Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and “American Indian leaders” met yesterday with denizens of the open air drug den cum encampment on Hiawatha Avenue at Cedar just outside downtown Minneapolis. The Star Tribune reports that the meeting was “hastily called in response to complaints of harassment and intimidation of humanitarian aid workers at the large homeless camp in south Minneapolis.” Also in attendance was the harassment/intimidation crew from Natives Against Heroin.
We’ve got trouble right here in river city. The trouble is attributable in part to idiotic municipal authorities and to the culture of lawlessness they have abetted.
In this installment of the saga, we have the mayor begging for good behavior. We have Indian leaders from four reservations sitting at a large round table “with the smell of burnt sage” in the air. At least we think it was sage.
Convicted drug dealer/burglar/thief and American Indian Movement cofounder Clyde Bellecourt was in attendance. The Star Tribune reports that he “shared decades of experience advocating for American Indian rights.” The Star Tribune omits any mention of Bellecourt’s criminal history or his possible role in the murder of American Indian Movement member Anna Mae Aquash in 1975. See Mike Mosedale’s City Pages story “Bury My Heart” (more here).
The meeting did not go down as the mayor must have hoped. The Star Tribune has done its best to put a smily face on the drug den ever since it initiated coverage of the encampment, yet it gives up here: “Discord permeated the gathering and emotions ran high, despite a few positive moments.”
Despite the burning of sage to dispel the negativity. And despite the group of women who “raised their voices in prayer to calm the room” whenever discussions became too “combative,” as the Star Tribune puts it.
The Star Tribune story concludes on a philosophical note:
A point of contention was whether Indians who are homeless should receive priority, being allowed to move into the large heated tents and receive other services before non-Indians.
Some argued that the ethnicity of those getting help wasn’t important.
Others, like White Earth Nation member Dawn LaRoque, said she hoped Indians would receive aid first. LaRoque also brought up safety at the navigation center, including whether people will still be able to use drugs there.
Frey said residents wouldn’t be tested for drugs upon admittance, but that they couldn’t do drugs on site.
A new idea emerged from discussions: creating a space where people could share disagreements in front of a neutral third party. Frey said it was an excellent idea.
Sam Strong, tribal secretary of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa, said the camp had already spurred change simply by forcing officials to address homelessness head-on.
“There’s hope in that facility that we have over there,” Strong said. “When has anybody ever done anything for homeless people?”
In this installment of the saga we have elements of comedy begging for satire. Sam Strong’s concluding question awaits its Monty Python moment.