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2009 Columns
Quarter 2: April thru June ~ Columns #13 - #24

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June 24, 2009 Column #24: City harassment campaign targets Somali cabdrivers

"Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues"
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

All during the day of June 15, 2009, a steady stream of naturalized citizens, East African cab drivers, met to discuss their grievances. Later that evening, some 50 East African taxi drivers, primarily Somalis but also a sprinkling of Ethiopians and Sudanese, gathered to give public testimony regarding the hardships and obstructions facing them from the City and the Minneapolis Police Department.

Ever since the conflict at the Metropolitan Airport two years ago, it has remained clear that East Africans have been targeted in an effort to reduce their numbers as operators of taxicabs inside the city of Minneapolis. It is a silent campaign to deprive them of their livelihoods in order to get them to move.

Their reports raise serious questions about this City's policy to reduce their opportunity for full inclusion in the economic mainstream of Minneapolis commerce, as well as to reduce their presence. That in turn raises the basic question of America: Who are "we the people"?

On average, East African taxicab operators are receiving 17 tickets a month, with some police and traffic control officers issuing an average of 110 tickets/month/officer. One patrol officer issued 173 citations and tickets to East African cab drivers in the month of May alone.

These chilling reports include being ticketed in front of their homes or the apartment buildings where they reside. The cost of these tickets, for parking a commercial vehicle on a residential street overnight, is $750.

As the testimony continued, it became clear that the district court is winking and looking the other way. Some cab drivers testified that they had been required to retain attorneys at a minimal cost of $2,000 as they fight to clear their records and maintain their licenses to operate a cab. Drivers testified that they are working an average of 16 hours/day year-round in order to scrape out a living. It goes without saying that the taxi operators testifying June 15 have families, with an average of five children.

Reggie Chapman of WCCO TV stayed through the entire hearing, which was called by the Unity Community Team of the now-defunct Police Community Relations Council. In fact, on a personal note, the police operation is so intense that at approximately 11:30 pm on the evening of June 15, we watched a blue and white cab, number 108, and its Somali driver get stopped, detained, and given at least three citations, after which they towed his cab.

We listened to the driver beg for reconsideration. His plea fell on the deaf, insensitive and uncaring ears of the two White officers harassing him.

This kind of City sub-rosa policy purposefully disrespects the East African community and causes tension rising to a level not seen since the racial disturbances of 1966. To be blunt and candid, we can see why there are those who believe that what the City and its police are doing by conducting these sinister acts is to create a kind of second North-American version of Guantanamo in Minnesota.

Where is the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department? Where is the NAACP? Where is the Urban League? Where are the Whites who used to claim they back civil rights?

Jason Anderson update

On Monday night, June 15, 2009, both KSTP and WCCO reported the arrest of MPD Officer Jason Anderson (the shooter of Fong Lee) on the charge of fifth degree domestic assault. Lack of it being reported suggests a concerted effort behind the scenes to keep mainstream media from giving it much coverage.

We are not surprised. The MPD pattern has been clear for years: Frown on domestic violence and the assaults that accompany this criminal act unless the assaulter is a White police officer.

We are aware of at least four cases involving White police officers during the last year in which they were not required to sign what is referred to as a "final chance letter" (meaning that if there is a repeat of any offense, they will not only be terminated, but they will have no right of appeal).

We imagine that the defenders of Officer Anderson will say he was under stress. How could that be, as an all-White jury acquitted him in late May of the 2006 shooting death of Fong Lee?

Once again, the Star Tribune was not in the forefront reporting this story. In fact, we are told by reliable sources that a White reporter attempted to block Reggie Chapman from reporting the Jason Anderson arrest. We ask again, who are "we the people"? Stay tuned.

Posted 6-24-09, 4:33 a.m.
Originally posted at Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder on 6/24/2009

June 17, 2009 Column #23: New colonial masters fill our leadership vacuum.Foundation, Committee of 40 plan Black community changes

"Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues"
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

The leadership of the Northwest Area Foundation met in Twin Falls, Idaho, last week to discuss, among other issues, the change they wanted to see in our Black communities of Minneapolis and their funding of our Black "leadership" to achieve it, and their new Strategic Plan for the foundation.

Also last week, June 9, 2009, the first review of their report took place in Minneapolis by The Committee of 40, which reviewed the Foundation's plan. That plan included revamping/restructuring Black institutions of Minneapolis, especially the Black churches.

Who is in this Committee of 40? It includes Minneapolis City Council members, individuals affiliated with the University of Minnesota, a Ramsey County commissioner, famous Black names of our community, and, of course, big corporate.

The NW Area Foundation has worked diligently with the Committee of 40 over the last 14 months. We have spoken to this issue and expressed our concern about rumors of mission statements from City officials and others to change the face of Minneapolis' Black leadership into their image, resulting in Minneapolis Black organizations being even more subservient.

The Committee of 40, according to information now leaking out, was to help determine priorities that would be imposed on the future of Minneapolis Black institutions. A key example is the plan for a total overhaul of the Black church.

Over the past seven weeks we have heard the rumors that Black churches should be reorganized, downsized, and spun off as you would Chrysler and GM. This, of course, does not sit well with Black churches descended from the Reformation principle of breaking away from Rome so individuals could relate directly to God rather than through the overarching Roman Catholic Church and its officials.

Now foundations and the 40 want to be the overarching officials who dictate. It's Plantation Mentality writ large, as people on retreats and in unannounced meetings discuss the future of institutions, as they seek their definition of elitist change, not the change and aspirations of "We the People."

Can you say "arrogance" and "White privilege"? Can you say, "Colonial plantation days are here again?" This is what Britain, France, Spain, Italy and other colonial masters did: decide the change for their enclaves of color, as the colonial office boxed the plans and implemented their boxed change as they pleased.

