Ways to engage in dismantling the Minneapolis Police Department

City charter amendment would replace it with a Department of Public Safety and Violence Prevention

Black Visions and Reclaim the Block have led efforts to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department and replace it with community-based public safety measures. Here’s what their organizers say you need to know about next steps and how to stay engaged. Continue reading

State Legislature has passed laws to undermine the MPCA’s ability to enforce water and wild rice protections

Part III of a series exploring how the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has failed for decades to enforce water quality standards against U.S. Steel and its Minntac mine in northern Minnesota.

Minntac viewed from Mountain Iron

Making laws can be messy. We want to believe that the end result is democratic and fair.

In reality, we know that some groups have stronger political connections and more money, and that can influence outcomes. We need to know that we have strong political institutions that can provide balance, making sure sound science is followed, that Native Nations and other communities with less power get heard, and the public interest is best served.

The state of Minnesota in general – and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) in particular – have failed to strike that balance when it comes to regulating U.S. Steel’s Minntac taconite mine, and other mining operations, and the water pollution they generate.

The MPCA has much to answer for regarding its ineffectiveness in regulating Minntac’s mine wastewater, but it’s also important to acknowledge that the legislature and pro-mining lobbying interests have undermined the agency’s ability to take a tough stand in recent years. Continue reading

The MPCA’s stunning ineffectiveness in protecting state waters from mining interests: A timeline of inaction

Part II of a series exploring how the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has failed for decades to enforce water quality standards against U.S. Steel and its Minntac mine in northern Minnesota.

Looking north from Mt. Iron at Minntac.

Water is central to Minnesota’s identity – the Land of 10,000 Lakes. We pride ourselves in clean water and a clean environment, and preserving it for future generations.

We want to believe that rules and laws apply equally. Just because someone has more money or more political clout doesn’t mean the rules don’t apply to them.

Yet for decades, U.S. Steel’s Minntac mining operation has violated state water quality rules, notably the “Wild Rice Rule” that limits sulfate pollution to protect wild rice. When wild rice dies, the harm falls hardest on the Ojibwe people for whom it’s a sacred food.

Sandy and Little Sandy lakes, just downstream from Minntac, once had 200 acres of wild rice which are now gone.

It’s the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA’s) job to “to protect and improve the environment and human health.” Yet taking the Minntac taconite mine as a case study, the agency has failed to do its job. Continue reading

Minnesota’s lead environmental protection agency has failed to protect our water and wild rice: A Minntac Case Study

A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision could require the MPCA to enforce tougher water quality standards on pollution discharged from U.S. Steel’s Minntac mine

Part I in a series which explores how the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has failed for decades to enforce water quality standards against U.S. Steel and its Minntac mine in northern Minnesota.

Wild rice is a sacred food to the Ojibwe and Dakota peoples, holding spiritual and cultural value. For some Anishinaabe in northern Minnesota, it’s also source of income. It’s Minnesota’s state grain and important to the state’s identity.

It’s also very sensitive to water pollution, notably sulfates.

Minnesotans care about clean water. In 1967, the Minnesota Legislature created the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), giving it a “unique challenge and a demanding responsibility: to protect the air, waters and land of our great state.”

In 1973, Minnesota created a rule limiting sulfate pollution in wild rice waters, known as the Wild Rice Rule. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the rule under the federal Clean Water Act.

The problem is, the MPCA has rarely enforced the Wild Rice Rule. The agency first applied it in 1975, regarding wastewater discharge from Minnesota Power’s Clay Boswell coal-fired power plant, court records say. The agency didn’t apply the rule again until 2010, 35 years later. Continue reading

Support: Rebuilding MIGIZI, Native Lives Matter Youth Alliance, and more

In this blog:

  • Help MIGIZI rebuild after fire
  • Native Lives Matter Youth Alliance holding march Saturday against police brutality
  • Support clean drinking water for Fond du Lac (a must read)
  • Lower Phalen Creek Project asks for help to get Wakan Tipi Center into special session bonding bill

Continue reading

Religious institutions speak out on George Floyd’s murder, repent for past complicity, call for change

Police protect the Third Precinct. (file)

The President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said most police officers “carry out their duties with honor”

In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the anger over long-standing problems with police brutality has boiled over to the streets. It’s put the question of the police’s role in society squarely on the front burner. Some are pushing to abolish the police altogether.

In this deeply moral moment, religious communities are weighing in, issuing statements on Floyd’s murder.

Faith communities have played an important role in civil rights movements. Their voices could be powerful in pushing for greater police accountability. This blog will follow how they engage in this important work in the coming months.

What follows is a summary of some of the initial statements on Floyd’s murder, including links and short excerpts. For those of you who are part of one of these faith communities, this is an opportunity to push them to follow through on their commitments and then some.

This list is based on an Internet search and may not be complete. Please post links to statements we missed in the comment section below.

Continue reading

News Wrap: Updates on local, national police reform proposals; why this all started in Minneapolis, and more

In this blog:

  • Communities United Against Police Brutality issue report on ending police violence
  • Nationwide tracking of public officials, governments, in support for divesting from police to invest in community needs
  • CityLab: Why Minneapolis was the city that triggered a national uprising
  • NYT essay: Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written. Black Americans have fought to make them true.
  • Friends offering online screening of “Suppressed: The Right to Vote” in honor of Juneteenth

Continue reading

Police reform, police abolition, and barriers to police accountability: An overview

There’s an ongoing gathering at the flower-strewn site where George Floyd was killed.

A veto-proof majority of the Minneapolis City Council has committed to dismantle and defund the Minneapolis Police Department, according to stories in MPR, the Star Tribune, CNN and other news outlets.

In New York City, Mayor Bill DeBlasio is proposing to shift some police funding to social services, with the idea that such funding will do more to promote public safety than funding the tradition police force. Congressional Democrats have proposed the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 which “would ban chokeholds, establish a national database to track police misconduct and prohibit certain no-knock warrants, among other initiatives,” the Washington Post reports.

Continue reading

Minneapolis police union losing public support, MN unions press police union president to resign

The Minneapolis Police Department has become a toxic brand, and rightfully so.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, the Minneapolis Public Schools, the University of Minnesota, the Walker Art Center and other organizations have cut ties with the Minneapolis Police Department following George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. (Floyd had allegedly tried to pass a fake $20 bill, a nonviolent crime.)

Key unions around the state are calling on Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Police Officers Association of Minneapolis, to resign over his handling of Floyd’s murder, his history of inflammatory statements, and his antagonism towards communities of color. Continue reading

Statements on George Floyd’s murder from Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors, Indigenous Environmental Network

The Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors (MUID) and the Indigenous Environmental Network have both issued statements on the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police, identifying the roots of the problem and ways to get involved.

In a related matter, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz today announced an investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department, focusing on discriminatory practices against people of color. Continue reading