2/25/2003 Newsletter


  • Carlos Lopez Courtwatch
  • Longcrow Family Press Conference
  • Gennadiy Baladin Case
  • Strib: A Disturbing Video from City's Twilight Zone

We just learned about a number of important events that are happening today and tomorrow. Hopefully folks can still make it to these events:

TODAY (Tuesday, February 25th)
9:00 a.m.
Hennepin County Government Center
Carlos Lopez hearing. See 2/22/03 CUAPB email for details.

12:00 noon
American Indian Center
1530 Franklin Ave
Long Crow Family Press Conference: Danielle Long Crow will hold a press conference to announce the filing of a lawsuit against police for the beating of herself and other family members during what appears to be a bad address drug raid. Cops snatched the obviously 8-month pregnant Danielle from the shower naked, threw her to the floor and beat her.

6:30 p.m.
American Indian Center
1530 Franklin Ave
American Indian community meeting with Rybak & Olson (to follow up on Little Earth and other incidents).

TOMORROW (Wednesday, February 26)
7:30 a.m.
Maria's Cafe
1113 Franklin Ave
"Prosecuting the Powerful" discussion by Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County prosecutor. This could be a golden opportunity to find out why Amy's office has REFUSED to prosecute one set of powerful people--the police--especially in the Chris Burns case.

BITTERSWEET VICTORY: The Gennadiy Baladin Case
We were happy to learn over the weekend that there is finally some justice in the case of Gennadiy Baladin, a young man who was shot in the back by an Apple Valley police officer. He was left paralyzed in the incident. His "crime"? He was at a party. He used LSD. He ran out of the house naked and sat down in the street. Apparently, the court system did not believe this was a threat to the cop's life that justified shooting the teenager in the back, so Gennadiy was awarded $3 million. Although this was the largest settlement of a police brutality case in state history, it hardly makes up for putting a young man in a wheelchair for life. The cop is still on the job and the Apple Valley police chief is defending him in the media.

We're pleased to have played a role in getting some justice for Gennadiy. We worked with Apple Valley high school students and other residents to hold two marches and other events that were well attended. As far as we could tell, Apple Valley police and city officials had never seen a demonstration at their doorstep before. This may have helped to sway them toward settling this case.

It's as if the Strib just discovered police brutality in the last few weeks. We worked with this family right after the incident occurred. There is an error in the article--the family reported the incident to Internal Affairs and later that same day began to be harassed by the same cops who beat the husband up in the first place. We worked with the family to document some of the harassment on video tape.

Perhaps one of the most disturbing aspects of this case was the way police unscrewed the light bulb from the porch light just before the beating began. That's truly worthy of the twilight zone...

A Disturbing Video from City's Twilight Zone
Syl Jones
Published Feb. 21, 2003
Star Tribune

Many observers who've been following heated allegations of police brutality against the homeless, particularly American Indians, find them all too credible. But acts of cruelty by Minneapolis police are not limited to the homeless or to American Indians. In fact, such acts were part of the fuel that sparked last summer's riots in north Minneapolis.

Let's be clear: Those who pick up bricks, light a match or overturn vehicles in violent protest are always wrong. I have never embraced violence in any form and never will. But this I know:

The people of north Minneapolis -- and, to some degree, other parts of this city -- live in what is essentially a Twilight Zone: where the rules are turned topsy-turvy, where authority can morph into abuse, where children are injured or killed by stray or intentional bullets fired by police or gang bangers, where drug dealers are the neighborhood's foremost practitioners of marketplace capitalism. Were most of us to live in such surroundings, we might survive but we would never thrive. Because life teeters precariously on a sliver of hope when living in the Twilight Zone.

Submitted for your approval: a videotape showing a Minneapolis squadron in action on June 23, 2002. The squad was in search of people who have active warrants for their arrest when one of the officers spotted a lighted firecracker being thrown at a car. The police performed a cursory investigation that led to one of the police officers kneeing a male homeowner in the head.

Shocked by this violence, the woman of the house brought out her video camera to capture the brutality, and some of the police officers attempted to thwart the video by shining flashlights into the camera. But what the police did not know was that a curious neighbor next door had cranked up her own video camera and was watching and waiting in silence.

On camera

Most Minneapolitans would be shocked at what happened next, but let's go to the neighbor's videotape: After brutalizing one man, and arresting another on charges of throwing lighted firecrackers -- a charge that could easily have been made throughout the city just before the July 4th holiday -- the policemen traded insults with the family and neighbors. As the last officer entered the police van, he said to the gathered horde, stunned by this blitzkrieg-like encounter: "Have fun spending your [expletive] welfare checks!"

The video clearly shows a Minneapolis police officer making that comment. The very next day, according to Darryl Graham, a former first vice president of the Minneapolis NAACP who interviewed the family, officers in the same squadron ticketed the man they had victimized -- for having a cracked windshield. They also ticketed the man's brother for fifth-degree assault for pointing his finger at an officer.

Graham, who has since left the Twin Cities and now runs his own law firm in St. Louis, said the family was intimidated by the police harassment and had reluctantly decided not to file an official complaint. However, the NAACP sent a letter to Police Chief Robert Olson complaining about the incident, copying Mayor R.T. Rybak. The family has moved from the neighborhood.

"Knowing the woman of the house, and knowing how hurt she was to have her family lumped in among a class of people who receive welfare checks, when she'd never been on welfare, I'm sure it took all the idealism out of her," said Graham. "The police treat north Minneapolis as if is an area of occupation, a war zone, and if they decide to violate your rights, so be it. When are the people going to stand up and say 'enough is enough'?"

Graham said that in his four years in Minneapolis, he saw or dealt with many such "micro-aggressions" by police -- incidents that wear thin the patience and nerves of citizens as they watch certain police officers ignore drug dealers but brutalize the poor and the powerless.

Asked to comment about this incident, City Communications Director Gail Plewacki -- speaking on behalf of Police Chief Robert Olson -- said, "There is nothing to comment on. There has been no official complaint filed."

It's become popular for conservatives to trot out the pseudo-psychological palaver of "victimization" promulgated by young John McWhorter, a black linguist who is the latest darling of reactionaries everywhere. Amusingly, McWhorter claims that African-Americans as a group are too quick to allege victimization in their dealings with society, and a surprising number of well-fed intellectuals have allowed McWhorter's allegations to distract them from the brutal truth of the streets. Thus, we hear increasingly insulting commentaries from the unenlightened, who needle the victims about being "whiners" and tell them to "just get over it."

Just imagine

This city is in need of many miracles. But the single most important might be a fanciful transformation that would place the average citizen on the streets of Minneapolis for 48 hours at the mercy of the elements, the criminals and our public safety officers, better known as the police. While not every officer would kick you, beat you up, spit on you, insult your family, hijack you and drive you across town and dump you in a heap, it would only take one such act to so traumatize Joe Six-pack that he'd need at least a 12-pack in order to recover.

It's the kind of fantasy that writer Rod Serling might well have approved of, for then we would all understand the truth: that cruelty is the currency of choice in the Twilight Zone and that victimization is in the blackened, bloodied eye of the beholder.

-- Syl Jones, of Minnetonka, is a playwright, journalist and corporate consultant.

Communities United Against Police Brutality
2104 Stevens Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Hotline 612-874-STOP (7867)

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