Standing up for ourselves

Taking back our communities requires grassroots action from the multitudes.

On Friday, two people were murdered in cold blood at a north Minneapolis steak house. The seemingly random nature of the murders is particularly disturbing. One moment, a restaurant is full of patrons eating fries and ketchup. The next, the tables are saturated with blood and brain matter.

In response, the Star Tribune called for a police crackdown. While funding cuts and the subsequent lack of police forces certainly are immediate concerns, more needs to be done. The Star Tribune’s, like many other calls for “more police,” is dangerously shortsighted and disempowering of residents. The most important aspect is the power of the community. Communities need to organize.

Residents can no longer expect their elected representatives to take care of them. It is becoming more obvious that elected officials are too beholden to the people that fund their campaigns, too tied up in the bureaucratic spider webs and have tunnel vision for the encompassing nature of their jobs.

In reality, a government, run by Republicans or Democrats, doesn’t give a damn about the safety of a neighborhood in Minneapolis. The sloth of bureaucracy stunts change and kills the momentum of action.

Now investigators are calling for witnesses of Friday’s murders. They will be lucky if they get many. The trust in the police force is nearly nonexistent in some neighborhoods. Where were the police and where was the government before the shootings? I doubt that the bureaucracy of politicians and figureheads will do anything more than put up a memorial. Even then, that will take five years.

So what needs to be done? Residents must abandon the notion that the government will protect them and that it will really listen to them. Residents must organize. People need to talk to each other again. Ask their neighbors how they feel about the situation. They all have a common interest in their safety.

We live in a democracy. Democracy doesn’t mean politicians. The word is derived from two ancient Greek words: “demos,” meaning the people, and “kratos,” meaning strength. Take a trip to Oak Street Cinema and watch “On the Waterfront” this week. Read Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals,” the quintessential guide to community organizing.

The apathetic residents will respond to my call for organization with fear. Gangs have guns. Drugs and violence rule. But I believe, maybe naively, that people have strength of numbers. How many drug pushers would deal in neighborhoods on the watch for them and willing to stand against them. Gangs live and prosper off fear. Drug deals are seen as something normal, almost accepted. Gangs will retaliate, yes, but they can’t silence everybody. The police aren’t going to stop them. So communities face violence while being apathetic or violence while fighting back. The time for action is now. Get organized.

Karl Noyes is the senior editorial board member. He welcomes comments at [email protected]