Pleading for an end to the gun violence that has ravaged their city this spring and summer, marchers walked through the heart of north Minneapolis Friday evening, calling on residents to put their “guns down” and their “love up.”
A few dozen community members gathered for remarks and prayer outside Shiloh International Temple Ministries before heading east on W. Broadway, stopping along the way to mourn and to honor victims of gun violence.
It wasn’t the first such gathering since George Floyd’s May 25 death in Minneapolis police custody unleashed a sea of unrest, followed by a wave of gun violence. And it certainly wasn’t the largest.
But it might have been one of the most urgent, taking place just hours after Minneapolis’ 32nd homicide of 2020. That’s double what the number was at this time last year.
All told, 224 people have been shot in Minneapolis this year, according to police data. In all of 2019, the city had 269 gunshot victims.
“Father, you know exactly why we’re here,” North Side resident Korey Dean said as he and a group of Black pastors led the mostly masked group in prayer under the beating sun. “The gun violence has to stop. … The guns must be put down and the love must arise.”
The violent stream continued unabated Thursday into Friday, with yet another person killed and eight others injured in shootings across the city. Among those wounded were a pregnant woman and a 17-year-old boy who was struck in the leg three times, officials said.
In the most recent homicide, a man in his mid-20s was gunned down early Friday near Farview Park, in the 2900 block of N. 6th Street.
A woman was critically wounded in that shooting. She was taken to HCMC, where she went into surgery for critical injuries. Officials said they were told that she was pregnant. Her condition was unknown Friday night.
The double shooting in a residential neighborhood was a grimly familiar scene, and the second shooting involving a pregnant woman in less than a week.
In the other incident, 27-year-old Leneesha Columbus was fatally shot near the south Minneapolis street corner where Floyd was killed, and a man serving as a security guard at the memorial site was also hit, but survived.
Police said that doctors delivered the baby at an area hospital before Columbus died. A 27-year-old man, the father of the baby, has been charged in her death.
Chuck Robinson, a 60-year-old North Side resident who lives in the Folwell neighborhood, has been on the scene of six shootings in recent weeks — including one where a 7-year-old boy was shot in the foot.
At Friday’s march, Robinson expressed a range of emotions as he grappled to understand and explain what’s driving the surge in gun violence.
“There’s a high range of anger,” Robinson said, referring to reaction to the police killing of Floyd as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, which has put many people out of work. “We have to come together. We can’t police ourselves out of this problem.”
The Rev. DeWayne Davis, a North Side resident and pastor at All God’s Children Metropolitan Community Church, said the violence is a culmination of long societal neglect of minority communities and lost confidence in law enforcement.
Solving this complex problem will require all Minneapolis residents to band together against it, not just those on the North Side, he said.
It will also require Minneapolis police to be a “constructive partner” in addressing gun violence, not one that treats residents as “enemy combatants,” Davis said.
“No one has the luxury, especially after what we’ve seen since George Floyd’s killing … to say this is not about me,” he said.
Outside Shiloh Temple, community leaders warmly welcomed Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria “Rondo” Arradondo and urged residents to engage with him.
Arradondo told the group of marchers that police alone will not quell community harm and violence. The problem will only be solved with “the hard work of all of us coming together,” he said.
The current spate of violence is “unacceptable,” Arradondo said. There are a lot of guns on the streets, he said, and police are finding more gunshot rounds at scenes than they did in previous years.
Some of the violence is associated with gangs, “but we’ve also seen a lot that has not been,” he said.
Some at the gathering questioned whether police have scaled back their response amid the debate over the department’s future and backlash against police. Arradondo said that isn’t the case.
The surge in gun violence has drained the department’s resources and affected response times, he said.
Most who marched Friday agreed that police reforms are needed. But few were open to the idea of eliminating police officers’ role in public safety.
Davis, the pastor, said leaders need to rethink whether the first responder to a mental health crisis or school discipline problem should be an armed officer. Bringing in mental health and social workers will help free up police to focus on problems like gun violence, he said.
“I think we really do need to have a serious conversation about what our law enforcement is for, and who it is for,” Davis said.
Activist and civil rights lawyer Nekima Levy Armstrong sought to highlight the need for police reform, economic investment and job creation, saying those measures will help address the root causes of gun violence.
Many young men in the community have lost hope and turned to violence as an outlet, she said.
“What we have to do is come together, and we have to give our young people a reason to live and not die,” she said.
FEMA denies post-riot aid
On Friday, Minnesota learned that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had denied its requests for disaster aid to clean up after the riots that followed Floyd’s death.
Gov. Tim Walz had requested aid to help rebuild and repair structures in Minneapolis and St. Paul that were damaged by rioters, looters and vandals. Federal funds would have been used to reimburse local governments.