Violence and Election Losses Over Defunding Police Draw New Attention to Minneapolis

Not so long ago when the national media stopped by to tell the outside world about the Twin Cities, they were drawn by attractions like the Mall of America, vibrant arts scene and Minnesota State Fair.

But since Minneapolis-St. Paul became infamous for the second worse riots in U.S. history, there’s a much different dynamic driving outside media attention from outlets like the Washington Post.

The sound of gunfire has become so familiar across North Minneapolis that Cathy Spann worries she has grown numb to it. Day and night the bullets zip through this predominantly Black neighborhood, hitting cars and homes and people. The scores of victims have included a 7-year-old boy, wounded in a drive-by shooting; a woman who took a bullet that came through her living room wall while she was watching television with her family; and a 7-year-old girl shot in the head and killed.

The dramatic surge in violence and exodus of police officers on the street left the Post reporter baffled as to who’s in charge here.

The police are not as much a presence as they used to be, Spann said, noting that sometimes when neighbors call 911, officers are delayed in responding or don’t come at all.

“If you want to talk about pandemics, we’re dealing with a pandemic of violence,” Spann said on a recent afternoon, just as word came of two more nearby shootings. “We’re under siege. You wake up and go to bed in fear, because you don’t know what’s going to happen next. . . . And our city has failed to protect us.”

Nearly six months after George Floyd’s death here sparked massive protests and left a wide swath of the city burned and destroyed, Minneapolis is grappling with dueling crises: an unprecedented wave of violence and droves of officer departures that the Minneapolis Police Department warns could soon leave the force unable to respond to emergencies.

Yet it’s not only the violent aftermath of the riots that’s focused national attention on Minneapolis. The media have also pounced on Minneapolis as the place where the defund the police movement got started, placing blame on the city for leading the charge in an anti-police narrative that played a big role in the Democrats’ disappointing election outcome on both the state and national level.

The Wall Street Journal said voters’ repulsion to defunding the thin blue line blunted the Democrats’ much anticipated big blue wave.

In the state where “defund the police” became a progressive rallying cry following the killing of George Floyd, the phrase is now being blamed for harming down-ballot Democrats both here and nationally after some suburban voters were repelled by the message.

President-elect Joe Biden easily carried Minnesota, but the push to cut police funding contributed to Democratic losses of a U.S. House seat in western Minnesota and six state Senate races, say political strategists here. They add that critical Republican ads that followed the defunding calls also hurt Democrats.

…The outcomes in Minnesota were echoed elsewhere, too, as Republicans found success in local and congressional races by turning progressive slogans such as “defund the police” into political weapons. Some races have yet to be called, but Democrats might lose close to 10 U.S. House seats.

Maybe it’s starting to sink in that Minneapolis’ leftist leadership has not only set back the city for years to come, but also the progressive cause they champion.