or anybody else's rights. The kids come up to me and say, "I got some crack cocaine." And they don't know if I'm a cop or anything. They just don't care. So I think they are more of a threat to me than the police. So I don't worry about dealing with the police coming up to me and saying, "Mister, can I please see your driver's license?"

Price: This is a multi-faceted issue and so I'd like to first go back to the economic development. When I challenged for a City Council seat back in 2000, I videotaped the building of a new school, down in the heart of the African American community on 26th and Bryant. Just six blocks away from this new construction site are the [drug dealers] we are talking about. Then and now. Six blocks away. The philosophy or policy was, "Let's give them a new school." This was a multi-million dollar initiative. And I videotaped every one of the construction workers, the subcontractors, what have you. I went up and interviewed them, in a good way--you know, "Hey, how you doin'? Having a good day at work? You look pretty tired, man. Hey, how far you got to drive?" "Oh, I got to drive way out to Eden Prairie, I'm out at Woodbury, I'm here, I'm there." Listen, nobody--no blacks, and none of my white boys from north Minneapolis--were participating in the building of that school. Millions of dollars invested at the community level, no dollars kept and maintained in that community. What did we create? The paradox that says, "Hey, I don't have an opportunity here, this is not about me. It's not for me."

We ask Tim and others to clean up the mess for us, not being prepared to take on this challenge from the community. Part of what Tim is trying to do is create goals and a lot of solutions at the same time. Policing, community organizing, police force training, activist training, state support, media support. But, if we're not prepared to say, "What does a healthy north and south Minneapolis look like?" we're not going anywhere. Let's go after the element we're now talking about, these forgotten guys. These young black boys are so influential that the culture has created a music that is the number one music in the world, but they don't control any of the revenue. How do we go about getting these guys one at a time to make some individual change--and I think this is what Steve's talking about--in personal accountability? That's the real deal. And the issue is on the table: When are we going to stop playing around with each other and say, "Some of you young black boys are clownin' and you need to quit clownin'."

Oates: That's right.

Price: This is what you're doing to your family, and you ain't got a pistol, but you got a rock. The rock is driving your sister's child to child protection, and nobody here is gonna get the baby. We gotta have those honest discussions, and that's an area where we are still sensitive. We can deal when white folks say this and that about us, and then we want to galvanize it and come back at them. But we can't talk honestly about our issues amongst ourselves. And we gotta say those things, and not only that, when we say them we've got to have the support because we understand that leadership is taking a risk; this stuff is a risk.  

When I was coming up, there was a policing strategy that you would not be so appreciative of. It was led by a guy named [former Minneapolis Mayor Charles] Stenvig. This was a very heavy-handed tactic, far more than now, that was levied against the African American community in a direct way. And many of those residual feelings and effects--people have internalized that. And people who are my age, boomers who came through the days of struggling in the '60s and '70s, and were supported by the media and press for the righteousness of their movement, don't have that support now under a different political climate.

We need to pull together these types of collaboratives now. For instance, I have a relationship with Tim Dolan. And I respect him, because we worked out our relationship; we're gonna talk to each other straight, and we've been doing this for years, and never one time has he given me B.S. Those kinds of relationships are now coming together out of absolute necessity. We had a choice before, we didn't take it. We had dollars before, but we didn't spend them wisely. We had opportunities, but only some got them. All of that's gone, but we still have the issues. If we're not prepared to work together in a different kind of way in Minneapolis, and be inclusive of a new community, then I think we are setting ourselves up.

City Pages: Inspector Dolan, I've heard nothing but good things about you and your relationship with the community, both black and white. At the same time, what Michelle is saying, and what Natalie is saying, is you've got a problem with some of your officers, and that problem is your own worst enemy. How do you deal with it?

Johnson Lee: Make him the police chief.

Dolan: You deal with it one person at a time. Whether it's one officer at a time that's having a problem, or one citizen at a time that's having a problem. And I'll be honest with you, I know Natalie and Shane could relate personal incidents here, and they're being kind. There have been incidents where cops are totally unfair and totally unjust, and there are incidents when cops are overly fair and overly just. Cops are people, and with these incidents, it's just one at a time. Hopefully over time you can change the attitudes and perceptions both of officers and of citizens.

