Defining Moments

Spike Moss’ rebuke of White news media illuminated the confluence of themes defining the relationships between the Black community and the White power structure. Spike Moss’ rebuke of White news media illuminated the confluence of themes defining the relationships between the Black community and the White power structure.

For Moss, however, the question was not about the myth of race. It wasn’t a question of Black versus White. It was a question of the responsibility of Black men and women, to lift and hug, to celebrate and care for Black children, and for each other. It was a question of inviting all members of the community, Black, White, Asian, Chicano-Latino, to work together, and to work with community agencies and the Minneapolis Police Department to show our common concerns for community safety.

For Moss, it was about challenging the sickness in our community that results in the almost routine loss of life, at our own people’s hands, and at the hand of law enforcement officials. It was about the right and responsibility of citizens, in their varied roles as residents and neighbors, church congregations, agency and business organizations, to mobilize in partnership with the police department to reduce fear and violence, and to make our neighborhoods wholesome, safe communities.

And consequently, according to Moss, the question is whether our community can exert the leadership to demand and get resources needed to work on seemingly intractable problems that render our neighborhoods ripe for super exploitation by drug dealers, gun runners, as well as by predatory business practices of companies who make profits from our community while refusing to reinvest through jobs for our people and business contracts with community owned businesses that employ our people and circulate money in our economy.

The 26th and Knox Avenue street violence two weeks ago followed the accidental shooting of an 11-year-old boy by police in North Minneapolis. A police raid against a suspected drug house resulted in officers shooting an unleashed pit bull, and the child being hit by a bullet fragment or concrete ricocheting from a bullet’s impact.

News of the child’s injury sparked street violence that resulted in injury to several news reporters, and damage to several news vehicles, and damage to some buildings. The tensions reflected escalation in hostility and mistrust between some police officers and some citizens following what was described as a shoot-out deaths of an officer and a citizen in South Minneapolis, and later, the North Minneapolis shooting of another citizen who officers said was carrying a handgun.

In the first incident, spokespersons for the Police Federation, a professional association for Minneapolis police officers, criticized Fifth Ward Council Member Natalie Johnson Lee for expressing sympathy for the family of the slain officer, as well as for the family of the civilian grandmother who also died. The Federation, angered that the council member said she mourned the loss of both lives, said Johnson Lee should resign from her seat on City Council. Johnson Lee also received what was described as “vicious” hate mail, including some e-mailed to her by some city and county employees, who used government computers to send terroristic threats to the lone African American on Minneapolis City Council.

The non-fatal shooting of the North Minneapolis child added to the already tense atmosphere. Several bystanders told Police Internal Affairs and Minneapolis Civilian Review Authority they heard an arresting police officer taunt bystanders with statements suggesting the North Minneapolis shooting evens the score with the Black community.

So, last Thursday morning, Moss and several members of the volunteer groups that had staged interventions…peace rallies and marches along 26th Street, placing themselves between hostile residents and tense officers, and placing themselves between fearful residents and petty gangsters, addressed the press at Cottage Park.

September 2, 2002
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