All during 2008, seeing the vacuum, we have repeatedly asked, "Where is the plan for the future by the African American community?" The foundations and city hall are jumping in to fill the leadership vacuum left by the inaction of our Black institutions.

So, change is a'coming, the change of the new colonial masters like those who met in Twin Falls, Idaho, as they conspire with the Committee of 40 in the tragic dismantling of our once-proud community.

The Northwest Area Foundation claims to support efforts to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable prosperity in the eight-state region of Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. They work with reservations and tribes. How can they say they want poverty reduction efforts to be owned by the community when they want to decide who the community is and who they should pay to follow their orders?

This is the Plantation Mentality again.

Nellie Stone Johnson gave us the operating formula: no education, no jobs, no housing. Their plans do not address the foundation issue of education. We are left with do-gooders justifying their support of the status quo by Black "leaders" expecting to be paid to lead the defense of the status quo.

That brings us to Mayor R.T. Rybak, running for mayor in 2009. With Governor Pawlenty's decision not to run again, what will the mayor do? How will we know which White master to satisfy? Shall we ask the NW Area Foundation?

When will Mayor R.T. Rybak assure us that, if he wins re-election in November, he will serve his full four-year term? Or will he just spring the governor's race on us later, leaving the resulting chaos and costs of another election in his wake?

Is the Minneapolis Black "leadership" so afflicted with historical amnesia that they are comfortable being "safe" and saying nothing as our political, institutional and spiritual emancipations are allowed to wither away?

As Bilbo used to say, "A happy darkie is a safe darkie." Of course we know that we are not darkies, but someone needs to tell the NW Area Foundation, the Committee of 40, and our own Minneapolis ministerial class that we will not be treated as such.

Posted June 18, 2009, 3:30 a.m.
Originally posted at Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder on 6/17/2009

June 10, 2009 Column #22: Let's admit it: Some judges are bad. Conduct of Fong Lee trial is a case in point.

"Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues"
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

What should disturb all Americans of color is a City "expert" who declared that if a police officer feels/perceives the victim is armed (whether he is or not), deadly force is justified.

Immigrants, many of whom come from nations practicing something akin to French Norman law that rules in favor of the privileged, are delighted to learn of our great American judiciary system predicated on English Anglo-Saxon law. So, what did the family of 19-year-old Fong Lee learn when they lost their wrongful death suit against the City of Minneapolis in federal court in St. Paul the week of May 18, 2009? Anglo-Saxon law in word, Norman law in deed.

Many within City government had the audacity to praise Assistant City Attorney Jim Moore for winning on behalf of MPD Officer Jason Andersen, the shooter. They based that on the verdict, as many were not in the court.

This reporter was in the court. Moore "won" because the judge applied the Norman law model: rulings for the privileged. No wonder a May 31Strib sub-headline read, "Lee's family and supporters express anger at the acquittal and the judge."

The attorneys for the Fong Lee family will appeal to the Eighth Circuit. Those federal justices will determine whether the conduct of their colleague was consistent with the requirements of the American judicial system.

From day one, it was obvious no doctrine of fairness would be forthcoming from this presiding judge. He denied solid evidence supporting the plaintiff and allowed weak evidence supporting the judge's view that the City was not liable. And, he denied the jury's request to have read to them some of the testimony.

These rulings could not have happened without the equal bias of the Strib and its reporters, whose versions of what happened each and every day was different from what the record shows.

To make sure the case was doomed, the judge instructed the jury to weigh the officer's perception of the threat that he faced. Thus panic became the criteria, not whether the shooter followed procedures of training or threat assessment. The judge said the shooting would have to be viewed as "malicious" for the plaintiffs to win.

What jurist would define fear as malicious? Therefore, being shot in the back didn't count, nor being shot eight times. Expert testimony about the video not showing a gun was not allowed, nor was testimony about the planting of a gun.

The Eighth Circuit Court will have to review the conduct and the rulings of the presiding judge to ascertain the degree to which he had already made up his mind even before the trial began, as is suggested by his rulings.

We had an all-White court (judge, jury, City's defense attorneys) that could not face the family and their supporters. The judge had the jury read their verdict to an empty courtroom after having sent the family and defense attorneys to lunch. As U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has said, America is still a coward on the issue of race.

What should disturb all Americans of color is a City "expert" who declared that if a police officer feels/perceives the victim is armed (whether he is or not), deadly force is justified. The judge concurred. Like Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, this judge acts as judge, jury and prosecutor.

It is ironic that the trial ended a day before a White officer in New York City also felt fear as he shot and killed a plainclothes African American officer, gun drawn, chasing a thief on foot. Unconscious racism is why White officers fear Blacks and shoot them, whereas Black officers don't have that fear of White officers.

The Eighth Circuit Court will have to deal with a fellow judge who let claims of privilege outweigh the rights of citizens.

An atmosphere of intimidation exists far too frequently in both state and federal courts, particularly regarding the rights and franchise of persons of color in conflict with White law-enforcement officers. What happened the week of May 18 on the seventh floor of the Federal Court House in St. Paul is one more honoring of White privilege, one more turning of a blind eye to the question of justice for persons of color.

As the websites and attest, there are bad judges. We must overcome the system's resistance to admitting that bad judges exist.

The rude awakening of new citizens is truly a dark day for American justice and the belief of new citizens who come to this great country, when, expecting fairness, they find fairness trumped by White privilege. In the long run, it is the police who lose credibility, closing off the community and making it less safe for both police and the citizens they are supposed to protect.

Posted Wednesday, 6-10-09, 11:59 p.m.
Originally posted at Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder on 6/10/2009

June 3, 2009 Column #21: Complaint to Minneapolis Civil Rights Department lands man in jail

"Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues"
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

Judge found no probable cause for department’s action.

