Pregnant and parenting during COVID-19: There are no manuals for this

Posted on 28 August 2020 by Tesha Christensen


Ingrid Rasmussen and her six-week-old son Lars, carried through and delivered in the time of COVID. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Ingrid Rasmussen had everything well-organized for her second pregnancy, and the first two trimesters went according to plan. When the Stay-at-Home Order was issued, Rasmussen was six months along. With her husband and their three-year-old daughter, she settled in to being at home.
As the senior pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, one of Rasmussen’s new responsibilities was to help the church transition into lockdown mode. Sunday services and all other face-to-face gatherings were quickly put on-line. Some two months later George Floyd was murdered. She said, “The church went from being completely closed to completely open in about 10 minutes.”
Located one block from the 3rd Precinct, the most immediate need of the church was to provide space for a medic station. Holy Trinity staff welcomed teams of medics and helped them set up in the church community room. Suddenly Rasmussen was back at work, and in a COVID-19 exposure situation that could only be described as very high risk.
The medics brought resources to help with emergency needs around the clock. People coming in were treated for tear gas exposure to eyes and skin; injuries resulting from being shot with rubber bullets, scrapes and bruises; and emotional trauma sustained from being around the Third Precinct both before and after it burned.
None of this was part of Rasmussen’s pregnancy plan.
She explained, “During the unrest, it was all-hands-on deck for pastors from our church, and clergy from other faith communities, too. We assisted the medics and offered pastoral care to anyone who needed it. Frequently people came into the church just for a moment of silence.
“Not insignificantly, after fires overtook so many of the nearby buildings, we had one of the few working toilets in the neighborhood.”

A movement worth leaving quarantine for
Rasmussen and her husband agreed that supporting the Black Lives Matter movement was worth leaving quarantine for, even though they both knew that exposure to tear gas, and many other things Rasmussen would encounter, weren’t good for a pregnant woman. She remembered the restrictions of her first pregnancy: the doctor had cautioned her not to eat sushi and to limit her caffeine intake.
This was clearly a very different pregnancy.
Rasmussen said, “I did what I could in those early days of the unrest. The church community and the volunteers were so supportive of me in my obviously pregnant state. People were very kind and protected my physical health as I tended to the needs of others. It was an extraordinary experience of living through mutual aid.
“One of the refrains ringing through our church in this season is that there is enough for everyone: enough food, enough medical care, enough kindness, enough compassion, enough love.”

More tough choices
Seven days before her expected delivery date, Rasmussen was given a COVID-19 test, which is standard procedure at M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Medical Center where she would deliver. The test results were negative, and she returned home to wait for the arrival of her baby.
Rasmussen’s husband suffered a cardiac arrest five years ago, and the couple decided that COVID-19 exposure risk in the hospital was too great for him. They made the difficult decision that he would not attend the labor and delivery. He needed to care for their three-year-old anyhow. Because of COVID-19, neither set of grandparents could help.
When it was time for Rasmussen to deliver, her husband and daughter dropped her at the cul de sac of the hospital and waved goodbye.
Of that decision, Rasmussen said, “There was disappointment for both of us, but we knew we needed to take a long view. The most important thing was that my husband be part of our kids’ lives for many years to come.”
Lars Rasmussen was born at 12:36 p.m. on July 26. All during Rasmussen’s labor, the anesthesiologist held a cell phone up so her husband could be in the delivery room via Facetime. Rasmussen said, “The delivery went well, and Lars came out screaming just the way you hope a baby will.”

A moment of peace
Rasmussen’s planned three-month parental leave from work turned into a two-week leave instead. She is working part-time from home due to the extraordinary demands currently placed on the church. Her husband works from home as well, and they pass the child care baton back and forth.
The community of Holy Trinity Church participated in a drive-by baby shower at Rasmussen’s home a few weeks ago. Cars streamed by on a Saturday afternoon: one mask-wearing person at a time got out of their car, dropped a gift for Lars or the family on the lawn, and shouted “Congratulations!” as the next person pulled in.
Both sets of grandparents have come up to Minneapolis for backyard visits. Other family members have met Lars during Zoom calls. It isn’t what Rasmussen had in her original plan, but it’s the time the community is living in.
With so much on her plate, does Rasmussen have any quiet moments with her new baby? She said, “I feel most present with Lars right after he’s done eating, when he is satiated. His body is heavy and full, like he doesn’t have a care in the world. With him resting against my chest and shoulder, I’m given a moment of peace – and it’s enough.”

