Reclaiming Our Way promoting the well-being of African American children & families


Being Black in America: Policing and African American Communities in Minneapolis, Minnesota

MN - Picking Up the Pieces Graphic 2

A new ACLU report details the racialized policing practices of and experiences in Minneapolis, MN. The new report, Picking Up the Pieces, provides an in-depth analysis of the data and the lived experience of racially targeted policing practices in one of this nation's larger metropolitan areas.

The data is summarized in the following graphics, although the full report is very much worth reading in its entirety.  A companion video appears further below.

MN - Picking Up the Pieces Graphic 1


MN - Picking Up the Pieces Graphic 3

Below is the 7 minute companion video for the just-released ACLU report and case study on policing in Minneapolis, MN... Picking Up the Pieces - Policing in America: A Minneapolis Case Study.

Published by the ACLU on May 27, 2015.  For more information, go to:

When Officer Rod Webber quickly approached the car that Hamza Jeylani was sitting in, the 17-year-old hit record on his cell phone. Moments earlier, Jeylani and three friends were pulled over by the officer after making a U-turn in a church parking lot in South Minneapolis after playing basketball at the local YMCA. After Jeylani and two friends were ordered out of the car, Webber threatened Jeylani as he handcuffed him.

“Plain and simple, if you fuck with me,” says Webber on the video, “I’m going to break your leg before you get the chance to run.” “Can you tell me why I’m getting arrested?” asks Jeylani. “Because I feel like arresting you,” replies Webber.

According to police, the rationale for the March 18, 2015, arrest was suspicion that the four young Black teenagers had stolen the car. But Jeylani rejects this. “The driver had license and insurance, and that was his car.” Complicating matters more, police said the stolen car they were after was a blue Honda Civic. The teenagers, however, were driving a blue Toyota Camry. But Jeylani believes he knows the real reason for his arrest. He and his friends, all four of whom are of Somali descent, were driving while Black. “I felt like that was a racial profile,” he says.

The feeling that the Minneapolis Police Department treats people of color, particularly Black and Native American residents, differently than white Minneapolitans isn’t confined to Jeylani and his friends. It’s pervasive, and now it is documented. In late 2014, the ACLU obtained arrest data from the Minneapolis Police Department for low-level offenses, such as spitting, loitering, or driving without insurance, from January 1, 2012, to September 30, 2014.

The numbers show a startling disparity in the way police enforce low-level crimes, particularly in the low-income and minority communities of North Minneapolis and South Minneapolis. Black people in the city are 8.7 times more likely than White people to be arrested for low-level offenses, and Native Americans have it little better. They are 8.6 times more likely to be arrested for low-level offenses than White people.

"We've become the new South,” warns Anthony Newby. “We've become the new premiere example of how to systematically oppress people of color. And again, it's done through our legal system, and so low-level offenses, as an example, are just one of the many, many ways that Minnesota has perfected the art of suppressing and subjugating people of color."

“Picking Up the Pieces — Policing in America, a Minneapolis Case Study” digs into the data the ACLU received from the police department and explores the who, what, when, where, why, and how of low-level arrests occurring in a city known for its affluence and liberal politics over 33 months. The report also recommends reforms to begin the process of improving police-community relations and ensure that all Minneapolitans are policed fairly.

Filmed by Maisie Crow and Molly Kaplan.


Dear White People: Mayor Betsy Hodges is Not in a Gang

I encourage folks to check out a piece by Nekima Levy-Pounds about the really nasty and racially charged media firestorm unfolding as we speak in Minnesota. The twitter world is making a mockery of the episode under the hashtag #pointergate. Unfortunately, it's a real life injustice that once again plays on stereotypes of Black males as violent, criminal, delinquent and to be feared.

This episode is centered around a photo taken of Minneapolis Mayor Betty Hodges posing with a young brother doing community organizing and voter outreach work with Neighborhoods Organizing for Change.

A few excerpts are shared below. You can also visit the Minneapolis Star Tribune for additional context.

I wish I could say this headline is a joke, but sadly in the wake of an appalling news story by KSTP 5 last night, it is anything but funny. The news segment, entitled, “Minneapolis Mayor Flashes Gang Sign,” showed a photo of Mayor Hodges and a young black man supposedly throwing up a gang sign. In actuality, she and the young man were just pointing at each other. My eyes could not believe what I was seeing, but not for the reasons one may think. I could not believe that any credible news station in the Twin Cities would produce a segment like the one in question and attempt to pass it off as legitimate news. After the story aired, many in our community took to social media, with the hashtag #pointergate to express their outrage.

Don't Believe the Hype

After processing the contents of the story, I thought about the tens of thousands of white Minnesotans who tuned into the news and were served a steady diet of racial stereotypes, innuendoes, and a false narrative about the Mayor and the young African American man standing beside her in the photo. For white Minnesotans who do not personally know any young African American men, it is all too easy to take the media’s word as absolute truth and embrace the negative racial stereotypes that are being perpetuated about the young man in the photo.

I had the privilege of meeting the young man in the photo several months ago at a community meeting. I learned that he has worked hard to reintegrate back into the community by being employed as a canvasser at Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC) for the past two years. This young man personally knocked on thousands of doors during the election season to help get out the vote and educate community residents about the impacts of felon disenfranchisement in Minnesota.

As a young black man with a criminal history, he has experienced numerous challenges in attempting to successfully reintegrate back into society. Many of those challenges have occurred in his interactions with law enforcement in Minneapolis. He has been handcuffed and detained for things like spitting on the sidewalk and even arrested at a Cub Foods store on the Northside for registering people to vote.  Last weekend, this same young man was part of a larger effort to engage in door knocking with members of NOC, the Mayor, and Chief Harteau. The photo in question was taken briefly during that effort.

It's worth reading the rest of the piece. This dynamic of stereotypes in media representations of Black males appears to be worsening, although it's always been a constant. And the active involvement by law enforcement in this fiasco is also unacceptable, although not a new phenomenon in what appears to be an intensifying formation of a more obvious police state.