Most Loiterers are Criminals

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The E-block in downtown Minneapolis has been getting a bit of publicity recently because the police department is trying to clean it up. There has been at least one murder in this part of town. I’ve heard that, at times, the cops have patrolled up and down Hennepin Avenue, 5 abreast, on either side of the road, stopping to talk with dozens of ‘the public’ along the way. I’ll start with my subjective description of the area. We’ve only been there a few times. We didn’t notice anything in particular after it first opened a few years ago, but the second time we were there we started to notice small groups of young 20-something ‘kids’ loitering on the sidewalks. We don’t see this as much in the better parts of downtown, such as, for example the Nicollet Mall area. Most of the young folks that I describe as loiterers were black men and the vast majority were wearing jeans with the crotch down to mid-calf or –believe it or not—lower, with much underwear exposed.

On a related note, I was fascinated to learn recently that some of these jeans are actually designed with the inseam extending the entire length of the leg and just 3-4 inches of (separate) legs at the bottom. I saw a young white man wearing a pair of these on the light rail one day. I was dying to tell him that if he just cut across the crotch area he could create a skirt which would look pretty much the same but give him a whole lot more flexibility with regard to his movements.

Anyway, back to the E-block loiterers. These young men either hold the crotch of their pants or walk like penguins to prevent the jeans from falling down completely. I find this manner of dress extremely distasteful on a youth of any race (or sex for that matter—but I’ve never seen a woman dress like this). I suspect that these kids are aware of the fact that most people find this manner of dress distasteful (at the very least); just as the young folks who dress in black, wear extensive black make-up, have abundant facial piercings and tattoos realize that many folks are offended by their manner of dress. I really don’t understand this need to dress in a manner that is completely outside of the ‘norm’ for our society and I consider it anti-social.

But I digress. The last time we went to E-block, one of these young men jumped out and ducked down in front of us, pretending to use us as human shields while feigning shooting his friend (without a gun) who was behind us. Not far from this, another small group was loudly harassing a young woman. They were using profanity and telling her how ugly she was.

The press regarding the clean-up attempt has been interesting. One interview described two episodes of harassment similar to those I witnessed. An interview with a cop suggested that the majority of the youths that they had stopped to ‘talk with/question’ have had either extensive records or arrest warrants. The police officer described being extremely lenient. He gave one young man who was carrying just enough marijuana ‘for personal use’ a warning and he described many of the people he stopped as cooperative. In general, the most he did was ask them not to return to this part of town (unless they had an arrest warrant). There was an interview of one young man who had been questioned and he complained that he was ‘profiled’ but when pressed (by the reporter) he wouldn’t go so far as to say he was ‘racially’ profiled. I think he is correct that he was profiled, but most likely for the loitering and his manner of dress, both of which are entirely under his control. Sure, he has the right to dress like a ‘gangsta’ and loiter like a gangsta, but if he chooses to do so, I believe he should accept the fact that he is likely to be profiled as a gangsta. My guess is that he was part of the majority who are criminals with lengthy records.

Another kid (who had been questioned) made a comment that I found somewhat strange. He said something about how certain stores (he specifically mentioned 3 by name) had been closed in order to get rid of his people (something to this effect). Footlocker is the only store of the three that I remember. I’m not sure what he was implying, but it seems to me that if ‘his type’ was spending money at these particular stores (rather than loitering in front of them and preventing people from spending money) the stores would not have closed.

The comment that really made me angry was made by what sounded like a ditzy young white girl. She said that the police presence was overkill and ‘who do they think they’re protecting anyway, people who live in the suburbs who have no idea what urban life is like’. What an idiot! Of course they are protecting those of us who prefer a quiet safe neighborhood. I’m not going downtown to learn about the dangers of living an urban environment. I’m going downtown to have a nice quiet dinner and maybe catch a movie with my husband and I would prefer not to be harassed. If I want to experience the dangers of urban life, I’ll go to a North Minneapolis where I can buy drugs and get shot.

I have already decided that I will never go back to the E-block and many of my ‘older’ friends (who live in relatively safe neighborhoods) have made the same decision. If the police department were to do nothing about the situation, my prediction is that the E-block would be bankrupt within a few years.

So…. in this part of town, most of the loiterers are young black men (with a particular manner of dress) and in my experience, many of these loiterers harass and intimidate people. I also believe (what I hear from the press and indirectly from the cops) that many of these folks have criminal records. Does this make me a racist?

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One Response

  1. I am just rolling over here! You sooo “nailed it”! And no… you aren’t a racist! What would we call that? Gansta-ist? Let’s use their language: You just a hata Z, cause you ain’t got no cheap, dingy boxers to be hangin’ out yo pants.

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