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How are seniors adjusting to COVID-19 pandemic?

Posted on 28 August 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Local organizations offer various resources

Tanya Welch of Hiawatha Suites Senior Living

Seniors at Hiawatha Suites Senior Living, 4140 Dight Ave. S., watched as Irish dancers performed in the parking lot. The seniors enjoyed the dancing from a safe distance in the dining room or outside on the patio. Hiawatha Suites Executive Director Tanya Welch mentioned that this had become the “new normal” for seniors. Families, other visitors, or performers all need to keep their distance.
Hiawatha Suites Senior Living is a care facility that houses seniors in order to provide their care. However, their aim is still to make seniors feel independent and dignified. They focus on community life and memory care for seniors, and also offer 24-hour care. These ways of helping seniors have all been challenged due to COVID-19.
Many seniors have underlying health conditions, which adds to the complications of living through COVID-19. Seniors’ health is often already fragile but contracting COVID-19 would create many new challenges. Welch believes that a senior without a community supporting them would make even the simplest of tasks difficult – especially, if they did not have access to electronics or know how to utilize apps like Zoom or Skype.
“Encountering COVID-19 could be a death sentence for the elderly,” Welch said.
Residents at Hiawatha Suites are allowed to go out for essential healthcare visits only. Even though Hiawatha Suites provides Metro Mobility, seniors want to go out and shop, eat or visit friends and family. Hiawatha Suites has tried to encourage video chats and phone calls with family, but they understand that these are not the same.
“We have begun outdoor patio visits. This has brought much joy to residents and families,” Welch said.
These visits must still be outdoors, with all visitors and residents wearing masks and standing six feet apart. These visits are monitored and the families are asked to provide Hiawatha Suites with a 24-hour notice before they visit. Families are also screened and asked to sign an outdoor visit policy in order ensure that guidelines are followed. To call for an appointment, Hiawatha Suites Senior Living’s phone number is 612-351-6060.
For the seniors that don’t get visitors, there is a full-time activities director who spends time with all residents. But, Hiawatha Suites still encourages the community to reach out and help. Sending letters to seniors can be done by using their main address listed above.
“We strive to keep residents safe, secure, happy and entertained on a regular basis. Just having personal connection and conversation is good for anyone’s soul,” Welch said.
Because Hiawatha Suites Senior Living is a care facility that directly houses seniors in order to get their care, their COVID-19 safety plan can be more challenging because of closer living quarters. Hiawatha Suites has a strenuous process of screening all visitors. They encourage hand washing more regularly, sanitize the building daily and staff wear masks and personal protective equipment (PPE). They also test residents and staff often.
“It’s very important to me that seniors are well cared for. My own mother went through the various phases of Dementia and Alzheimer’s,” Welch said. “She lived in a skilled nursing facility for the last three years of her life.”
In preparing for the future, Welch believes that it is important for the community to keep reaching out to seniors they know, not just seniors living in Hiawatha Suites. She encourages people to reach out to seniors for a conversation, to show support or even just to share a smile.
“You would be surprised at what you could learn from seniors. They were once young, too. Some of their life stories would amaze you. I have worked with seniors who were airline pilots, nurses, doctors, teachers, writers, published authors and more,” Welch said.
Welch acknowledged that the pandemic has been hard on everyone and is continuously so. But, seniors are more susceptible to getting COVID-19 and compromised because of their health and age. She encourages people to still visit and check in with one another in a safe manor.
“Everyone loves getting a visit from time to time. It makes us feel remembered and appreciated,” Welch said.



Larvel Bunker

Larvel Bunker, the co-owner of Comfort Keepers Twin Cities, (275 4th St. E., Suite 345 in St. Paul), believes that loneliness is a big struggle for many seniors during the pandemic. Socially isolated seniors have a greater risk of mental and physical decline while socially engaged seniors have higher levels of physical, mental and cognitive functioning according to a study done by Forbes. Social interaction may even slow Alzheimer and Dementia patients’ decline, according to the National Institute of Health.