Johnson Lee: One of the things is that a lot of these officers, they come from the suburbs. So what happens is they come with the stereotype of how it is to live in the city. When I had what I call my police inauguration [the police federation called for Johnson Lee's resignation after she called for remembrance of Martha Donald, the black woman who shot Minneapolis Police Officer Melissa Schmidt], most of the calls I got were from the families of officers who live in the suburbs. And some of the comments that they made--literally, I invited them to come to the city. I said I'll go with you; we can walk through the neighborhoods and you can see that we're not a bunch of barbarians, you know. It was so dominated by race.

Gross: It is a multifaceted situation, yes. There are economic issues, there are justice issues. But the bottom line is the melee jumped off because of a police incident. I was up there all that night and--

Ron Ryan: Or was it a drug incident followed by a police incident?

Gross: Well, it was something that involved the police, okay?

Ryan: Yeah, but they were there on a warrant. I have to say that it's probably not fair for Tim that I've been invited here, because I'm not part of the police department. My biases or thoughts or whatever come from the other side of the river and 35 years with the police department over there. The sad thing is, all the things you're talking about, they talked about 30 years ago. It hasn't changed. A year ago I got a call to a shooting because our people were involved, at James and Broadway. There was a Minneapolis copper and a St. Paul copper who were working out of the gang strike force, doing a saturation thing. As they come around a corner, they get some guy--it looks like a grade B movie--with an automatic [held] sideways, shooting. There's shell casings all over, and whoops: There just happen to be two coppers in there. And thank God nobody got hit. My guys got into it, they got out, ended up shooting the car because they couldn't get him and they ran.  

It was one of the more bizarre things I've ever been involved in. I came there, and the crime lab people came there and were putting the little things on the road where all the shell casings are, and someone says there's a house over here with shots in through the house. So we go in and there's an Asian family, and there were like three bullet holes. A couple of Minneapolis coppers point out that across the street is right where Kevin Brewer was killed.

And I walked up the street, and half of the people were so pissed off at police, and the others were pissed off that police weren't doing enough. There was a lady on this side who was angry because this jerk was shooting over her little kids. And the other people are screaming, "What do you people think you're doing?" And it was just bizarre to me, that you got all this emotion. And it could have been what we've been having with Tyesha and the other little kid, because there were two kids sitting there and the bullets went through and ended up killing a TV. But I can imagine it's frustrating for you folks because, like I said, this is no different than what I heard 30 years ago.

From my perspective, getting back to what I do for a living, if bad people are killing our children, you just kick ass until you get those bad people out of there.

Gross: But you don't kick the ass of the people who aren't doing anything but just living there.

Ryan: How do you select? We do a big thing with our intel system with photographs. We solve crimes. We solved a crime over in Brooklyn Park. They came to us, and they had a nickname and a car. Because of our intel system, within two minutes we were able to solve the crime. And along with that are photos. We do a thing in the Asian community, maybe it's because they're younger gang members, where we will go to events with cameras. We say, "Hey, we'd like to take your picture, you're throwing gang signs." We give them one and we keep one and put it in our system. They are so important in law enforcement.

And I'm sorry. I live in the city, and I remember the time when I lived near a little park, and all the dopers are hanging out in our park, and I got tired of it so I finally said, "We'll go there." Well, guess who the first complainer was? My neighbor, whose lily-white little daughter was down there and she got stopped and they went through her purse. All of a sudden all the police are jerks. And I said, "Well, you were the people that were complaining about all the dopers here." So you're not gonna make all people happy, but if you're gonna get rid of the undesirables, you gotta kick ass.

Dolan: The culture has changed. Predominantly the complaints we get today on police is how they treated me and what they said. Thirty years ago it was they broke my leg, they busted my head, they threw me in the hospital. That aspect has changed. Most cops today are educated. Most all of them have four-year degrees or more. And citizens in general are more educated. And there has been a lot of progress. In Jordan, a majority of what we see out there, on a day-to-day, is very good. We're talking about the recent incident where a one-year-old was shot. Citizens came forward because they were confident to come out and talk about what they saw. That wouldn't have happened last year.

City Pages: How many of the people causing trouble are neighborhood residents, and how many are people who have come in from outside?