Over five years ago, an African American, Terry Drake, who we first wrote about in this column April 11, 2007, was discharged by Cub Foods. Mr. Drake felt he had been wrongly discharged and sought out the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department for legal redress.

My, what a mistake.

For the first two years, nothing was done about Mr. Drake's complaint. Then he retained a law firm that gained some movement until mid-2008, when it was back to business as usual: nothing happening.

Current Department Director Michael Jordan didn't start this. He inherited the system of giving citizens the runaround, and he keeps it running per the wishes of the mayor and city council. (Otherwise, they would have stopped it.)

In February 2009, Mr. Jordan ruled that Mr. Drake had "no probable cause." Mr. Drake then, per the ordinance, filed an appeal, and by mid-May was told that the Civil Rights Commission would not hear his oral argument in the five-year-old case.

The term "probable cause" comes from the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause..."

Mr. Drake continued his discussion with the department's staff on the 18th and 19th of May, 2009. Unbeknownst to Mr. Drake, he was being set up. On the late morning of May 20, he was called by the head of building security for the City County Buildings Commission. Mr. Drake was told that a complaint had been made by employees of the Civil Rights Department saying he had made threats they called "terroristic."

The record shows that Mr. Drake agreed to have the head of security accompany him on Thursday, May 21, to deliver a second appeal, along with other documents pertaining to his case. He arrived at the department offices, Room 239, accompanied, according to police reports, by the head of building security.

Mr. Drake left his materials with employees of the department and left the building. At 7 am the next morning, the 22nd of May, Mr. Drake heard a pounding on his apartment door. It was the police. They placed him under arrest and took him to the Hennepin County Jail.

Around noon of the 22nd of May, he was told that employees of the Civil Rights Department had sworn out a complaint accusing him of making terrorist threats. This was ridiculous. The courts agreed. Within 24 hours, a Hennepin County District Court judge, having reviewed the case, found no probable cause to arrest or hold him. He ordered Mr. Drake released at approximately 2 pm on Saturday.

This, my friends, is a frightening scenario, especially when the institution involved, the Civil Rights Department, fails to serve by purposefully not being honest and fair — instead, being purposefully intimidating.

In a community made dangerous for African American men because White police shoot, beat and taser them to death, the Civil Rights Department is neither civil nor protective of rights. The Civil Rights Department's treatment of Terry Drake sends a chilling message to those who raise questions, criticize actions, express a lack of confidence, and/or express a lack of trust in the department.

The manner in which civil rights enforcement is carried out in Minneapolis is not unlike that in some Third World country. It was only by the grace of God and a fair-minded judge that Mr. Drake does not find himself facing five years in a state penitentiary for allegedly uttering threats that City officials quickly labeled "terroristic" in order to set him up for criminal action in the hopes that would silence him.

Is this as frightening and chilling to you as it is to me?

Who in Minneapolis will act as the advocate and facilitator in the pursuit of justice for people of color in general, and for men like Terry Drake in particular? Just imagine: They let the case languish five years, then attempt to charge him with criminal intent because the Civil Rights Department decided that was the way to get rid of the complaint.

Most of us realize this smacks of criminal conspiring between the department and the City of Minneapolis as the mayor and city council turn their backs on their own ordinance. The dark days for civil rights and the pursuit of justice continue in a city that does plenty of talking about liberalism, fairness and justice, but does not walk the talk. Stay tuned.

Posted June 3, 2009, 5:27 a.m.
Originally posted at Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder on 6/3/2009

May 27, 2009 Column #20: The passing of Cliff Burns, Sr. A Black bowling legend passes from the game and community.

"Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues"
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

Together, Cliff Burns, Sr., Larry Walton and George Manning helped to break the color barrier of many of the Whites-only bowling tournaments in the state of Minnesota and, by extension, nationally.

The box scores of the very competitive Negro Bowling League were once a proud cornerstone of this newspaper's sports section. The publisher himself, Cecil Newman, attended games and enjoyed printing the scores of the Black legends. We will address three legends in this column: George Manning, Larry Walton and Cliff Burns, Sr.

The legendary George Manning served for 52 years as secretary of the first sanctioned Black league in Minnesota (unsanctioned was when the American Bowling Congress (ABC) had its "Whites only" rule). Mr. Manning was also one of the first consistent 200 average bowlers in the state of Minnesota.

Larry Walton was one of the smoothest, most effective bowlers in the local history of the game, a man who carried a 200 average in the days when bowling was done with a plastic ball.

And then there was the man who headlines this column, the legendary Cliff Burns, Sr., who came out of one of America's bowling meccas, St. Louis, MO. He came to Minnesota in the 1940s. He worked for Whirlpool for over 31 years. Together, Cliff Burns, Sr., Larry Walton and George Manning helped to break the color barrier of many of the Whites-only tournaments in the state of Minnesota and, by extension, nationally. The ABC dropped "Whites only" in 1950 and "males only" in 1993.

These three men were the heart and soul of the Ten Strike League that became the showcase of Minnesota's tremendous Negro bowling talent, especially in the twin cities. Bowling began in the Midwest and was the average citizen's most popular indoor athletic activity. Ebony magazine reported in 1947 that bowling was the number-one sport among Blacks. Interracial teams in the 1950s and 1960s were the only non-workplace social activity for lower-middle-class Blacks and Whites.

Mr. Newman, by writing and reporting the top scores of Negro bowlers in the Twin Cities each week, revealed the great pride the community held for the pioneers and legends of this game. Yet, the major White media in this state still doesn't feature a Black league, a Black team or top Black bowlers, and so once again the history of success and the achievement of the Black legends of the game are invisible to the White media, denying yet another building block of pride and inspiration for our young to build on.