Comfort Keepers Twin Cities provides in-home, non-medical care for seniors and other adults in need of assistance with daily activities. They have more than 700 offices nationwide, and serve the local communities in St. Paul and Minneapolis. Along with daily assistance, Comfort Keepers Twin Cities provides 24-hour home care, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease care and end-of-life care.

“Feelings of isolation are universal and far reaching, especially during the statewide Stay at Home order. Some seniors found themselves walled-off even from residents within their own buildings, which although necessary for safety, could not have been easy on seniors and may have lasting effects on some,” Bunker said.

Longfellow Seward Healthy Seniors
provides many services to help area seniors live healthy, independent and socially connected lives. They serve 600+ seniors and caregivers annually. Although their office in the U.S. bank building was destroyed during the civil unrest, they are still providing essential services (although they have temporarily suspended in-person classes and events due to social distancing requirements).

Food insecurity is a pressing need for many seniors now. “Our community became a food desert practically overnight when Target, Cub and Aldi’s closed due to significant building damages,” said Executive Director Mary Albrecht. “Our staff and volunteers are doing grocery shopping and delivery for our clients, and are delivering food from local food shelves, as well. We recently received a Hunger Solutions grant for food distribution and delivery to lower-income seniors. Older adults age 60+ who live in the greater Longfellow and Seward neighborhoods are encouraged to contact us to see if they’re income-eligible for free food distribution and delivery.

“We’re always looking for more volunteers to help us in our work. Contact us by calling 612-729-5799 or email us at”

Nokomis Healthy Seniors
is now able to deliver food from the Minnehaha Food Shelf to your home every Tuesday, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. If you could benefit from this service, call the NHS office at 612-729-5499. Staff is working remotely, and will respond to voicemails as soon as they’re able.

“With the advent of Covid-19 and its impact on our community, we’ve all been very concerned for our friends and family, especially our elders. We also know how difficult it is to be a caregiver during the pandemic, when we are asked to stay at home. One of the ways that we are going to help is by making memory boxes that can help those with dementia to relive favorite memories and stories of their past. Please call the office for more information,” said Executive Director Megan Elliasen.

“Social distancing means that most of us have had to rely on electronic means to stay connected with others, and many of our participants are not comfortable with, or don’t have access to, technology. Similarly, the stress of living during this unprecedented time of a world-wide pandemic and the uncertainty and disruption it brings will likely worsen existing mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. Even before the pandemic, there was evidence that substance abuse has been rising among the older population, and the fear and panic many feel during this time of Covid-19 may very well result in more men and women struggling with substance abuse.

“On another note, NHS participants have experienced further stress and fear in their neighborhoods this spring and summer due to the rioting, violence, and mayhem in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, putting many of us on edge.”

Nokomis Healthy Seniors (NHS) is not offering in-person programming until further notice, such as in-person events/programs, including bingo, lunch and a movie, support groups, Nurse is in Blood Pressure Clinic, educational presentations, and foot care.

Virtual Program Offerings:
« Exercise with Becky, Nokomis Healthy Seniors’ Exercise Instructor. She is creating several different videos with tips on exercising at home using items you probably have on hand. Visit our Facebook page ( for a link to the video, or leave a message at the office (612-729-5499) and Becky will send you the direct link via email.
« Exercise: Juniper Program – The Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging (MAAA) offers its Juniper program classes online. Call 855-215-2174 or visit
« Friendly Phone Visitors – Volunteers and staff are happy to call seniors who would like to chat with a friendly visitor.
« Rides – NHS is still coordinating rides, provided by volunteers, for essential services such as picking up prescriptions, grocery store runs, and doctors’ appointments.
« Book Club, via Zoom – Call the office for details.


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Mississippi River connects teachers from ‘The Headwaters to the Delta’ despite COVID-19

Posted on 28 August 2020 by Tesha Christensen

The Virtual Mississippi River Institute blends online and hands-on outdoor learning