Dolan: My top ten for the north side, half of them live in Brooklyn Center. They may have been from the city originally, but they reside in Brooklyn Center. And a lot of our buyers are coming in from the suburbs. So yeah, it is a metro area issue, not just a north side issue.

City Pages: You hear all this Chicago and Gary talk about dealers. Is that overblown?

Dolan: No, it's not. It is a problem here every summer because every summer we get an influx of people here from there. And when it gets cold, a lot of them decide to go somewhere else.

Gross: Another one of the complaints that we get, and I call it the flip side of police brutality, is not enough police officers--withholding resources from certain areas and creating sort of crime containment areas where it is okay for people to do some stuff because it keeps them out of Kenwood and the other nicey, whitey neighborhoods. It sounds like you know who the problem people are. Is it a matter of going in and cleaning up the people you have pretty much identified? Will that solve it?  

Dolan: We are no longer able to "clean up." My precinct makes about 400 arrests a week. Arrests aren't the answer. It takes a whole gamut of things that have to be done to clean up a corner. The laws have changed. It has become very complicated for the guys in blue out there.

Gross: But people tell us that they stand out there and document things. And you say your group has done it, other people have said they take pictures. What is the problem with just going out and arresting those people?

Dolan: It doesn't give me probable cause and it doesn't even give me reasonable suspicion. We don't know what's in those bags that they are selling; we don't know what is in those hand-to-hand transactions. It doesn't carry any water anymore. Thirty years ago it did.

City Pages: But it almost seems with a lot of these guys a rap sheet is a point of pride now. It is not even a deterrent to arrest these people.

Dolan: Unfortunately all it takes is one felony arrest to make you a second-class citizen in this country. Once you've made that step...

Oates: We should talk about expungement [of one's criminal record] in certain instances. It is a form of slavery. Because once you have a felony, you're done.

City Pages: You can't vote. You have trouble finding a place to rent.

Johnson Lee: I was in a meeting last week and we were talking about re-entry, about the influx of all these people who are coming out of prisons. I want to create something called the No Entry Project. All these individuals were once young. We need to start catching them before they turn that curve. And in brainstorming, we thought about there might be a way to get some of our athletes connected. We get a lot of these major sports figures, who grew up in the projects. And you know what? They take them to the suburbs. The suburban people have the marketing folks create most of their opportunities out in the suburbs to deal with the suburban kids, and our kids get minimal or very little access to them. We've even gotten to the point where we have said, "We don't need any of your money; just come and read to the kids. Hang out with them." We need something like a No Entry Project, so we can start dealing with things at the root.

Dolan: Well, we don't get a lot of attention on the north side. One of the things that has changed is, we have it now. It is something we need to take advantage of.

Johnson Lee: Yes. And capitalize on it.

Don Samuels on the Struggles of Jordan

No politician in local memory has been as closely identified with a single neighborhood as Don Samuels is with Jordan on Minneapolis's north side. Samuels's grassroots activism before and after last summer's melee in Jordan helped propel him to an upset victory over DFL-endorsee Olin Moore in the 3rd Ward City Council race last February. And after a series of shootings in the neighborhood last month, Samuels announced a high-profile fast and round-the-clock vigil (at a tent pitched in Jordan's community gardens) to protest the lack of resources required to combat violence in his community. The tactic prompted Governor Pawlenty to assign a dozen state patrol officers to work with Minneapolis police throughout the city over the next few weeks, further raising Samuels's profile and lending additional credence to his pull as a voice for the beleaguered neighborhood where he has lived for six years.

Hours before Samuels boarded a plane to attend his brother's funeral in Jamaica, he and a group of volunteers were dismantling the tents and rolling up the sleeping bags used during the vigil. Though he could not participate in this week's roundtable discussion, Samuels did talk to City Pages for 45 minutes before he left.


City Pages: What has changed about the situation in Jordan over the past year and what has remained the same?

Don Samuels: What has changed definitely is the community's sense of empowerment. People are complaining just as much or more, even though things have gotten a little better. Which I think is great, because one of the problems we've had at City Hall and in the governor's office and the county office is that the threshold for pain in the impacted communities is so high that there is no sense of just how bad it is around here.  

CP: What has remained the same?

