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Minneapolis residents, right-wing firm sue mayor, city council for crime 'crisis'

Residents (and their conservative legal team) blame Minneapolis leaders for an uptick in violent crime.

Residents (and their conservative legal team) blame Minneapolis leaders for an uptick in violent crime. Aaron Lavinsky, Star Tribune

Eight Minneapolis resident-activists are suing Mayor Jacob Frey and the city council, who they blame for allegedly bringing the city to a point of “crisis.”

The civil complaint alleges that decisions made by the city in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the ensuing conversations about police reform – including use of the words “defund,” “divest,” and “disband” -- have contributed to a rise in violence and vandalism, from shootings to graffitiing the Fifth Police Precinct

The city council voted to disband the department, but the city charter commission voted this month to keep the measure off this November’s ballot.

It goes on to allege that the city is flirting with operating below the minimum number of police officers mandated by its charter: 0.0017 per resident, or roughly 730 officers.

In fact, according to the Star Tribune, the department currently has 846 officers and 147 civilian employees on the books, and has not yet been dismantled in any way. 

But Attorney James V.F. Dickey of the Upper Midwest Law Center, who is representing the plaintiffs, worries that may be about to change. That’s thanks to, allegedly, “at least 80 officers” who have retired or quit through the end of July, and 100 more expected to retire before the year is out. Furthermore, the complaint cites some 200 officers applying for disability, allegedly due to “hostile working conditions created by Frey and the City Council.”

As the firm to be taking this case, the Upper Midwest Law Center firm is... an interesting one. Its founder and president, Douglas P. Seaton, created the firm after he "observed decades of left-wing special interest domination of government and a stranglehold in Minnesota and the region by public-sector unions," according to his website biography.  

Board members at Upper Midwest Law Center include John Hinderaker, president of the Center of the American Experiment (these guys) and Ron Ebensteiner, former executive director of the Republican Party of Minnesota. The page highlighting the Upper Midwest Law Center's prior lawsuits reveals it's representing churches suing Gov. Tim Walz for the right to reopen during the pandemic; public sector employees seeking return of their union dues; and an industry group upset with Attorney General Keith Ellison's employment of "climate change warriors." 

The firm is also exploring a response "to the violence committed against everyday citizens at President Trump’s rally in Minneapolis in late 2019." (Like maybe that guy who pointed a gun at people?

The plaintiffs are mostly community leaders and activists in Minneapolis’s north side. One is Don Samuels, a former city council member and mayoral candidate known for being tough on crime. (He once called 911 on a community-organized hot dog giveaway he mistakenly thought was operating as an illegal business.) 

Another is Cathy Spann, the executive director of the Jordan Area Community Council.

“We have tried every measure possible in order for the city council to listen to its residents,” she said on WCCO talk radio on Tuesday. “We need the police…. We need a police force that is reformed, that does treat Black and brown people with dignity and respect.”

But she doesn’t believe “defunding and dismantling” is the way to get there. She said removing officers would only create “chaos.”

“Our citizens are hearing gunshots on an everyday basis,” she said. “Children are being shot. Innocent people are being killed.”

There has been a sharp uptick in violent crime in the city this year, with 49 homicides so far in the year 2020 -- two of them having taken place on Tuesday morning -- taking the annual total past 2019's figure with months to spare.

Besides Samuels and Spann, the other plaintiffs include Aimee Lundberg, Jonathan Lundberg, Sondra Samuels, Julie Oden, Audua Pugh, and Georgianna Yantos. The city attorney is currently reviewing the case.