For over 40 years the community felt its deep appreciation of the Spokesman-Recorder's commitment to talk about the athletic excellence of the Negro, not only in bowling but also in golf, football, basketball, baseball, and even hockey, the latter also not covered by White media (in the 1930s and 1940s, Black athletes excelled at hockey at places like Sumner Field in North Minneapolis, and on the ice rinks of St. Paul, despite many Whites still thinking it is a White game we don't understand or have knowledge of).

And so, with the passing of Cliff Burns, Sr., we pause to remember this piece of history so that it doesn't fade into the dust of time, and flow out of our Black memory bank of excellence.

Cliff Burns, Sr. was a legend in his time, a pillar of his community, and a man who brought the perfection and seriousness of the game importance and respect. May his family and friends cherish his memory. The archive of the Spokesman-Recorder holds the stories of the feats of these men, Manning, Walton, and Burns, who did proud by both their community and their sport.

It is important that we remember that Blacks didn't become good bowlers until exposed to Whites (the fatal flaw in education that enabled bussing to destroy so much of local Black education). The good news is that, like baseball, Blacks are in the Bowling Hall of Fame, the third oldest after baseball and golf. Basketball's Hall of Fame still refuses to admit Black pioneers of the sport, leaving these legends invisible and unremembered, despite the historic shellacking two all-white basketball teams in the South received from all-Black teams, one the subject of a major motion picture and the other of a recent major documentary (a game kept secret by both sides for decades).

When halls of fame leave out Black players, and when Black teams beat White teams and it is kept secret, this invisibility denies society its heritage and its best. We need to use Black history to shine a light on the futures of your young people, so they can have the proof that yes, they can too.

Posted 5-29-09, 6:00 p.m.
Originally posted at Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder on 5/27/2009

May 20, 2009 Column #19: Commission is last line of defense for Mpls civil rights. A no-confidence vote could clear the air.

"Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues"
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

Regardless of whether Michael Jordan is acting out of incompetence and/or mean-spiritedness and/or reflecting Minneapolis City Hall's contempt and sense of being untouchable and/or stating a simple "to hell with the Asian community as they don't make a difference," a "no confidence" vote is in order.

Two days ago, on May 18, 2009, the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission was to begin discussing a resolution of no confidence in Civil Rights Department Director Michael Jordan. Information provided for this column indicates that a serious rift has developed between the director and the Civil Rights Commission's 21-member board.

A vote of "no confidence" can be very useful. It is a quick and clear way to relieve the pressure cooker that has been building for some time, pressure heightened by allegations of the failure/refusal of the City's Civil Rights Department to investigate the Fong Lee case.

It is clear that since 2006, when a civil rights complaint was filed on behalf of the slain Fong Lee, every effort was made to circumvent the investigation; to mislead the community and the family; and then, this past February, to arbitrarily, capriciously, and with malice aforethought, to dismiss the complaint.

Three weeks ago, Director Jordan was quoted in the St. Paul Pioneer Press as saying the original complainant could refile. That is the ultimate bureaucratic way: Say "no" with a "yes." The "yes" hides the underlying "no," as the complaint, by ordinance, must be filed within one year of the alleged allegation/incident. He is saying "yes" nearly three years later — a disguised "no" and a very undisguised insult.

Regardless of whether Michael Jordan is acting out of incompetence and/or mean-spiritedness and/or reflecting Minneapolis City Hall's contempt and sense of being untouchable and/or stating a simple "to hell with the Asian community as they don't make a difference," a "no-confidence" vote is in order.

We know Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman indicated Fong Lee's death was of no consequence when three weeks ago he refused a request to release the transcripts of the one-day Grand Jury of June 2007, clearly suggesting a sentiment shared with the Rybak administration and its Mr. Jordan.

Remember what we said in last week's column: In order to play the role of Captain Bligh/Jordan, you must have the support of the Admiralty/mayor's office.

Whether the resolution of no confidence passes or fails, the storm warnings are gathering on the horizon. Will Captain Bligh/Jordan turn towards the waves or run aground on the rocks of nullification and reversal to scuttle the civil rights ship? Or, will he set a firm course towards the horizon of justice and fairness? We who are longtime observers of the Admiralty/mayor's office sadly see a course set, firm and absolute, for the destruction of civil rights.

As the NAACP, the Urban League, and other "leaders" choose to remain silent while the Star Tribune,Pioneer Press, and Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder report on the demise of civil rights, why would the Admiralty and its two Captain Blighs care?

The last line of defense is now the Civil Rights Commission. Will they hold fast, or will they allow themselves to be sunk, too? Only time will tell if they have the power, time and energy to save the HMS Civil Rights Department. We watch for the possible emerging of a motion of no confidence due to the continued poor stewardship of Captain Bligh/Jordan.

The first vote of "no confidence" recorded in history occurred in March 1782, in the British Parliament, against "the present ministers" because of the British defeat at Yorktown in the American Revolutionary War. In the fall, will voters give their own vote of no confidence to this mayor and city council, or will they rubber-stamp their efforts to ignore and thus not protect civil rights? Stay tuned.

Fong Lee

On this day, we should be three days into the Fong Lee trial. As expected, because the attorneys for Fong Lee's family are committed to the pursuit of justice, the City's attempt at settlement failed.

Then, just before the trial, the City suspended Lt. Michael Keefe, the lead investigator in the Fong Lee investigation of July 2006. We agree this is more than highly suspicious, as it seems calculated by Captain Dolan/Bligh as an act to enable impeaching any testimony of then-Sgt. Michael Keefe, raising serious questions of obstruction of justice.

It will be interesting to see how Fong Lee's attorneys meet this current challenge. Stay tuned.