Samuels: There is still a critical mass of people who feel disconnected from activism and change. The African American working class and the few middle class who are here are still disproportionately disengaged. The renter class is still almost totally disengaged. That leaves a lot of openings in the fabric of the community for the gangs to find a way to wedge themselves in, to take up permanent residence in blocks and homes and corners where there is disproportionate apathy.

CP: Are you satisfied with the response from the city in general and the city's police department in particular?

Samuels: No. I'm not satisfied about anything, frankly. Children are getting killed. You are sitting in front of a house where a gentleman in his late 50s or early 60s was forced to move five months ago because he called the cops on these guys and his windows got broken, he got harassed, and he finally decided his life was in jeopardy and he had to move. Because he called the cops and was an activist. Unfortunately, I must say that he did not engage with the larger movement of neighbors so he isolated himself in his activism, which is a dangerous thing to do. But the fact is that he was active and he was terrorized.

CP: Has the mayor done enough to follow through on the kind of action you need? We've had a bunch of people killed or maimed, and because you have upped the pressure, others seem to be on board, but when that type of reaction happens it always seems a little suspect. People are responding to these high- profile incidents, but what about the ambient mood of the neighborhood?

Samuels: That's a good way to put it. I think ambiently nobody is concerned enough, except for the handful of people who are active and the few people who leave. And I'm not going to blame the mayor specifically, but I think the mayor is part of the general malaise around that. I think it is the mayor's issue, I think it is the county's issue, and I think it is the state's issue. And I think it is the neighborhood's issue. If I have a family and one of my children is sick and everybody else is doing great, and you say to me, "Hey, Don, how is the family?" I say, "We're doing okay, but, boy, I tell you, we're depressed, we're down, because Gene is having to go to surgery and the poor little thing is in pain every night." That child is the one who determines how the family is doing. And right now the way the city thinks of itself and the state thinks of itself, we're doing as good as downtown is doing or our lakes are doing or our high-profile amenities are doing. But we really aren't doing any better than Jordan is doing and until we get that sensibility I have to say the ambient sensitivity is poor.

CP: What about the police department in terms of the attitudes of the rank and file toward African Americans? Most of the gang members are minority and most of the police officers are white.

Samuels: Well, race is always in the equation whether or not there are white officers. Even within a black context, you can be abusive. These gang drug dealers have totally internalized racism. They look at another kid across from them, who is black, well he is a nigger, he's shit, okay? They'll say, "You talking to me, nigger?" and put a gun to his head and blow his brains out. That is racism to me, racism against yourself.

So when a police force comes in and says, "We don't need intensive re-education, we don't need ongoing, hard, dirty work on racial attitudes," you are telling me that even though the black kid has internalized racism, to the point where he can kill another black kid, you are so morally superior and psychologically superior that it hasn't even affected you?

Even though you are white and you stand to benefit from racism, and even though you don't know any black people in your personal life, you don't live among them and the only ones you really interact with are in the criminal element--the minor, small percentage that are criminals--and you are telling me that in spite of all of those psychological realities, your mental superiority has equipped you to not be racist?  

Well, I am telling you that you are an idiot. Until the day that you recognize that you need to work on your racial attitudes, from the leadership down, so that you can function even halfway decent in this racist society, with a gun on your hip and all kinds of equipment, then we are always going to have problems. This is a dangerous situation that we are putting these untrained, racially unsophisticated young men in, and as long as we continue to do it, we are setting them up and we are setting the community up for problems.

CP: Has there been any progress on training and education along these lines for the police department?

Samuels: I haven't seen any. I feel strongly about this, as you can tell. And I now have racist thoughts. I see three black guys coming down the street and I can tell they never met their dads, that they are on the streets and have dropped out of high school and everything else. Then the guy comes up to me and he starts speaking perfect English and I find out he is on a break from college. Okay? And I have those thoughts. So when I'm calling [Police Federation President John] Delmonico to talk to him, I am calling because I am scared of what Delmonico is thinking, and I'm scared about what his police are thinking. So I have been trying to call him since a month after I got in office. Since March. And John Delmonico has not returned my calls. Maybe I'm naïve. Maybe if a new council member comes in and tries to get hold of the head of the police union, maybe the structure and role of the unions is such that he has no obligation and no interest or benefit to call me back. Or maybe it is simple impoliteness. I don't know. But from my perspective, it seems that he should call me the next day.

