BY SUE KOLSTAD
On April 11, the first of a series of meetings was held, ostensibly to give community members the chance to decide on the location of a new 3rd Precinct building. This was to be the first of a series of “conversations” hurriedly called to push through a new building. There were a lot of comments and questions that the promoters of this project may not have expected. There were also many more people there than were expected, most of them angry. Several people wondered why the rush. Others wondered why the city is talking about a new building when there has been no work to fulfill the agreements in the consent decree with the state and we haven’t even seen the federal one yet. People wondered why the only sites offered were the former building and a site four blocks north, although one of the criteria for potential locations was for it to be centrally located within the 3rd Precinct geographic area. We were told that the city looked at 28 sites throughout the precinct and those two were the only ones that fit the criteria.
There was general agreement that the community was being herded into supporting something that is insupportable. The community asks for reconciliation and conversation about the history of the 3rd Precinct as well as the events of May/June 2020. A building is not the most important thing for the city to do. There are still questions that need to be addressed. Who told the cops to go up on that roof and shoot off the tear gas that filled the neighborhood for three blocks? Who told the fire department not to come out? Who ordered officers to destroy all documents in the precinct building? Why has the heat been kept on in the building? They could turn off the water. Is that fiscally responsible? People spoke of their experiences the night the building burned – the community was filled with tear gas, and the police fired on the protesters even though at that time they were peaceful. Neighbors spoke of how they stood their ground to protect their neighborhoods after the group changed and there was no police presence (although in retrospect no police was probably a good thing). We heard about children playing in their yards who suffered from the effects of the tear gas. We heard that the 3rd Precinct police have a disturbing history of abuse of citizens, especially those most vulnerable to their predations. The consensus relating to the location of the precinct building seemed to be “none of the above.” The mood of the crowd was that until there is a serious attempt at reconciliation, a building will not have the support of the community, at least in the area proposed.
A Hobson’s choice it isn’t. At least with that the customer wanted what was offered.
Another “community conversation” was held, this time at Midtown Global Market. The noise from the air circulation was so loud it was impossible to hear. After it was over someone revealed that there are conference rooms downstairs that are quiet and would have been large enough for the meeting. This time statements by the facilitator were greeted with shouts and when people commented there was much applause. This was another crowd who saw through the attempt of the city to push through its agenda without reforming the police first. The Director of Property Services said they looked at around 30 sites in the 3rd Precinct and the two proposed were the only ones that fit most of the requirements. It seems that the city is not willing to let us know what sites were looked at and were deemed not to fit the criteria. The only item these two proposed locations missed is that it should be centrally located (that would be closer to Hiawatha Golf Course). A person said this was clearly a list manufactured to make the two locations the only ones possible.
It seems that the people at this conversation felt that deciding the location of the building is premature. First figure out what the police will look like after the consent decrees are satisfied. Some people are in favor of smaller neighborhood-based sites.
The biggest excitement came when the head of homicide chose to speak. He was shouted down and decided it would be good to make a quick exit. As at the first meeting, the group was broken up into smaller groups to give more people a chance to speak.
A group is being organized to have serious discussions about police and the precinct location issues. Their first meeting was on April 22 at Walker Church. This group will consist of grassroots volunteers who plan to have monthly meetings for about a year.
A failure to communicate? – Southside Pride