Urban League CEO selection

The Minneapolis Urban League has apparently installed its new leader, the former paid executive of the Madison, Wisconsin, Urban League. It will be interesting in the coming months to watch the direction of this organization as its board of directors wrestles with its own "no confidence" issues within their organization. Stay tuned.

Posted 5-20-09, 11:40 a.m.
Originally posted at Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder on 5/20/2009

May 13, 2009 Column #18: Mutiny on the HMS Civil Rights Department

"Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues"
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

Mutiny on the Bounty is about a rebellion against a cruel ship's captain. The true incident behind this gripping novel has been made into four major movies and spawned over 250 books and thousands of articles devoted to interpreting that mutiny on the HMS (His/Her Majesty's Ship) Bounty.

The mutiny occurred in 1789, the same year as the great liberation events of the French Revolution and the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. The Bounty's men, gathering Polynesian breadfruit trees as cheap food for slaves in the West Indies, didn't want to be slaves themselves.

The story is a symbol of the search for justice in the face of arbitrary and cruel treatment by an overlord, in this case the ship's Captain Bligh, and the hero who stood up to him, Fletcher Christian, a symbol for fighting leaders who hold themselves above the law and above the community.

But no Captain Bligh or "above the law" leader can exist without a blessing. For Captain Bligh, it was the Admiralty. For Minneapolis, it is the mayor and city hall.

The head of our "Admiralty" is Mayor R.T. Rybak. The most well-known of the Captain Blighs that he supports and blesses are Michael Jordan, director of the City's civil rights department, and Police Chief Tim Dolan.

When we read that the Bounty's Captain Bligh was cleared of charges and made captain of another ship, it sounds just like another day on the deck of the good ship Minneapolis.

In the movies, the hero Fletcher Christian has been played by Errol Flynn (1933), Clark Gable (1935), Marlon Brando (1962), and Mel Gibson (1984). Today, we find an unlikely hero in the Star Tribune that editorialized against the loss of full disclosure that has been denied due to settlements keeping the facts and the truth from the public.

Will our heroes finally be Mike Roberts and his attorneys and the attorneys and family for Fong Lee? The timing is perfect for them to obtain the full disclosure that can be brought out in the courts and that is so needed.

If ever there was an occasion calling for right and passionate action, it is civil rights in Minneapolis. Last week, Michael Jordan told the Civil Rights Commission that their concern about the lack of effort and effectiveness in the relationship between the community and his department was not a concern of his.

In what is now being identified as a sharp exchange of emails between lawyers on the commission and Captain Jordan, we see a situation crying out for a document to be declared that would rival the Magna Carta and the Constitution in bringing calm to the seas of our Minneapolis community.

According to Civil Rights Commission Chairman Kenneth Brown, Jordan/Bligh has told them that the first priority and loyalty and commitment of the department's liaison to the commission and all other staff of the civil rights department is to him, the director. This is obviously counter to the language of the law, the language of the Civil Rights Ordinance, and the language establishing that department, all of which establish the only priority: the civil rights laws and ordinances.

For Captain Jordan/Bligh, the importance of law is irrelevant to the HMS Civil Rights Department, with the full blessings of the Admiralty/mayor's office, who, together, have been abandoning civil rights laws established in 1961 and 1966. The commitments and promise of the great vessels of civil rights have given way to the guns of nullification and reversal being fired to sink what is left of a once-great civil rights fleet.

There were great captains who manned those great vessels of Minneapolis civil rights: Captain Humphrey, Captain Newman, Captain Nellie Stone Johnson, and others who were the very foundation of the hope for a future no longer talked about. The Minneapolis Admiralty purposefully sinks great civil rights ships on the rocks of nullification and reversal, sinking the dreams of aspiration and commitment of those who fought so hard to navigate the troubled sea of Minneapolis racism that sinks legal and contract compliance.

Will the song of the old seaman that the troubled waters be parted, that good winds present themselves, be sung? Will prayers be offered for guidance to make all whole again? Will the cries be answered for a Fletcher Christian to right the ship and give hope to those who fight for fairness, racial equality, equal access and equal opportunity?

God bless Minneapolis in its hope for champions to keep the ship of civil rights from sinking.

Posted 5-13-09, 5:45 a.m.
Originally posted at Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder on 5/13/2009

May 6, 2009 Column #17: Courageous witness may expose race-based MPD corruption

"Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues"
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

The house at 1315 Xerxes Avenue North has become a central piece of a frightening story that has long been unfolding.

The Star Tribune's April 19-22 four-part series on their two-year investigation of Minneapolis Police Department corruption and intrigue included drug dealers and crooked and corrupt government officials. The series detailed the unraveling of the MPD's joint internal investigation with federal officials.

Called "The Informant," the series was about the aftermath of the arrest of Tailor Trump, aka Valachi, on June 26, 2007, in North Minneapolis. The series missed the contributions of the second informant it talks about, Sheila Haynes, as the Star Tribune could not find her. This columnist found her and interviewed her.

The investigators' strategy was to arrest Valachi, who would then identify dirty cops (the majority of whom, according to the Monday edition of the paper, would be White) and have the second informant, an African American woman named Sheila Haynes, corroborate Valachi.

But, as we have detailed for the past several years in our columns, the real attempt was to pin White corruption on Black officers.

The unraveling began when Ms. Haynes identified White cops as part of Valachi's criminal enterprise and refused to falsely identify Black cops in exchange for a deal. As she said when accused, "I don't know what you are talking about. I work for you."

In carrying out her assigned work leading to Trump's arrest, Ms. Haynes received money from the FBI to help her leave the state.

The story she told investigators preparing Officer Mike Roberts for his farcical trial starting May 11 was one of the most frightening and chilling stories of government misconduct that we have heard in a long time. If they can do what they did to her — and what they are trying to do to Mike Roberts — they can do it to any of us, White or Black.

