Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, speaking about the Thurman Blevins shooting, said that people in the city “should acknowledge that we’re all bound by a shared humanity. ... We should listen to one another” (“Police video shows Blevins with a gun,” July 30). What message did Blevins hear about his worth and about the motive behind the officer’s demands when he was told, “Put your [expletive] hands up!” and “You’ve got a gun, [expletive]!”? How might the outcome of the chase on June 23 have been different if the officer chasing Blevins had used language making his request and intention clear without the expletives?
Jill Thomas, Plymouth
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Watching the video of Blevins’ shooting was so painful. Starting with the police officer getting out of his squad car yelling, “Put your [expletive] hands up now!” It reminded me of a totally unrelated experience when I was stopped by St. Paul police early one morning as I was weeding along a busy street in our neighborhood. I was simply trying to make it look better. A crazy thing to do, probably, but I did it in the middle of the night when there was no traffic.
As I was working, a police car with two white, male officers pulled up. Before I could explain what I was doing, they put their spotlight in my face and started barking orders. “Freeze! Hands in the air! Drop the bag!” They made me stand there for a long time with my hands up, asking my name, address, etc. When they were satisfied I was “clean,” they drove off. Their actions had immediately made me feel defensive and hostile.
A little while later another police car drove up, this time with two female officers. They rolled down their window, no spotlight, and simply asked, “What are you doing?” I explained I was cleaning the median, they looked up and down the street and said, “It looks great, thanks for doing that.” Then they pulled away.
I was an old, white guy in a nice neighborhood. Imagine the treatment I might have received had I been young and black. Thurman Blevins was apparently carrying a loaded gun, which he had been shooting off in a residential neighborhood. I don’t expect the police officers to have a friendly chat with him. But approaching anyone like that, and using that kind of language, immediately escalates the situation. The police have a hugely difficult job and put their lives on the line every day when they go to work, but maybe that whole tragic scenario could have been avoided with a different approach.
Rick Groger, Minneapolis
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It is said that lessons learned are mistakes not repeated. After watching the bodycam video of Blevins’ fatal encounter with the Minneapolis police on June 23, I learned from his mistake that if you have a gun and the police order you to stop running, drop the weapon and put your hands up, you comply. What you don’t do is pull out the gun, turn, and point it at the police who are pointing their guns at you.
Jeremy Landy, Minneapolis
GUTHRIE’S ‘WEST SIDE STORY’
Criticism of racial mix, maybe, but let’s not miss the theme
I also attended the Guthrie Theater production of “West Side Story” and, after 20-plus years of attending Guthrie productions, considered it one of the best, if not the best, I have ever seen there. It was brilliantly acted, exceptionally well-staged and musically stunning.
I was sorry to read AnaSofía Villanueva’s critique (“Diverse casting can’t hide racist, sexist stereotypes,” Opinion Exchange, July 30) and must respond. “West Side Story” is about prejudice and its destructive force. Ms. Villanueva must know that the play was patterned after “Romeo and Juliet” by Shakespeare. The rival families in Shakespeare’s play were all white, yes, but they were of “equal” socioeconomic status. In Wise and Robbins’ adaptation for 1957, the Jets are a mix of “white” people — Irish, Italian, Polish and others. They are socially and economically oppressed. The Sharks are similarly socially and economically oppressed. That is the “equal footing.”
Perhaps the racial “mix” in the Guthrie’s play is not accurate for 1957. Perhaps I didn’t focus enough on Riff’s being black when he was singing to Officer Krupke. Maybe I should have thought of today’s Puerto Rico when Anita was “dissing” the Puerto Rico she left in 1957. I’m not sorry, though, because if I had been focused on whether the play was politically “correct” relevant to current social issues, I would have missed the point of this brilliant play, which is that love can transcend racism. This was Shakespeare’s message, the adapted message and it is a message we most definitely need today.
I hope we will not start to demand that art makes us comfortable. I hope we will not look for signs of disrespect and prejudice in everything we see. I hope we will not demand that art be held “accountable” for its political correctness because one person interprets it that way.
Kathy Robison, Edina
NICOLLET MALL REMAKE
‘Meh’ to some, but a good investment. And about that …
It is the lot of a critic to comment on hard work of others. A solemn responsibility. Rick Nelson fulfilled his duty with a recent column on the new Nicollet Mall (“Nicollet meh,” Variety, July 28).
He is entitled to his opinion. Frankly, over the past year I’ve heard more scathing observations as well as words of praise for the design.
One point of clarification. Mr. Nelson suggested some of the project’s $50 million budget was “funneled into unseen infrastructure.” That is incorrect. There was substantial underground work completed, all at the expense of private companies like Xcel, CenterPoint and Comcast and the city’s enterprise funds for water and sewer. While these utility upgrades added time to the project, the result is substantially improved services relied on by downtown employers, residents and visitors.
From the outset, the Nicollet project was fashioned as an equal public-private partnership, with a commitment to make the best possible use of $50 million contributed by the state and city and downtown property owners. While Nelson was underwhelmed, he nevertheless described an impressive set of new features: 250 mature trees, the second-largest collection of public art outside the Sculpture Garden, street furniture that is proving popular, several locations that are being actively programmed and a multifaceted decorative lighting system that will greatly enliven the heart of downtown as nights become dark earlier in months ahead.
The new Nicollet has already proven itself as a gracious host for Super Bowl Live, when the eyes of the world were on our city. As one of the dozens of people who did work hard on the project, I’m proud of the result. It is a good investment.
Steve Cramer, Minneapolis
The writer is president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council and Downtown Improvement District.
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Nelson provides a generous review of the $50 million, two-year-long renovation of Nicollet Mall. What deserves further examination are the decisions made by the principal architect, any involved local architect and the supervising city staff that generated a $24 million estimate for the specified sidewalk pavers and led to the monotonous landscape of concrete and gray that is the final result. The last 15 to 20 years have produced a remarkable list of improvements to the civic, cultural, academic and sports infrastructure of the Twin Cities. Unfortunately, the rebuilding of Nicollet Mall ranks at the very bottom of that impressive catalog.
Gary Meyer, Minneapolis
Deniers in wonderland
I would like a July 28 letter writer (“Why should Rep. Erik Paulsen support [Southwest light rail]? Why any Republican?”) to visit the numerous bus stops and observe the throngs of people and multitude of buses grinding their way throughout the Southwest metro any Monday through Friday between the hours of 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. and then reveal his research showing that light rail in the Southwest suburbs is not necessary for the efficient movement of people, easing congestion on our roadways and improving our environment.
Peggy Flaig, Hopkins