MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The head of the Minneapolis NAACP is reacting strongly to a letter to the editor from a powerful Republican lawmaker.

State Representative Tony Cornish says he is only trying to defend police against unfair attacks, but his letter to the Star Tribune uses words that NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds calls “outrageous” and “racist.”

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Cornish says his letter is a response to the activist groups wondering how to reduce the use of police force. He says it’s not complicated, and he provides a list for how to not get shot by police.

In a phone interview with WCCO, Cornish says he’s tired of news stories about police violence in which the *cops* get blamed for using excessive or deadly force against people he calls “thugs.”

“You see all these cop videos where they give order after order, and they just stand there and something bad happens and they wonder why in the world that happened,” he said.

In a letter to the Star Tribune, Cornish lays out rules for interacting with police:

  • “Don’t be a thug and lead a life of crime so that you come into frequent contact with police.”
  • “Don’t rob people, don’t use or sell drugs, and don’t beat up your significant other.”
  • “Don’t hang out on the street after 2 a.m. Go home.”
  • “Don’t make furtive movements or keep your hands in your pockets if told to take them out.”
  • “Don’t flap your jaws when the police arrive. Don’t disobey the requests of the police at the time. If you think you are wrongfully treated, make the complaint later.”

“Don’t hang out and yell at people after midnight,” he said over the phone. “Don’t be involved in crime. Don’t give police a reason to be there in your face.”

Levy-Pounds called the letter “racist,” and “intolerable,” with coded language aimed at the African American community.

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“He’s drawing upon racial stereotypes that people often use to justify the use of excessive force against African-Americans, even when African-Americans — who are unarmed — are killed by law enforcement,” she said.

Levy-Pounds was part of a group at the state capitol this year disrupting a prison hearing chaired by Cornish.

Cornish says groups like hers protesting police violence are exhibiting, “irrational behavior,” and that perpetrators of any race are to blame.

“Quit using excuses,” he said. “You did it because you wanted to do it.”

Cornish is the powerful chairman of the House Public Safety Committee. He’s also the author of a bill regulating police body cameras in Minnesota, which restricts public access to most of those police videos.

The letter appears to vaguely reference the Jamar Clark case — the man who was killed by Minneapolis police last year — though Cornish denies that.

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Levy-Pounds says that’s exactly what the letter is really about — what she calls, “the Jim Crow North.” She’s been leading protests over the over-concentration of police in black neighborhoods, and over-criminalization of African-Americans in Minnesota.