Despite the Star Tribune saying Valachi and Ms. Haynes were arrested in June 2007, the arrest was actually in February 2007, just before Valentine's Day, in St. Louis Park. The mystery remains as to why they insist on this discrepancy. There is no mystery about Ms. Haynes being arrested with Valachi at a traffic stop and her being pressured to falsely testify that Black police officers were in the pay of Valachi in exchange for a deal (especially when her filmed evidence at 1315 Xerxes Avenue North shows White cops).

These law enforcement officers worked closely with Valachi in their attempt to spring a trap on Black police officers, even when they knew he was lying. In early July, the federal government suggested to Ms. Haynes that she leave the state for her own safety. She was relocated to the Jackson, Mississippi, area and told she could possibly provide services to the local FBI field office in that city.

Once she began to realize the game being played and the danger to her life, she returned to Minneapolis the first week of August 2007. Three weeks ago, her life was threatened. Government officials said they would help her leave the state for an undisclosed location. She declined. Seven days later she received an anonymous call that her life had been forfeited and that death would be guaranteed. The reader should be able to figure out who made the call.

But with the strength of her family, her church, and her God, she contacted investigators for Officer Mike Roberts, and although her health is poor and her time is short, she told them she was willing to testify at Officer Roberts' trial, under oath, to reveal this most chilling and dangerous exhibit of government corruption based on race.

A request has been made by her and her family that her affidavit be forwarded to the presiding trial judge. She is prepared to be examined in a closed session of the court even before she is sworn to give testimony in the official trial. These are the actions of a very courageous woman seeking only to bring forward the truth and to bring about justice in a scenario in which injustice, collusion and conspiracy have become the official order of the day.

Even the Star Tribune, in its Tuesday, April 28, editorial, expressed regret that "settled" lawsuits are preventing the truth from being told. Let' hope the Star Tribune gets its wish and Minneapolis gets full disclosure from the testimony in the Mike Roberts trial. God bless America.

Posted 5-6-09, 10:28 p.m.
Originally posted at Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder on 5/6/2009

April 22, 2009 Column #16: Fong Lee case raises many troubling questions. Many concern what the grand jury may or may not have been told.

"Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues..."
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

In June 2007, a Hennepin County Grand Jury was convened to evaluate the evidence and circumstances of the July 22, 2006, shooting death of 19-year-old Fong Lee on a school playground where he and friends were riding their bikes.

The first big question is why it took 11 long months to convene the grand jury.

The second big question follows: Why did Officer Jason Anderson of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) and his partner that evening, a Minnesota state highway trooper, go after teenagers riding their bicycles on a school playground? The officers' own statements suggest they were following the police racial-profiling tradition: The teens were Asian, therefore suspicious.

The third big question is why Officer Anderson shot Fong Lee three times in the back, and then, after he fell on his back, fired five more bullets into his chest as he lay there?

Why has it taken the Pioneer Press (3-31-09 Pioneer Press, The final moments of Fong Lee) and Star Tribune nearly three years to cover the discrepancies in the MPD's story when we covered them in this newspaper, In the death of Fong Lee, Justice is Demanded August 2, 2006?

The key question remains: What was the grand jury told? Who made the decision on what they would be told? And what questions did the grand jury ask? This is a fair question, as all-White juries and all-White grand juries in Minnesota tend not to be very inquisitive when a person of color dies at the hands of a police officer.

Was the grand jury told there was a significant dispute over which weapon that Mr. Fong Lee allegedly had in his possession, as well as the dispute over whether he had one at all? What were they told about mistakes identifying two guns identified at different times as being the gun they said Fong Lee had?

Were they told that, while investigating the history of the guns, homicide Detective (then-Sgt.) Michael Keefe became aware of the fact that one of the identified pistols was supposed to be in the property room of the MPD at the time of the shooting?

Was the grand jury told that one of the gun's owners, Mr. Her, indicated to Sgt. Keefe that he had been told by Sgt. Folsum that the police department had checked the serial number and identified one of the guns as belonging to Mr. Her and would return it to him upon the completion of the investigation of the earlier burglary of his home?

Was the grand jury told that Sgt. Folsom, 10 days after the interview of Mr. Her, wrote a "supplemental report" regarding the mistaken identities of the two guns as they related to Fong Lee? Was the grand jury ever told of the evidence mistakes officers made? And if Officer Anderson was wrong about Fong Lee having a gun in his hand, as Chief Dolan has stated (Strib, April 14), how can we believe the rest of what Officer Anderson has said?

Was the grand jury told that, contrary to police statements, the video in the squad car had not only not been immediately secured, but it was not secured until 10 days after Fong Lee's death, and only then because Sgt. Keefe requested that the camera be made available to him for his investigation? Was the grand jury told that upon his immediate return to duty during these 10 days Officer Anderson had access, custody and control of that video?

Why did it take two and a half years to ask an expert witness to evaluate the video, and why was it Fong Lee's family that asked and not the MPD? The expert has certified that the squad car video was tampered with.

Was the grand jury ever told of the police forensics that reported there were no fingerprints, no palm prints, no DNA, no blood spatter on the gun the police finally say Fong Lee had, which they say they found near his body?

Assuming after 11 months that the prosecutor had this evidence, was the forensic evidence tampered with or contaminated? Was it prosecutorial misconduct creating a cover-up that delayed the grand jury 11 months?

These are the kinds of questions that burn themselves into the minds of those who seek justice and truth. God forbid that there was prosecutorial misconduct in the case of the death of Fong Lee, a 19-year-old Asian riding his bike in a schoolyard on the early evening of July 22, 2006.

