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Locals Are ‘Interrupting Violence’ in Minneapolis – One Lawn Chair at a Time

21 days of peace /Facebook

As city officials struggle under pressure to reduce urban violence and meet demands from police unions, homeowners’ associations, and gun lobbyists, residents of some of the most violent neighborhoods in the country have chosen to I change by lifting a chair and having a sit down.

One such move has been the 21 Days of Peace event in Minneapolis, a place where, even before George Floyd’s death, there were sometimes 11 homicides a month.

Here, church and community congregation members simply sit in lawn chairs on street corners in the most dangerous neighborhoods and act as “violence switches,” and police statistics show that it is working.

Compared to last summer, in June 2021 homicide figures plunged during the 21 days of peace, and remained low in the months that followed, along with incidents of rape and aggravated assault.

“Our group asked the Minneapolis Police Department to identify the most dangerous places in our neighborhood, the 4th Precinct, and then we went there, pulled out our chairs and sat down,” write Louis King and Jerry McAfee, in a op-ed in the Washington Post.

King is president and CEO of Summit Academy OIC in Minneapolis, and McAfee is pastor of the city’s New Salem Missionary Baptist Church, but both are part of this new wave of violence disrupters.

“Too many leaders are responding by adopting a ‘tough on crime’ Nixonian stance, which generally translates into excessive vigilance and insufficient support for these communities,” they wrote. “The people who sit in these corners in their chairs are members of the community. We know our young people and they know us. “

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Similar disruptive violence movements have broken out successfully in Nashville, where groups Gideon’s Army and West Nashville Dream Center they are working through community outreach to rebuild trust and using the successful reduction to cut crime by 40% while arrests plummeted.

The AP reports that in areas where the Dream Center operates, crime has dropped 40%, giving a whole new perspective to police departments that have for years adopted tough policies against crime.

“We thought that would make it safer, and what we ended up doing was breaking trust in those communities,” said Police Lt. Jason Picanzo, who works with the West Nashville Dream Center. Now, he says, it is the community that has made these neighborhoods safer.

Back in Minneapolis, King and McAfee believe that the moral stronghold of the Black Church gives them a unique advantage over the police forces. They place similar examples in Baltimore where church groups are doing more for underserved communities while reducing violence.

“We use the power of the congregation, family, friends and community to try to stop the violence. And our faith gives us the courage to put ourselves in danger, ”they wrote.

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It’s a strong gesture to unfold a lawn chair and just sit where many people fear even driving. Violence of any kind, whether it involves us or not, is a tough situation to risk getting caught in, but desperate times call our ‘best angels’ too, and these Minnesotans are spreading their wings.

21 days of peace /Facebook

“We are not declaring victory, in any way. But as elected officials seek answers to end the violence, it would be wise for them to take a chair and see what is working. “

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