The contrast between national and municipal governance has been striking in Minneapolis of late. Locally the City Council, Mayor, and Police Chief are moving, however glacially, toward more positive ways to reign in brutality by MPD. The Council rearranged the Mayor’s proposed budget to fund social services and mental health co-responders over more police. The budget wrangling brought to mind this clip from the first of 2 Public Safety Forums staged Spring 2018 by the Public Safety and Emergency Management Committee. When the forum ended without any serious mention of the Mayor’s proposal to expand MPD by 100 officers, Nekima Levy-Armstrong clearly and emphatically brought that issue front and center. Chief Medaria Arradondo stood up to explain and defend the proposal he and Mayor Frey had put forward. Agree with him or otherwise, Rondo made his case thoughtfully and without blinking. The honest power of leadership through trust is the Chief’s way. It is an improvement.
By the second Public Safety Forum in early April it was clear that the organizers on the PSEM Committee had no intention of discussing either the ideas put forward by the community or the expansion of MPD. Instead of waiting patiently for Overtime, the people took control of the Public Safety Forum and in remembrance of Tyrone Williams, powerful speaker at the 1st Forum and taken by community violence before the 2nd Forum, his fellow community organizers reframed the Public Safety Forum. The people reminded the Committee that the Mayor had proposed MPD expansion and reiterated their demand that before any more money flows to MPD, violent cops must be removed from the streets and precincts.
Summer, Fall, and Winter, killings by police in Minnesota continue unabated and unprosecuted. Minneapolis police ordered medical professionals to forcibly administer sedatives to people from your neighborhood. Even so, when Jacob Frey nominated Medaria Arradondo for his first full term as Chief of MPD, people from almost every corner of Minneapolis and a wide array of interested community advocates expressed heartfelt support for Rondo. Rondo clearly rocks.
The Mayor certainly agrees. He jumped in during the public testimony to endorse the second person in his life, the Chief of Police. The positive relationship between Jacob and Rondo complements the positive relationships of Rondo and community organizers. Frey’s nomination of the Chief was short and comprehensive; down to his cologne. It is clear that the Mayor values Arradondo and respects him. Listen to Jacob praise the Chief and realize that within 24 hours an Xmas Tree covered in racist symbology was put up by 2 senior officers at the 4th precinct.
When the Chief took to the microphone on November 29, that decoration abomination was nothing but a toxic glint in a couple cops’ eyes and the calculated old hate they keep locked down in what they think are their hearts. Rondo accepted the nomination with humble grace and paid tribute to the network of effective people in the neighborhoods and communities across Minneapolis. Rondo told a story about two good cops and their work with young women at Little Earth. Later a couple of the bad ones decided that racism was just what a Christmas tree needed to make it more festive. Rondo’s acceptance speech to the PSEM Committee rang true when he demoted the commander of the 4th precinct and suspended 2 officers responsible for the so-called Christmas Tree.
The Xmas Tree at the Fourth underscored why the Mayor appreciates the Chief. While Frey’s mouth was writing checks his office could not cash, Rondo took action. When the community decided to donate a tree decorated in the spirit of the season to the precinct, the Chief showed up. He had police clear the snow and help set up for the tree decorating party on ground occupied not long ago in resistance to police brutality and the murder of Jamar Clark. Organizers of the Community Tree Decorating Party, Nekima Levy-Armstrong, Raeisha Williams, and Chauntyll Allen, highlighted Arradondo’s efforts at building trust with the people. Levy-Armstrong reiterated the demand from the Spring to remove violent cops and repeated the demand to expand the mental health co-responder program to the North side. Nekima went on to propose formation of a North Side Advisory Committee to represent community interests in determining the roster of cops in the 4th precinct, asking that every officer reapply for their job. Violent cops would not be rehired. We need to apply more pressure to realize a police precinct restructured with the community in mind. Creating and hosting the library of videos culled to tell this story is my contribution to those efforts. Feel free to use our videos to spread the information and amplify the voices included.
The tenacity of Nekima Levy-Armstrong and the relentlessly unapologetic moves by allied groups aimed at redirecting the public discourse toward the concerns and reality of the people most directly impacted by racism, economic disparities, and white authoritarian supremacy are the stuff of real cultural transformation. The story of social change unfolding in Minneapolis, the last 8 months of which were summarized here and in the videos, is a bit of tonic for the latest orange tweetstorm and deluge of lies spawned from the golf course and TV lounge. Watch it again. When you need respite from the politics of division, revisit this story of unity, cooperation, and respect – right here in Minneapolis. That ain’t half bad. Here’s to 2019!