Events in Minneapolis over the weekend were particularly disturbing (“Feds are called in over shooting by cop,” Nov. 17). It reminds us again of the importance for any free society to keep a close eye on those charged with the enforcement of our laws. It also should be an opportunity to reflect on the issue of police brutality and remember that there are many facets to the issue. The part of the conversation that absolutely needs to occur but that largely does not is that police brutality doesn’t occur in a bubble. You can remove bad officers, but the situation is not going to improve in any real capacity until community behavior improves to the point where the police don’t feel they need to have their fingers on the trigger all of the time or don’t have to worry about every call they go on ending in an officer being assaulted, taunted or otherwise mistreated. Holistic restoration of relations between the police and the community will mean a great deal of hard work by both the community and the police.
Daniel Field, Minneapolis
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The purpose of a protest, a march or an occupation is to make it inconvenient to ignore injustice. Those who are acutely affected by a perceived injustice will always be in the minority. This means that for the majority of the population, it is much more convenient to act as if injustice does not exist or to act as if they have no role in it.
As we have seen with the shutdown of Interstate 94 on Monday by the Black Lives Matter group and other supporters, protest is an effective tool. There will be many who shame the protesters for causing interference in other people’s lives, but that is exactly the goal of the protest (of any protest). Put it in perspective: This is the extent to which the injustice inflicted upon minority groups has impacted you. You’re an hour, maybe two, late to wherever it is you were going. Maybe it was even important.
But here’s the thing: The protesters, those people in the middle of the interstate, bear the burden of their oppression as a constant — from the moment they’re born. To discredit a group of protesters for causing a public inconvenience is to say that your discomfort is greater than theirs; it is to say that you are more oppressed by the injustices inflicted upon the oppressed than they themselves are.
Emmett Bongaarts, Minneapolis
Which values should take precedence? Which concerns?
The recent outpouring of xenophobia from major political voices in the U.S. in the wake of the Paris attacks, chiefly Republican presidential candidates and legislators, is as lamentable as it is misguided (“Governors are lining up to block Syrian refugees from resettling in their states,” Nov. 17). The point has been made time and again by both professional commentators and social media that Syrian refugees are fleeing the kind of violence perpetrated by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL); they are a symptom, not a cause. It would not be unreasonable to assume that an anti-Muslim backlash is exactly what ISIL wants in order to feed its propaganda machine. It would, however, be unreasonable for a country that claims to be the world’s beacon of freedom and equality to deny entry to non-Christian refugees. It would be unreasonable to punish a massive group of innocent people for the actions of a few — whom, I stress again, they are fleeing. If it is unreasonable to hold all Christians responsible for hateful acts committed by, say, the Westboro Baptist Church, then how would it be reasonable to hold all Muslim refugees responsible for the actions of ISIL?
Patrick Finnegan, St. Paul
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While our country should help with the Syrian refugee crisis, I seriously doubt the ability of the U.S. government to properly screen and vet the prospect of thousands of these refugees from entering our country. I keep thinking about our past failings; the 9/11 hijackers not investigated properly by the feds after receiving prior warnings, the Tsarnaev brothers not investigated even after warnings from Russian authorities, homegrown Somalis returning to fight with extremists in the Middle East and Africa, and numerous TSA/Homeland Security screening mistakes at airports. Sure, there have been many successes, but while a 98 percent success rate may be a good grade in other fields, and while 100 percent may be difficult to attain, it only takes one tragic incident for terrorists to be successful. Many experts say another incident here is not a matter of maybe, but when. Why increase terrorists’ odds?
Tom O’Connell, Plymouth
RICHFIELD APARTMENT COMPLEX
Nothing less than social justice is at stake in redevelopment
Thanks for shedding light on the mass displacement of my neighbors and me — thousands of low-income, immigrant and minority Richfield residents (“Apartment redevelopment forces poor tenants to move,” Nov. 17). We have lived in our homes five, 10 or 20-plus years, making substantial contributions to our community, while relying on nearby transit, community services, and local employment and education opportunities. This is more than a housing issue; it is a story about racial and economic justice.
The responses of the landlord and the city of Richfield demonstrate the ignorance and racism prevalent in our community. City and school leaders met with the landlord without inclusion of residents, announcing that failed negotiations were “satisfactory” and that the “investment” displacing thousands is what the city wants. The city’s involvement in a yearlong federal HUD complaint is blatantly discriminatory, failing to address how many low-income and minority residents wish to remain in our community. We want to choose where to live, not be forced out because the city is not comfortable with who lives here.
We call on city and community leaders to demand more out of businesses. Responsible businesses do not describe residents as “undesirable,” use intimidation tactics, and force massive rent increases while households face harmful and disrupting renovations, and they do not use biased rental screening to push people out. Jim Soderberg, owner of the apartment complex discussed in the story, describes his business plan as having a more positive impact than Best Buy’s headquarters. Does Best Buy agree that displacing thousands of families — its immediate neighbors — is the greatest thing the city has experienced since moving its business here?
Let’s work together to find a way to keep our homes affordable now and for future residents who need homes near these important resources.
Linda Lee Soderstrom, Richfield
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The coverage of the Richfield property slated for renovation highlights a common occurrence in the Twin Cities, one where poor people are sacrificed to legitimate business and local government concerns. No one is seeing the big picture. I don’t fault developer Soderberg for restoring a 50-year-old apartment complex. And the city of Richfield comes out ahead with a better-managed property and strengthened tax base. But these individual gains contribute to a situation where low-income people have fewer and fewer alternatives.
We have seen the number of very affordable apartments drop by one-half since the year 2000. The Metropolitan Council recently pointed out that during that same time period, the number of families paying over half of their income for housing doubled. Connect the dots! State and metro leaders must face up to the deteriorating housing situation facing our region’s growing population of those who cannot afford the “condo-quality renovation” promised in Richfield.
Chip Halbach, St. Paul
The writer is director of the Minnesota Housing Partnership.