CP: If you were mayor or in a commanding position to do something, what would be your three-point plan for turning this community around and ensuring that this doesn't happen again?

Samuels: Well, first of all, I think we need to do triage and stop the flow of blood. And that is what we are doing here. Then we have to pound the message home to the community--get involved. And then facilitate that process. Because now, if you have a block club and you are planning National Night Out or something, you mail in your stuff to City Hall and work with your SAFE officers, and you have your block club.

But you are not talking to the mayor through your block club, you are talking to the police precinct, which has a different geographic delineation than your ward. So now you are in the same precinct for the north side but you are not with your ward members over in the northeast. It is a dysfunctional thing. If I worked for a company that was set up like this, everybody would be fired. This is the stupidest arrangement I have ever seen.

CP: So coordinating the bureaucratic hierarchy would be a point in the plan.

Sameuls: Yes. And then we need some economic development. And economic development, especially in impacted areas, is a heavily psychological thing that we don't deal with. Who are City Council members? They are charming, charismatic, they can put two words together, and know how to get some money and know how to get some votes. They are not necessarily people who have thought deeply about much socially. Or maybe they have read some books and subscribe to some theories. But the books and the theories don't address big issues like race, because we are all shy about that. So we have to begin to face the psychological aspects of economic development.

For instance, we want to develop West Broadway. We can't just say we need some empowerment zone money and leave it at that. We have had white flight. We have had black middle-class flight. And we have to reverse those flights. Otherwise what we are going to do is open up stores for just anybody who comes on West Broadway and the first-comers are going to be Somalis, Hmong, and young whites.

And what is going to happen is they are going to be surrounded by all these black folks who are getting angrier and angrier about how we have been here for 400 years and these people come here for five years and they are selling us these high-priced goods on our own street and we don't own anything. And one of them is going to call somebody a nigger five years from now and they are going to burn the whole place down. Okay? So we have to think about the psychological aspect of development and especially our responsibility to court the development of the African American community, and court the return of the black middle class to the urban centers and to seed the development of the African American community.  

Otherwise, the African American community is going to drag this country down. I promise you, they will drag this country down. We will have feeding bottles hooked up to the prison system and be paying guys as much as we would pay them in a corporate job, just to lay around. So unless we figure out how to heal this thing, all of our developments are going to come crashing down. And this is a 400-year-old relationship. Let's start to think about fixing it as we embark upon more urban development. We have a strong resource of middle-class black business people and if we coordinate that with all of the other development that is taking place, the areas of critical blight will have some long-lasting recovery.

CP: Is there a third point?

Sameuls:The whole issue of diversity. This is such a diverse community now. And it is a challenge for Minneapolis. Because all of our systems are based on homogeneity, all of the structures. It is not just the police force, it is our sensibilities. I said to the chief last year when I was at the police awards, "You need to give a new award for the police officer who most successfully demonstrates a sensibility toward the diversity of the city. We need to do things now to acknowledge our diversity and make it part of our rich way of life. And that includes the arts, so when you go to the downtown arts fair it doesn't look like Whitesville. We need to walk around and look at what looks too white, okay? And say, "This does not look like Minneapolis. What can we do to engage all of our communities and bring them into this experience so that we all share the best of what we have?"

CP: What has surprised you since you were elected to the council? Now that you're on the inside and have seen the way the inside works, what has struck you about that experience?

Samuels: I am amazed at the priorities, that they are not centered on the greatest pain. I understand that priorities can be centered around the greatest opportunity. And I understand that if you are running short of money you have to decide between buying deodorant and medicine. And if you just buy one and not the other, well, you might have friends but you might be sick, or you might be healthy but you don't have any friends. So there is always a struggle: Do we build a big library downtown, or address the violence here? But I am amazed at the imbalance of that focus. I am amazed at the disparity, that we spend so much on deodorant and not enough on medicine.

Jordan Timeline


December 5, 2001: Minneapolis police officer George Peltz's gun accidentally goes off in a scuffle with a 16-year-old boy near reported drug dealing at 4th Street and 31st Avenue North. The boy is treated for a gunshot wound in the buttocks and released.

