Jon Lundberg didn’t want to leave town. He and his wife, Aimee, knew their north Minneapolis neighbors and were active in their church. Their Jordanian neighborhood could be tough, but Mr. Lundberg thought living there was worth it because of the service his family gave to the community. Everything changed at the end of May 2020. That’s when filming began.
Mr Lundberg noticed the gunshots almost immediately after the death of George Floyd on May 25. What had been occasional became daily. Gunshots occasionally rang out during the school day when Mr. Lundberg’s children were in distance learning. Once he slammed their computers and pushed the family to the ground. He found a bullet hole about 6 inches from his front door and another near his daughter’s bedroom window.
In August 2020, the Lundbergs and six of their neighbors sued the city, alleging that by flirting with the police defunding move, the local government was actively pushing officers to retire, resign, or take work leave. sickness. The department’s staffing was well below the minimum of 743 officers required by the city charter. Instead of defunding the police, the Lundbergs argued in their complaint, the city should abide by its charter and hire more officers, train them rigorously, and “for the good of Minneapolis, stop the dangerous actions and rhetoric and Assure your citizens that you intend to protect them from violent crimes. The case is before the Minnesota Supreme Court, where it will be heard in June.
In February 2021, the Lundbergs were hit hard by a shooting in their neighborhood. Mr. Lundberg says he counted more than 30 shots fired in rapid succession. A doctor has diagnosed his 12-year-old son with post-traumatic stress disorder after the family found him convulsing in bed with his eyes rolled to the back of his head.
“At that point, I had to make the decision to stop seeing the situation through the eyes of a neighbour,” says Lundberg. “And I had to see him as a father.”
The family moved to Plymouth, a western suburb of Minneapolis. They kept the Jordan house, hoping that they might one day return. But others have left the area altogether. Nearly 14,000 people left Hennepin County last year, a trend influenced by factors including public safety concerns. Minneapolis’ murder rate neared a record high last year with 96 homicides, double from 2019. The increase coincided with a mass exodus from the police department. More than 300 out of 825 officers have resigned since Mr Floyd’s death.
For the visitor, the lack of order is most evident at George Floyd Square. Barriers that blocked traffic for the past two years are gone, but the four-block area is still essentially a self-contained area. City buses do not stop there. Cars are often abandoned in the middle of the road. The ransacked Speedway gas station has become an improvised outdoor lounge. The city has proposed redeveloping the square as a community square, but the mix of racial justice activists, residents and local gangs vying for control makes that unlikely.
“It’s still an active protest space,” says activist Susan Heineman. “So we say, ‘Respond to our requests and then we’ll talk.’ ”
These demands include the firing of many city leaders, an end to qualified immunity for police officers, and the awarding of hundreds of thousands of dollars to the various groups occupying George Floyd Square. According to a manifesto posted in the square, activists will not consent to the proposed community square because “the George Floyd memorial is first and foremost a place of protest, not commissioned by the city but by the people against the city.”
That kind of intransigence will keep Minneapolis from healing, says Don Samuels, a former city councilman who has become the leader of a criminal justice reform movement that explicitly rejects defunding the city’s police. Mr Samuels, who took part in the first protests after Floyd’s death, says as soon as he saw the riots start he knew the movement would be hijacked by extremists.
Mr. Samuels points to Representative Ilhan Omar, against whom he is running in the Democratic primary, as a typical example of a leader who adopted a destructive slogan to restore his political image. Even in the summer of 2020, Samuels says, the idea of defunding the police was unpopular with Minneapolis residents and virtually unworkable. It was irresponsible for politicians to court his supporters. Floyd’s death was an occasion for a serious reassessment of policing protocol, Mr. Samuels said, “not a call for leaders to seize the moment to demand something that does not to increase the audience at a moving moment”.
Mr Samuels still believes there is a path to recovery, although it will be difficult for cooler heads to prevail: “We have to seize this moment, not lose it through extremism.”
But Mr. Lundberg doesn’t see himself returning to Minneapolis anytime soon. And as he watches his old home from the outside, he’s not even sure the town has hit rock bottom. “It always comes to a breaking point before real change happens,” he says. “Everyone must be broken, unfortunately. And I don’t know if we’re still there.
Mr. Rowan is editor of The Lamp, a Catholic literary journal.
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