Posted 4-22-09, 3:14 a.m.
Originally posted at Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder on 4/22/2009

April 15, 2009 Column #15: Is the end near for the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department?

"Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues"
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

On Monday, April 6, 2009, at approximately 4:40 pm, Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights Director Michael Jordan sent what will be remembered as an historic email to a select group of citizens and elected officials making up a special task force. The message outlined the plan for dismantling of the City's Civil Rights Department.

This historic email was sent to W. Davis, Leonardo Castro, Herman Milligan and C. Samuelson. In it, Director Jordan outlined for their special, almost secret group, called the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights Analysis Task Force, the options to consider for developing a recommendation regarding the future of the department.

The Task Force flag status was identified in military terms as "red," meaning a problem situation requiring immediate action, as if preparing for battle.

Those listed as persons to whom copies of the email were sent to are: Rybak, Smith, Benson, Glidden, Gordon, and members of Jordan's staff. This is clearly a battle directed by the mayor and the city council.

In his email, Mr. Jordan lays out several options or scenarios, labeled A, B, C, D and E. He recommends the elimination of all three components of his department, which he calls "a budgetary reduction of approximately $580,000." This will mean far fewer services and the laying off of staff.

Of course, with the five scenarios he lays out, any reasonable-minded person will conclude what we predicted last year: The mayor will eliminate the Civil Rights Department and the Civil Rights Commission

The timeline is tight, with task force completion dates proposed for April 21, 22, 23 and 27.

Director Jordon's game plan is precise. The five optional scenarios include buying time to address any fallout from the pro-civil rights communities of Minneapolis in this election year.

But their plan is extremely dangerous. It builds on the department's already existing incompetence and corruption as reported in this column (see our archives).

The latest example is the department's willful disappearance of the investigative file regarding the July 22, 2006, death of Fong Lee. In fact, the obstruction of information and evidence was so well coordinated that the plan escalated in the summer of 2008, resulting in the lead investigator leaving the department and quietly relocating to California.

The disappearance of this information from a Sherlock computer program has raised serious questions among computer experts who are trying to understand how this data was lost. The April 9, 2009, editions of the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune reported that attorneys for Fong Lee's family raised questions to the federal court about the investigative report. What a surprise awaits them when they find out that that the investigation and the names of important witnesses appear to have been purged.

No wonder the Rybak administration is plunging ahead to bring down the curtain on the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department as well as the Civil Rights Commission and change the future of civil rights in Minneapolis as we know it. These are dark and dangerous times in a city that has lost its way and can no longer navigate the waters of justice.

A forgotten anniversary

The anniversary date of April 9, 2008, has been forgotten by the Star Tribune. That was the date when the Star Tribunereported what it considered to be the most significant exposure of police corruption in the history of law enforcement in the state of Minnesota.

It reported that Officer Roberts and Lt. Lee Edwards were removed from duty immediately, suspended with pay, reflecting just the tip of the iceberg of Black police corruption that had been in play for nearly 20 years. The report was made possible by information supplied by Vallachi, the legendary police informant, who was supposed to have exposed and broken the back of Black police corruption inside the MPD.

The only problem: It was false.

The pattern of corruption and cover-up in Minneapolis, in both city hall and the MPD, dropped out of the paper when it became clear the corruption was of White officers. We watched with interest this year as April 8, 9 and 10 passed without any reference to Officer Roberts or Lt. Lee Edwards (whose career was shattered), nor of the many fine Black police officers whose reputations and careers were put on the chopping block.

My oh my, when the corruption is White how soon the Star Tribune forgets. What a web of deceit it and the City weave together.

Posted April 15, 2009, 3:25 a.m.
Originally posted at Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder on 4/15/2009

April 8, 2009 Column #14: Dominic, Fong and Quincy: the death of three men of color at the hands of the MPD

"Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues"
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

Many have forgotten Dominic Felder and, until last week, Fong Lee, although the recent death of Quincy Smith is still fresh in our minds. We have written of these men of color in this column. All three share a tragic thread forever weaving them together in our minds: All three were killed by White police officers in this city, on city streets, each under questionable circumstances and each with a total whitewash by the major Minneapolis newspaper, theStar Tribune.

The quest for justice is often slow and painful. A select group of White Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) officers were present at the killing of these three persons of color — one Asian, two African Americans. Their final thoughts had to be questions of how theirs lives could be ended by those sworn to protect and serve.

Yes, we want the police to protect us from gangbangers. But being a person of color doesn't make you a gangbanger.

TheSt. Paul Pioneer Press has been weeks ahead of theStar Tribune in reporting graphic and gripping descriptions of the death of Fong Lee, as it did in its analysis and review of the deaths of Dominic Felder and Quincy Smith.

The cover-up in all three cases began at the moment of their deaths, as police reported nonexistent weapons at the shooting scenes.

Unarmed Dominic Felter was shot at least eight times. Fong Lee was shot nine times, three that felled him as he was running away and five as he lay on the ground. Quincy Smith, held to the ground by four officers, was tasered at least seven times, causing his heart to explode along with other internal injuries.

These incidents reflect the tragic relations between persons of color and the MPD. For five years, the Police Community Relations Council (PCRC) attempted to work with the City and the MPD to correct the atmosphere of racism, disrespect and racial animus. These still exist.

Hatred and distain for people of color still exist and are so perverse, so deeply rooted and so politically charged, that one fears for the lives of one's children and grandchildren. Dominic Felder, Quincy Smith and Fong Lee were essentially victims of what some observers consider murder at the hand of those who have sworn to protect and serve.

It is time to unwrap the idea of federal receivership of the MPD.

There is a lot of anger and frustration in the city's many communities of color. Why does theStar Tribune refuse to cover the news of these communities? It took this column six days in 2006 to report what happened to Fong Lee. It took theStar Tribunethree years.

