What do Mayor Jacob Frey, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, Hennepin County Commissioner Marion Greene, numerous Minneapolis City Council members, Minneapolis Charter commissioners, past Minneapolis school board candidates and ex-Minneapolis Police Federation President Bob Kroll have in common?
Not much, except that they were all recent targets of crowd swarms near their private homes. Or former homes in the case of Freeman, who quickly moved from Lynnhurst in southwest Minneapolis due to alleged vandalism and earsplitting "surprise parties" on his block. ("After protests, Freeman got protection and sold his home," April 2).
There is nothing illegal about these visits in their simplest, safest form. It's a guaranteed right in many respects and necessary in certain circumstances, such as a pandemic lockdown allowing no in-person assemblies.
But these kinds of direct attacks have been escalating in frequency and intensity for years, particularly in our progressive political era in Minneapolis.
To this armchair observer, the act (or activism) is getting tiresome and physically, and philosophically, dangerous. It's also comically counterproductive if someone calls the cops to break up an "abolish-MPD" action.
Minnesotans seemed to get a chuckle over three nonwhite City Council members hiring private security for protection during a police defunding debate. I'm not amused.
My neighboring South Side council members, Andrea Jenkins and Alondra Cano, who share the deep stewardship pains of George Floyd Square along their common ward boundary on Chicago Avenue, have taken some very bold steps and faced agonizing choices under extreme stress. I may call their decisions nuanced. You may call them flip-flops. We should not call these servants heartless ghouls and race traitors, or threaten these highly accomplished women and their families for trying their best to fulfill a solemn duty to all the people all the time.
In 2021, we're sure to lose some of the unlucky 13 council members. For all their imperfections (details available on request), we may not be better off for losing institutional experience we have too little of already.
The two council members mentioned, along with five others, voted 7-6 last November to approve $500,000 to bring in emergency outside support for MPD. The afternoon of the vote, "yea" voters were targeted with fierce and widely broadcast threats of home roll-ups and noise machine windups, moving me to offer two south ward council members security watch at no charge. (They declined. No council members were harmed. This time.)
These mob actions continue because we're complicit due to our silent fear of online revenge. (First they came for former Mayor Hodges, but I did not speak out, for I was not a Betsy backer.) And they are "successful" only by certain perverse measurements. If authorities react to quell a mob — as they wisely did on Nov. 4 to stop an ill-timed I-94 shutdown during a true nationwide crisis — urban politicians go on the attack if there is inevitable misconduct or excessive force within a large-scale, potentially deadly event.
On the other hand, if there's too little coordinated response, with a resulting catastrophe, guardians of society are accused of incompetence.
I'm not a street marcher myself, but I wonder where is the thrill of victory over "state-sponsored repression" when you win every time?
The Nov. 4 freeway shutdown was pretty clearly a planned anti-cop provocation by more than 600 bored activists repeating themselves. Yet 29 urban electeds co-signed state Rep. Aisha Gomez's harsh criticism of the Walz administration for its methods in shutting down an utterly daft mass protest. That's quite a thank you card to the state for saving south Minneapolis from complete ruin last May.
Most dastardly of all is that these rowdy "people's actions" are a backdrop to candidates jockeying for position in the 2021 city races for City Council, Park and Recreation Board, and Board of Estimate and Taxation. If current officeholders leave from PTSD, or talented challengers take a pass rather than take their lives in their hands by going public, this is leftist voter curtailment more devious and anti-democratic than good ol' Georgia-style suppression. If there's no competing voice worth voting for in the first place, what's the point of a poll booth?
Some of these mob-action leaders are actually announced candidates themselves. To these odd up-and-comers — or blind-eye officeholders who may benefit — I say, "Take a deep breath, and a step back to look in a mirror. I'm sure you see a brave warrior for the underserved. I see shadows of egomaniacal autocrat Donald Trump."
Jim Meyer lives in Minneapolis.