Minneapolis, MN – Residents of Powderhorn Park have found it difficult to keep their pledge not to call the police about crimes after an encampment of more than 300 homeless people developed in their neighborhood park.
Residents of the area, which has long been known as a haven for leftist activists and bohemian artist types, vowed to avoid calling law enforcement into their community after 46-year-old George Floyd died while he was being arrested by the Minneapolis police on May 25, The New York Times reported.
Homeowner Shari Albers said that calling the police would add to the pain their black neighbors were already feeling, and they worried that the presence of officers could put their African American friends in danger.
But that was before looters burned huge sections of Minneapolis during the riots that following Floyd’s death, The New York Times reported.
After that, hundreds of homeless that were displaced by the rioting decided to make Powderhorn Park their home, and set up tents and a community.
As a result, drug dealers have targeted the area and have been selling to the people living in the park, The New York Times reported.
Numerous members of the group suffer from mental illness or addiction, and already two people have overdosed and been taken from the park in ambulances.
Albers told The New York Times that she couldn’t sleep because she worried about people from the homeless encampment trying to force their way into her home.
She said she was shaken by the idea of not calling the police and planned to defend herself with a baseball bat.
“I am afraid,” Albers said. “I know my neighbors are around, but I’m not feeling grounded in my city at all. Anything could happen.”
Albers worked hard to improve the Powderhorn Park community when she first moved into it 30 years ago, but told The New York Times that now she’s worried her efforts to revitalize the neighborhood resulted in the gentrification that pushed black residents out of the neighborhood.
Her 34-year-old daughter, Tobie Miller, who lives just a block away in the same neighborhood said she has been taking classes on racial bias to challenge her own privilege and said she doesn’t blame the people who have occupied the park.
“My feeling around it is those are symptoms of systemic oppression,” Miller said. “And that’s not on them.”
But despite the guilt the homeowners and residents of the area may be feeling, they’ve discovered there are practical problems created by taking law enforcement out of the picture, The New York Times reported.
When one neighbor found a man wearing a hospital bracelet unconscious in the elevator of his building, he called 911 – but asked the dispatcher not to send the police, just an ambulance.
Much to the dismay of Joseph Menkevich, a white police officer responded to the call, The New York Times reported.
“It didn’t resolve in a way that I had hoped,” Menkevich said. “All they did was offer to bring him back to the hospital. He refused, so they kicked him out on a rainy night.”
Another resident of the neighborhood called 911 after he was mugged by armed teenage boys who demanded his car keys, The New York Times reported.
Mitchell Erickson said the two black teenagers cornered him and demanded his car keys about a block from Powderhorn Park.
Erickson told police that one of the boys pointed a gun at his chest, The New York Times reported.
He said that he was flustered and gave the boys his house keys instead of his car keys by accident, and the teenagers quickly got frustrated and stole a different car farther down the block.
But Erickson told The New York Times he regretted having called the police for help after the boys pulled the gun on him.
He said he would refuse to cooperate with prosecutors on the case because he realized afterwards that he what he wanted to do was offer the armed robbers help.
“Been thinking more about it,” he told The New York Times in a text message a couple days later. “I regret calling the police. It was my instinct but I wish it hadn’t been. I put those boys in danger of death by calling the cops.”
Residents of the area have been feeding the homeless in the park, and have donated tents and other supplies, but said they wanted the city to do something to find permanent house for their new neighbors, KARE reported.
While neighbors appeared cautious not to express distaste for the giant homeless encampment in the center of their enclave, some admitted to being far less comfortable.
Carrie Nightshade, 44, said she won’t let her nine and 12-year-old children play by themselves in the park anymore, The New York Times reported.
“I’m not being judgmental,” Nightshade said. “It’s not personal. It’s just not safe.”
Neighbor Linnea Borden said she had to stop walking her dog in the park because she was uncomfortable with the catcalls, The New York Times reported.
Angelina Roslik recently relocated to the neighborhood after fleeing unstable housing conditions for several years.
Roslik cried and said she was seriously struggling with the chaos caused by the homeless encampment, The New York Times reported.
But the neighbors remained committed to their promise not to turn to law enforcement and said they would continue to ignore it when their homes were vandalized by the people squatting in the park.
They told The New York Times they had decided they will instead call the American Indian Movement, which has been policing its own communities for years, for help if they saw anyone in physical danger.