I am asked by readers of what we have reported weekly if there will be a resurrection of the KKK in America? That question raises another: When will there be accountability for the deaths of persons of color at the hands of the MPD?

The fire department was once placed under receivership. The MPD promised it would change and make receivership unnecessary. That they did not change is what drives the belief today that the Department of Justice needs to place the MPD in federal receivership.

What better time than now? It is obvious that our local Democrats don't walk the same path nor have the same commitment to racial justice as does the current President of the United States.

We must not be fooled by faux liberals who pretend to care, pretend to have compassion, and pretend to have concern for the sons and daughters of Africa, or for the true natives of this continent, or for the people of color from Asia and Latin America.

Dominic, Quincy and Fong cause us to reflect on how the Democrats of Minneapolis betray the legacy set down by Cecil Newman, Nellie Stone Johnson and Hubert Humphrey, who would rally us to fight what is occurring in their beloved Minneapolis. It is up to the citizens in the November elections to deliver change. Change should begin now with the federal receivership of the MPD.

Fourth Precinct property room

Based on these stories, the property room at the Fourth Precinct is serving as a supply depot for the forces of racism and nullification that walk the city with impunity, destroying families of color under the cover of law. In the spirit of Thurgood Marshall: If there is no respect for the law, then there is no respect for democracy, which is followed by the gathering storm clouds assaulting constitutional guarantees.

See Also:

Posted Thursday, April 9, 2009, 6:02 a.m.
Originally posted at Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder on 4/7/2009

April 1, 2009 Column #13: Race card in the Fourth Ward

"Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues"
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

Why 21st century in Washington and 19th century in Minneapolis?

On Saturday morning, the 21st of March, at 10 am, we had a "blast from the past," and it wasn't a song. It was the plantation behavior of White DFLers against Blacks at the Fourth Ward Endorsement Convention. It appears that Council President Barb Johnson's family believes the Fourth Ward plantation is theirs, and that Mayor R.T. Rybak agrees.

The shoe-in endorsement coronation Council President Barb Johnson feels entitled to was met with new political forces in the Fourth Ward, democracy and voters for Troy Parker. It took 10 ballots, the mayor roaming the floor with his muscular entourage and other six-foot muscle men to provide the intimidation and physical threats Barb used to defeat Troy.

At one point during the 10-ballot marathon, according to the Star Tribune, Mr. Parker hit 42.4 percent, staving off Johnson for hours until 3:15 pm when Barb was given the endorsement. How? By making old-fashioned Democratic Party racism and bias the order of the day.

Deep racial wounds were opened as African Americans were insulted, intimidated, and treated to Chicago Mayor Daley-style "persuasion," some by a former city official (himself discredited because of his conduct and sexual misdeeds). They even insulted and threatened a 90-year-old African American woman delegate supporting Mr. Parker. Other Black delegates saw their credentials challenged and were not allowed to participate.

Johnson supporters accused Minnesota ACORN of providing false information on housing and foreclosure issues in the Northside community. Incumbent Johnson, according to the Strib, was allowed to respond to these allegations. The rules then allowed for Mr. Parker to respond. They would not let him. How else were they to beat back those 10 ballots?

Only after they had beaten him back was he allowed to speak, as he laid out how Barb's comments were misrepresenting the facts in matters of both foreclosures and her statements that she had never taken contributions directly from any banks.

Most disturbing was the atmosphere of intimidation, as if the Democrats were again feeling they had to beat back the Fanny Lou Hamers of our day to win.

These are dangerous tactics that could reap perilous circumstances for our city, particularly North Minneapolis. There are already far too many reports of misconduct by Minneapolis police officers against the African American community, and now we hear rumors that police will be used as a political catalyst for Barb Johnson's Fourth Ward victory.

In light of this Fourth Ward endorsement convention, and in light of the political obstructionist role of the Minneapolis police department in the electoral process, it is becoming clearer and clearer that the Department of Justice needs to send federal monitors to Minneapolis in the coming months.

The conduct inside the Fourth Ward convention was mindful of the outrages conducted by Democrats against Black Democrats who were delegates of the Democratic Party of Mississippi in 1964 and 1968.

One would have thought and hoped that today's political parties, especially the Democratic party, would have learned from those disasters what nullification and racism bring. We have written before in this column of our awareness that the Minneapolis Democratic Party political machine is not willing to change.

Even though they rode the President Barack Obama's coattails, and eagerly await a chance to dine off of the financial stimulus the president is making available, they are turncoats as they don't respect a single word or sentence that he has spoken in regards to his opposition to this kind of tragic, outrageous endorsement convention behavior. Thus, March 21 will long be a day that will live in infamy. To prevent its spread, we need the presence of the Department of Justice as quickly as possible.

The passing of a great American

With the passing, at age 94, of Dr. John Hope Franklin, America has lost a great American historian and intellect. Dr. Franklin was an American success story, a man who counseled presidents, was a protégé of the legendary Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and was one of the great strategists of the Civil Rights Movement as far back as the 1940s.

His vision, his understanding of the American scene and America and his thinking in the area of race relations was unprecedented, something sorely needed in the Fourth Ward. I urge younger readers to Google him. He should be a part of your collective memory.

Our country, our society, our people have lost a legend, an icon, a visionary. May he rest in peace and may God bless America.

Posted April 2, 2009, 6:50 a.m.
Originally posted at Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder on 3/31/2009

Ron hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm. Formerly head of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission and the Urban League, he continues his “watchdog” role for Minneapolis.

Order his book at Hear his voice, read his solution papers, and read his between columns “web log” at

Permission is granted to reproduce The Minneapolis Story columns, blog entries and solution papers. Please cite the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder and for the columns. Please cite for blog entries and solution papers.

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