People of good will have worked hard to make Powderhorn Park a safe oasis for families and a hub for the arts and recreation, but it seems like there's always someone ready to try and drag the neighborhood down.
The latest case came the night before Thanksgiving, when a gang of teenage boys brandished a gun and sexually assaulted a mother in front of her two kids while they went cross country skiing in the park.[jump]
The mom fought the thugs off, and then away from her 10-year-old and 13-year-old, before they trapped two teenage girls in a garage about three blocks from the park. Minneapolis park police responding to the mother's emergency call followed the attackers' footprints and prevented a pair of rapes at gunpoint.
Four boys -- two 14-year olds, a 15-year-old and 16-year old -- have been arrested. One of the 14-year-olds was caught Friday night; the other three were taken into custody on Friday.
A woman identifying herself as "the mom in the news" on e-democracy.org's Powderhorn Park message boards corrected early news reports that she and the others were raped, praised police and sounded a tone of defiance.
None of us were raped, to the best of my knowledge. Yes, I was sexually assaulted but the girls did manage to fight off the boys and escape before anything happened. I really have a huge repulsion at the labeling of us as victims. I see us as strong and capable of taking charge of our safety.
This is a neighborhood proud of its progress. Poverty isn't as high as it once was. Unemployment, while still above the city average, has decreased. Crime is down in general. The park plays host to one of the biggest annual outdoor arts festivals in Minneapolis, a big-deal May Day parade, and it is anchored by a thriving recreation center.
Wow what a great neighborhood we live in. And I hold dear to my heart the police officers who answered our call. They showed me a dedication to serving the people of their precinct. I'm amazed at the perseverance and care of the officer who followed the boys' tracks in the snow and managed to be there when the two girls had pushed off their attackers and run away. The girls ran right into the two officers who were tracking the sneaker prints.
But the park is also surrounded by some tough streets.
In January, 19-year-old Walter Lee Dolley was shot to death in the 3400 block of Chicago Avenue South, two blocks from the park. Gangbangers were assumed to be behind the shooting of two teenagers at nearby Chicago Avenue and Lake Streets on Cinco de Mayo, and retaliation shootings a few hours later on the 2800 block of Portland Avenue. And earlier this month, 12-year-old Guadelupe Hernandez took a bullet in the neck during what sounds like a gang-related drive-by shooting at Chicago and 34th. Her parents had moved the family to Minneapolis to escape street violence in Chicago.
Everyone is encouraged to bring music, art, puppets, laughter, hope, food...In other words, they are encouraged to reclaim the park and celebrate the strengths of the artful, diverse, and loving community.
The following evening, the Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association wants residents to bring proposed solutions to a meeting "to make the neighborhood a safer place for everyone to live and thrive."
Police haven't released the names or mug shots of the four boys arrested in Wednesday's sex assaults because they're not adults. They could be formally charged as early as today.