Political Matters – September 2020

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By Mordecai Specktor

Minneapolis erupts, again
On Aug. 26, rumors started flying around about the cops shooting a Black man on the Nicollet Mall. In reality, a homicide suspect used his gun on himself, committed suicide, as the police closed in around 6 p.m. on a Wednesday. A crowd gathered and tensions flared –angry outbursts were met with police blasts of pepper spray and the situation escalated. Store windows were shattered and shops were looted.

In contrast to the widespread property destruction and arson along East Lake Street for several nights, after the May 25 police killing of George Floyd, Minneapolis cops, along with a contingent of State Patrol troopers and, later, National Guard units with military vehicles, shut down the crime spree. However, shops were still being plundered on the Mall and in areas near downtown into the evening hours.

I live in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood, about 10 blocks from where George Floyd died. The city obviously is still unsettled by the events in late May, and an uptick in shootings and property crimes. We’re also in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economy has collapsed.

The police shooting of Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wisc., in late August, also added to the trauma people are dealing with. The shooting of Blake, seven bullets in the back, was followed by protests and property destruction in Kenosha. And then Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, crossed over from Illinois with an AR-15 rifle and shot three people, two fatally. Rittenhouse is a supporter of “Blue Lives Matter,” the right-wing, pro-cop movement, and of Donald Trump, according to CNN.

There’s been a lot of chatter in the press and on social media about how the civil unrest is playing into the hands of the Republicans. Trump sounded a number of Nixonian themes during his RNC acceptance speech. Like Nixon in 1968, Trump droned on about “law and order” – and Minneapolis was mentioned at least twice. A while back, Trump tweeted that if the Democrats win in November, the “whole country will be Minneapolis.” It’s weird living in a city that has become the epicenter of the global movement for racial justice; but that’s the strange reality in 2020.

Speaking of reality, the GOP virtual convention was a mixture of fantasy, lies and bullshit. The political class generally is comfortable with skittering about in an area adjacent to reality, as social problems fester and then erupt in violence.

In 1966, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., in an interview with Mike Wallace on “60 Minutes,” commented that “a riot is the language of the unheard.” And King, the apostle of nonviolent resistance, continued: “And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the economic plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years.”

More than 50 years on, we’re dealing again with the consequences of protests against injustice and economic inequity that have not been heard.

Elections are one tool for change, and most of us hope that the malign narcissist in the Oval Office is sent packing in 2021. Whatever problems we may have with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, it’s imperative that the incompetent and corrupt Trump administration is soundly defeated at the polls in November.

Trump is blatantly engaging in voter suppression – trying to wreck the U.S. Postal Service to preclude vote-by-mail during a pandemic – and has stated that his possible loss in the presidential election will be a result of fraud.

In any case, there’s a binary choice: Biden-Harris or the forces that are destroying democracy and promoting authoritarian rule.

Forcia, Tilsen face charges
In August, local AIM activist Mike Forcia, a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, was charged with criminal damage to property stemming from his role in the June 10 toppling of the Christopher Columbus statue on the grounds of the Minnesota Capitol. He should get a letter of commendation from Gov. Tim Walz; but Forcia is now being prosecuted in Ramsey County District Court.

And Nick Tilsen (Oglala Lakota), president and CEO of the NDN Collective, an activist, community development group based in Rapid City, So. Dak., has been charged with a felony for leading a protest against Trump’s appearance at Mount Rushmore on July 3.
“We’re going to trial, we’re not taking any plea deals, these charges are all unfounded,” Tilsen said after his preliminary hearing at the Pennington County Court in August.
We should support these Native warriors in their legal battles. Public pressure is important in political cases like these.