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Commentary By Heather Mac Donald

A Year after George Floyd’s Murder, It’s ‘Open Season’ in Minneapolis

Public Safety Policing, Crime Control

Homicides have more than doubled in a year. Three children have been shot in the past month.

Al Sharpton and civil-rights attorney Benjamin Crump led a march in downtown Minneapolis Sunday in advance of the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death on May 25. Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of Floyd’s murder last month.

Messrs. Sharpton and Crump didn’t visit North Memorial Health Hospital, where two recent victims of a yearlong explosion of violence in Minneapolis are on life support. On April 30 Ladavionne Garrett Jr. , 10, was riding in a car with his parents when a gunman opened fire. A bullet pierced Ladavionne’s head; doctors put him in a medically induced coma and removed part of his skull to relieve swelling on the brain. On May 15, 9-year-old Trinity Ottoson-Smith was jumping on a trampoline at a friend’s house when bullets fired from a passing car struck her in the head. She is also in critical condition at North Memorial, in the room next to Ladavionne’s.

Nineteen children in Minneapolis have been shot this year, an increase of 171% over the same period in 2020. Their relatives wonder where the protesters are. “Why ain’t nobody mad about a 10-year-old, my grandson, fighting for his life?” asked Sharrie Jennings, Ladavionne’s grandmother, at a May 17 mayoral event. “Because a cop didn’t shoot him, is that why?” Ms. Jennings warned of “a deadly summer” for kids if the mayor and police chief don’t “step up.” Later that day, Aniya Allen, 6, was caught in a shootout between rival gangs while in her mother’s car. Aniya died on May 19.

Minneapolis homicides between Jan. 1 and last week were up 108% compared with the same period in 2020; shootings were up 153%, and carjackings 222%. The crime increase began after Floyd’s death and has never let up. Nor has the assault on law enforcement that began with the arson destruction of the Third Precinct building on May 28, 2020. Officers are routinely punched, kicked and hit with projectiles. There was a near-riot in downtown Minneapolis in the early hours of May 22 following a shootout among club patrons. Two people were killed in that shootout and eight wounded. Responding officers called for backup across the Twin Cities at what the department called an “exceptionally chaotic scene.” The previous weekend, officers were maced, and pelted with rocks and debris while trying to disperse disorderly crowds. 

After Floyd’s death, the Minneapolis City Council called for abolishing the police department and replacing it with a “new transformative model for cultivating safety.” Abolition didn’t happen, but “some folks” in the community got the message anyway that “they have a sort of open season on their enemies,” said Alicia Smith, the executive director of the Corcoran Neighborhood Organization.

Attrition is accomplishing the same goal as defunding. At least 200 officers have resigned or gone on leave since May 2020, leaving the Minneapolis Police Department understaffed by nearly a third. Officers’ “morale and mission” were destroyed by the failure to defend the Third Precinct and to prevent the torching and looting of businesses during the May 2020 riots, newly retired lieutenant Kim Voss wrote in a February 2021 op-ed

The area around what is now called George Floyd Square is still burned-out and desolate, isolated within a civilian-enforced police-free zone. “I am afraid. I am frustrated. I am mentally ill right now,” a local barbecue shop owner told the Star Tribune in March. City Council member Alondra Cano told the paper she hears from senior citizens who sleep in the bathtub to avoid being shot at night and whose bus routes for picking up medications and groceries have been disrupted by the autonomous zone. The Floyd family has pledged $500,000 of its $27 million wrongful-death settlement from the city to black business owners at George Floyd Square. That won’t compensate the barbecue-shop owner and his neighbors if diners and shoppers still have to dodge bullets and employees are still getting carjacked. 

As lawless as Minneapolis has become, it is hardly atypical. Drive-by shootings and homicides jumped nationwide during and after the Floyd riots. Homicides rose 50% in Chicago in 2020, 46% in New York City, and 38% in Los Angeles. The U.S. saw the largest annual percentage increase in homicides in recorded history in 2020. That increase has continued in 2021. The number of shooting victims in Chicago was up 43% in the first three months of 2021 compared with the same period in 2020. Through May 16, the number of shooting victims in New York City is up 78.6% over a year ago. In the Bronx, the number is up 165.7%.

The media and Democratic politicians attribute the crime increase to the pandemic and attendant shutdowns. But the violence surge of 2020 began only after the George Floyd riots, more than two months after Covid-19 devastated the economy. No industrialized country saw anything comparable; crime dropped in the U.K. and Canada, where lockdowns were more severe than in the U.S. 

Of the at least 100 homicide victims in Minneapolis since May 25, 2020, only one was killed by a cop. The victim was a suspected gunrunner who had tried to run over officers before shooting at them through his car window, causing them to return fire. There is little evidence that the Minneapolis Police Department systemically violates blacks’ civil rights, but Attorney General Merrick Garland has opened a civil-rights investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department anyway. If history is any guide, the resulting consent decree will cause crime to increase in the city as officers back off further from proactive policing.

The victims of that additional crime increase will, as always, be disproportionately black. At least three-quarters of Minneapolis’s homicide and shooting victims are black, though the city is less than a fifth black. Messrs. Sharpton and Crump have no answers to that dilemma, so they ignore it. 

While police need to train relentlessly in de-escalation and sound tactics, they are not the problem in minority communities; criminals are. As long as the police are demonized and scapegoated, law-abiding residents of high-crime neighborhoods will continue to live in fear and wonder why no one protests when their loved ones are murdered by gangs with guns.

This piece originally appeared at the Wall Street Journal (paywall)


Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith fellow at the Manhattan Institute, contributing editor at City Journal, and the author of the bestselling War on Cops and The Diversity Delusion. Follow her on Twitter here.

This piece originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal