MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Lurking and spitting on the sidewalk have been against the law for many decades in Minneapolis.
Now, some people want the city to repeal those ordinances, saying they promote racial profiling.
Few people actually get locked up for spitting or lurking in Minneapolis each year, but community organizers say police do use those laws to stop and search people. And most of the time, they’re African Americans.
“You come from basketball practice, police could get you,” said Ja’Nero Taylor, of south Minneapolis. “You’re with your mom, police could get you. Anywhere you go, police can get you.”
At a public hearing, several people said it’s a form of racial profiling that adds to tensions with police.
Wintana Melekin of the group Neighborhoods Organizing for Change said she saw officers stop and search one of her volunteers for spitting outside the organization’s office on Broadway Avenue.
“I said, ‘Why do you do this?’ and they said ‘Oh, we’re felony fishing.’ Exact phrase. ‘We want to catch people doing felonies, and that’s the only way we can stop them.'”
Ron Harris, also with NOC, said he believes Minneapolis is “one awful tragedy away from burning like other cities we’ve seen across the country.”
“By repealing these antiquated laws, we’ll be one step closer to addressing our levels of inequality before our city starts to burn,” Harris said.
The incoming president of the police union, Lt. Bob Kroll, said it’s the anti-lurking ordinance that officers most want to see stay on the books. He said being able to detain people they find hiding or hanging out in places where they shouldn’t be is an important tool for investigators.
On the issue of spitting, a few representatives of downtown and surrounding communities said it’s an issue of livability and civility.
Mike Maney of the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District said the city council shouldn’t make it harder for police to maintain a safe and civil environment.
“If the laws are outdated, let’s update them,” Maney said. “Let’s find a solution, but do not take away effective ways of ensuring the safety and integrity of our community and the city.”
Joseph Finley spoke on behalf of Citizens for a Loring Park Community. He said repealing these two laws could lead to a slippery slope, paving the way for other crimes to be legalized.
“I think spitting is a terrible disgrace to our city,” Finley said. “Walk down Nicollet Mall with me sometime.”
This was the first of two public hearings on these issues. The city will have one more on May 20, and then likely take a vote on June 5.