A Minneapolis neighborhood checked its privilege and eschewed police. How's that working out?

As well as you’d expect. The Star Tribune reports on the third sexual assault in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood in as many weeks, although the report neglects to mention its no-police pledge it took after the killing of George Floyd. That led to an encampment of homeless people that now number in the hundreds forming in the park itself, which the neighborhood also seems determined to endure:


Three sexual assaults have occurred since late last month in south Minneapolis at Powderhorn Park with the most recent as Sunday, where hundreds of homeless people have camped, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board said Tuesday.

The first incident occurred late on June 26 or early on June 27 and involved a girl being assaulted, said Park Board spokeswoman Robin Smothers. People from the park brought the girl to Abbott Northwestern Hospital for examination, and she was later turned over to social services personnel. No arrests have been made.

On June 28, a caller reached 911 shortly after 2 a.m. to report a woman being assaulted at the park. The woman received medical attention and city police arrested a suspect nearby.

On Sunday, a girl was assaulted by a man in the park. A Metro Transit police squad vehicle was flagged down that afternoon, and “after further questioning, the victim reported the assault,” said Park Board spokeswoman Robin Smothers.

The New York Times featured the determination of Powderhorn Park residents to keep police from responding to issues in a profile two weeks ago. It had already started going badly at that point, and it clearly has gotten worse since:

In the city where the movement began, residents are not surprised that it is being taken especially seriously in Powderhorn Park, just blocks from Mr. Floyd’s deadly encounter with the police. For decades, the community has been a refuge for scrappy working-class activists with far-left politics. The biggest day of the year, locals often boast, is the May Day parade celebrating laborers.

Though it is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Minneapolis, with black residents making up about 17 percent of the population, white people make up the largest group. About a third of the population is Latino.

Since the camp appeared, the community has organized shifts for delivering warm meals, medical care and counseling to people living in the park. They persuaded officials to back off an eviction notice served shortly after the campers arrived.

But many in the neighborhood, who were already beleaguered from the financial stresses of the coronavirus, now say they are eager for the campers to move on to stable housing away from the park.

“I’m not being judgmental,” said Carrie Nightshade, 44, who explained that she no longer felt comfortable letting her children, 12 and 9, play in the park by themselves. “It’s not personal. It’s just not safe.”


It’s even less safe now, and yet there is no indication that residents have changed their position about the police. Even at that time, they discovered that their pledge to contact community-activist groups rather than police worked best in theory rather than practice. Community activist groups don’t always answer the phone, for one thing, and aren’t always inclined to respond when they do. As of two weeks ago, though, that message still hadn’t gotten through, nor the point that community activists may not be interested in intervening when violence is being threatened.

One man expressed regret for calling 911 after two armed teenagers had pointed a gun at him and demanded his car keys. After first justifying it, Mitchell Erickson told the NYT that it was he who had endangered their lives:

Two days after an initial conversation, his position had evolved. “Been thinking more about it,” he wrote in a text message. “I regret calling the police. It was my instinct but I wish it hadn’t been. I put those boys in danger of death by calling the cops.”

What about the fact that the boys had put his life in danger?

“Yeah I know and yeah it was scary but the cops didn’t really have much to add after I called them,” he replied. “I haven’t been forced to think like this before. So I would have lost my car. So what? At least no one would have been killed.”

Ahem. Perhaps not that time, but what about the next person those two teenagers point a gun at? How much more will Erickson be willing to give away before thinking that enforcing the law might be a solution? In this case, the question before Powderhorn Park residents is how many children will have to be at risk before they stop hiding from their responsibility and start pressing for effective police reform, not just for themselves but for the whole city.


This is the essential problem inherent in dismantling police departments or demanding a broad disengagement with them. That leaves a vacuum of impunity that encourages violence and crime. Neighborhoods that already have those problems know this well already, which is why those Minneapolis residents think the idea of scaling back or dismantling the police department is “egregious, grotesque, absurd, crazy, ridiculous,” terms used by the NAACP and Urban League rather than the wealthier white liberals in the city. They have had to live with these issues for decades and understand that community policing — which requires more resources and commitment to enforce the law on even minor transgressions — is the correct recipe for keeping people safe. They just want to know that the police understand that too and to stop abusing their power.

Maybe they’ll learn that lesson quickly. More likely, though, those Powderhorn Park residents with the means to leave will move out because “the neighborhood has changed.”

Two weeks ago, KARE11 reported on the rapid growth of the homeless encampments, and demands for government intervention. Maybe they should have called the cops, eh?

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