December 22, 2001: Minneapolis police increase the reward, from $50,000 to $150,000, for any information leading to finding the killer of Kevin Brewer, an 11-year-old shot by a stray bullet in Cottage Park, on the city's north side, in August 2000. Despite the reward and a billboard campaign asking for witnesses to step forward, the murder remains unsolved.

December 31, 2001: Minneapolis Police Chief Robert Olson announces the city's homicide rate, at 41 for the year, is the lowest since there were 32 murders in 1985.

January 7, 2002: The Star Tribune reports that the city of Minneapolis prevailed in 41 of 50 cases of alleged police wrongdoing from mid-1995 to 2000.

March 10, 2002: Minneapolis police kill a mentally ill Somali man who is wielding a machete on Chicago Avenue near Franklin Avenue in south Minneapolis on a Sunday afternoon. The killing of Abu Jeilani, 28, sparks outrage and protests from Somalis and other minorities, who claim police reacted hastily and brutally.

March 20, 2002: Chief Olson and Somali activist Omar Jamal hold a press conference, vowing to work together on issues between the police and Somalis.

March 22, 2002: Four hundred people gather in remembrance at the site where Abu Jeilani was shot. The rally raises more than $1,000 for Jeilani's widow and their two young children.  

April 10, 2002: Mayor Rybak, Chief Olson, and six City Council members promise to review police policy on appropriate "use of force," after many question police behavior in the Jeilani shooting, a riot in Dinkytown after the Gopher men's hockey championship victory, and a bike protest.

April 15, 2002: Mayor Rybak tries--and fails--to oust Olson and buy him out of his contract.

June 20, 2002: A Hennepin County grand jury clears six officers of any wrongdoing in the Abu Jeilani death.

June 21, 2002: Citing a high percentage of gangs involved in the city's 21 homicides to date, Chief Olson announces plans to revive some anti-gang initiatives on the police force.

July 28, 2002: The Star Tribune reports that the U.S. Department of Justice has been taking a preliminary look at the Minneapolis Police Department's record on brutality and racial profiling for more than a year. The justice department reveals that it had been asked by Somali and African American leaders to provide mediation between the city, police, and communities of color in February.

August 1, 2002: Officer Melissa Schmidt and 60-year-old Martha Donald shoot and kill each other in a gunfight in the restroom of a south Minneapolis public high-rise. Schmidt, who knew Donald and responded to an emergency call that Donald was drunk and distressed at Horn Towers, is the first Minneapolis police officer killed on duty since Jerry Haaf was shot in 1992.

August 8, 2002: The Minneapolis Police Federation, the union that represents Minneapolis police officers, calls for the resignation of council member Natalie Johnson Lee after she issued a letter memorializing Schmidt and Donald. Johnson Lee, at the time the only city leader of color, is accused of sympathizing with a cop killer.

August 13, 2002: Minneapolis police shoot and wound 19-year-old Terrelle Oliver in the 2200 block of James Avenue North after he allegedly points a gun toward an officer.

August 21, 2002: Patricia Campbell Glenn, a mediator from the Justice Department, receives a letter from community activists requesting her services to quell tensions between the Minneapolis police and minorities.

August 22, 2002: A stray bullet from an officer's gun wounds 11-year-old Julius Powell during a botched drug raid at a house in the 1700 block of 26th Avenue North. In the streets nearby, several news-outlet vehicles are smashed and burned, and several reporters are injured. Eventually, the police retreat and leave the task of calming the crowd to area activists. Olson offers Spike Moss as much as $6,000 to lead citizen patrols, but Moss doesn't take the money.

August 23, 2002: Patricia Campbell Glenn, the federal mediator, arrives from Chicago and tours the streets of Jordan. The next day she meets with city leaders, who ask her to return the following week to continue to assess the situation.

September 13, 2002: A deeply divided Minneapolis City Council debates whether to allow Glenn to conduct mediation. A final decision is delayed two weeks.

October 16, 2002: Police shoot and wound a man with a gun in the 2200 block of North Fourth Street. Lonnie Evens was in the back seat of a car officers had stopped, and emerged from the car with a gun. Police shot him in the arm and chest after he refused to drop the weapon. It's the third shooting of a black male by an officer in the area in three months.

