July 26, 2020

THE RISE OF PRIVATE MILITIAS IS NOT USUALLY SEEN AS EVIDENCE OF ADVANCING CIVILIZATION: In Minneapolis, Armed Residents Set Up Patrols Amid Calls to Defund the Police: The city council approves its first permanent cuts to the police budget; crime has surged in the past two months.

Minneapolis residents in some areas still recovering from rioting and unrest are forming community watch and security groups, some bearing firearms, to fight a surge of crime in the wake of the George Floyd killing in May. At least one neighborhood has put up barricades to keep away outsiders.

The moves come as the city council on Friday approved its first permanent cuts to the police budget, amid calls to defund the department and generally lower tax revenue due to the economic strain caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The $193 million police budget will be cut by $10 million, including making permanent some temporary spending measures—including a hiring freeze—put in place in June. Around $1 million from the police budget is being shifted to a program called Cure Violence that tries to prevent things such as retaliatory shootings through community engagement. . . .

Police say the increase in crime follows a pattern seen in Ferguson, Mo., and other places where there have been high-profile officer-involved deaths and protests. Police say that, while some in the city seem to believe police have given up, officers remain on patrol throughout the city.

As riots played out across the city in late May and early June, a group of Black gun owners responded to a call from the local NAACP and patrolled the mostly African-American West Broadway business district for 10 nights, keeping the area free of looting or arson without firing a shot, said Jamil Jackson, a leader of the group called the Minnesota Freedom Fighters, which advocates for Black gun ownership. . . .

Council member Linea Palmisano said armed neighborhood patrols, or even efforts to just keep unfamiliar people out of a neighborhood, opens a Pandora’s box.

“We are lurching for solutions,” she said, noting she doesn’t support the idea of doing away with the police department but supports the idea of letting residents vote on it.

With the neighborhood patrols, “you could very easily create the same things we rally against,” she said.

In late June, residents near a commercial strip that had been looted, and the 3rd Precinct station that was abandoned and burned, were seeing a surge of shooting and drug-related crime on their block.

“It got to the point where crime had no consequences,” said Tania Rivera, 30, who runs a child-care center with her mother. “It was being done deliberately out in the open. Drive-through drug dealing, drive-through prostitution, everything from gunshots to assaults to sex out in the public. Everything you didn’t want your neighborhood to look like.”

So after a number of community meetings, neighbors began constructing a barrier to close off two blocks of their street, first with trash cans, then debris. For a while, a boat on a trailer protected one intersection. Eventually, a nearby iron maker constructed a permanent gate. Police gave their approval as long as emergency responders could get through if requested by the neighborhood.

Neighborhood men also began an armed patrol, kicking out anyone who didn’t belong on the block after dark.

Kicking out people who “don’t belong.” When the dawn patrol’s got to tell you twice, they’re gonna do it with a shotgun. Well, laboratories of democracy and all that.

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