November 1, 2002: Christopher Burns, a black man on the city's south side, dies while police are trying to restrain him in his home after a domestic dispute. Eventually the NAACP calls for the two officers involved to be fired.

November 22, 2002: A stray bullet kills 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards, who was sitting at her family's dining room table in the 3400 block of Chicago Avenue South. Chief Olson expresses outrage and urges community members to come forward with information. That same day the City Council approves federal mediation, set to begin December 10.

November 27, 2002: Police arrest and charge three men in Tyesha Edward's murder. Isaiah Tyson, 21, Hans Williams, 23, and Myon Burrell, 17, are all tried as adults.

December 29, 2002: Year-end statistics show that while serious crime is down in Minneapolis, the number of homicides rose slightly from 42 in 2001 to 46. Aggravated assaults also increased, from 1,591 to 1,692.

January 10, 2003: Officer Tim Lauridsen and Cpl. Donald Schwartz shoot and wound 33-year-old Rolando Conrad after a car and foot chase near north Lowry and Logan Avenues. Conrad allegedly punched Lauridsen before running away, and is charged with assaulting an officer.

January 30, 2003: Two Minneapolis police officers are accused of urinating on an intoxicated American Indian man and leaving him out in cold weather.  

January 31, 2003: Two 19-year-old men are arrested for allegedly shooting at a woman in the 2200 block of 29th Avenue North. The woman was describing a similar shooting to police that had happened in the area three days earlier.

February 4, 2003: An off-duty police officer is charged with assault and drunken driving. Matthew Olson is accused of pointing a gun at another man's head after pulling the man over. Olson, who was driving the wrong way down a one-way street downtown, also scuffled with the man.

February 25, 2003: Officer Duy Ngo, working undercover in south Minneapolis, is shot multiple times by a fellow officer. Charlie Storlie mistook Ngo for a suspect in an altercation with another man.

March 23, 2003: Two men are wounded in a gun battle that involves two Minneapolis police officers, Peter Hafstad and Kurt Indehar, near Lowry and Lyndale Avenues North.

April 15 and 16, 2000: Two Hmong boys, ages 15 and 17, are shot on the city's north side just hours apart. The 17-year-old was killed while he was waiting for a bus on 26th and Newton Avenues North. Both shootings are linked to Asian gangs.

April 24, 2003: Three girls, one age 17 and two age 15, are wounded in a drive-by shooting in south Minneapolis, just four blocks from where Tyesha Edwards was murdered.

May 7, 2003: Police shoot and kill Eric Netters after a traffic stop in Jordan. Netters slammed Officer James Boyd's arm in his door and drove off, dragging the officer along the vehicle. Another officer, Mark Bohnsack, jumped in the vehicle and shot Netters multiple times when he refused to stop the car.

May 22, 2003: After countless false starts, federal mediation is on again, with several police, community, and city leaders sitting at the table to negotiate with the justice department's Patricia Campbell Glenn. But the process's detractors say Olson has manipulated the composition of the community negotiating team, and few express hope of meaningful action. Of the nine original community representatives who spearheaded mediation, only one is involved in the renewed talks.

June 6, 2003: Police launch an investigation into the alleged mistreatment of Titilayo Bediako's 14-year-old son on the city's north side. The case gains attention because Bediako's sister, Kinshasha Kambui, works in Mayor Rybak's office. The boy's grandfather is Matthew Little, a local civil-rights icon who was the longtime president of the local chapter of the NAACP. The family eventually files suit against the city.

June 9, 2003: Duy Ngo, the undercover cop who was shot by one of his own in February, sues the city and Charlie Storlie, the officer who shot him.

July 10, 2003: Minneapolis cab driver Ahmed Ahmed is found shot to death in his cab in the 1100 block of Penn Avenue North.

July 27, 2003: Three people are shot and wounded on a Sunday afternoon in the Jordan neighborhood after multiple shots are fired in the 2600 block of Humboldt Avenue North.

July 29, 2003: 19-month-old Deasha Hazley is shot through the living room window of her family's home; she remains critically wounded. Sensing a Tyesha Edwards-like crisis, council member Samuels and Mayor Rybak convince Governor Tim Pawlenty three days later to allow 12 state troopers and helicopters to provide additional patrol support.

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