Last February, more than 30 educators from Minnesota and Louisiana were looking forward to a special river journey. They were making plans to come together on the banks of the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities for the 16th annual River Institute, an intensive, highly experiential learning event focused on America’s greatest waterway that is offered by Hamline University’s Center for Global Environmental Education (CGEE) in St. Paul.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic sent the teachers, along with their peers across America, scrambling for online learning resources and strategies to use for distance instruction. CGEE, drawing on the an extensive multimedia and video archive about the great river, quickly adapted the institute to a breakthrough hybrid format that combines online and hands-on experiences.
“We were uniquely positioned for doing a very quick pivot,” said Tracy Fredin, CGEE Executive Director. “We had content and pedagogical expertise, decades of experience in hands-on education as well as distance learning, plus a huge online media library. Out of COVID-19 chaos, we created a new model of professional development that celebrates and educates students about our most important river. And from the results, I’d say this is only the beginning.”
CGEE’s The Mighty Mississippi (, an award-winning public television special about the Mississippi featuring student reporters, gave Institute participants a rich documentary introduction to the river from its headwaters to Gulf. This program was complemented by three of CGEE’s modular online multimedia learning programs about the Mississippi and its watershed: the wide-ranging Waters to the Sea® Mississippi River Adventure program (; Big River Journey Online (, which focuses on the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities region and was developed in collaboration with the National Park Service; and Adopt a Drain Interactive (, which engages citizens and schools in reducing urban water pollution by keeping harmful debris and pollution out of storm drains.

“CGEE is an international leader in creating interactive educational resources that are free for educators everywhere to use, and many of them focus on the Mississippi River,” Fredin continued. “We have hours and hours of online activities about multiple subjects in our award-winning Waters to the Sea® programs about North American waterways.”
“Learning to use Waters to the Sea® is always an important part of the River Institute,” said Robinsdale School of Engineering and Arts Program Coordinator Cara Rieckenberg, who has led CGEE Rivers Institutes for nine years. “But by the end of the school year, everyone was tired of sitting in front of their computers all day. So, we created a virtual institute that used video conferencing for building community, presentations by content experts, and sharing among participants. Exploring CGEE’s online learning resources were balanced by several hours of outdoor, hands-on activities each day. This hybrid approach to distance learning really resonated with our 50 participants, who are excited to use the same strategy with their students this fall.”
The successful hybrid River Institute program will be offered again this fall with a special focus on the Mississippi Delta region. It will be available to teachers nationwide at no cost.
“I will use the Waters to the Sea website with students – a lot. Our students do a Mississippi River Project each year and [the] web adventure touches on so many great topics. I’m planning to rewrite much of my curriculum in order to incorporate much of this,” said Katie Humason, middle school science teacher at Minnehaha Academy.
“Inquiry activities are possible! Connecting students to their actual environment is possible! There are lots of resources available if we’re willing to look!” remarked Anwatin Middle School science teacher Laura Kimball.
Educators were inspired by the connections they made with colleagues across the Mississippi’s enormous watershed, despite only interacting with each other via video conferencing.
When asked about the top take-aways she left the Institute with, Mill City Museum Education Curriculum Coordinator Wini Froelich said, “Students can handle a lot more depth and scaffolded activities digitally than I thought. CGEE is pretty amazing. The stories of the Mississippi are varied and vast. It is alright to have a narrow focus at one point but make sure to consider it as “One River” as well.”
“The collaboration with other teachers in Minnesota and Louisiana on this topic is an eye-opening experience,” said a New Orleans Middle School teacher. “As a teacher from Louisiana, I realized there is much more to the Mississippi River…[Our students] have not learned all about the watersheds and how precious the Mississippi really is from North to the South.”
“We’re excited about the impact that our new hybrid Institute had on educators,” Fredin said, “especially in a time when these skills and resources are more important than ever.”
In addition to Waters to the Sea® Mississippi River Adventure (, CGEE has an extensive archive of interactive, multimedia educational resources available for free online that span the country from Hawaii to Texas to Georgia to Minnesota (

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Violent labor protest rockS South Minneapolis in the 1930s

Posted on 28 August 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Police claim picketers fired on them, protesters blame armed guards for ‘fomenting strife’

By Iric Nathanson

On the Midtown Greenway at 27th Ave., a foliage-clad structure known as the Ivy Building was caught up in the violent protests that swept through the East Lake corridor following George Floyd’s murder. The artists and small businesses that occupied the historic building were forced to vacate when the building caught fire on May 28, 2020.
During the height of the Great Depression more than 80 years ago, that same corner of 27th Ave. and 27th St. was the site of another violent protest that rocked South Minneapolis for three nights in September 1935.
In 1935, the Ivy Building was the home of the Flour City Ornamental Iron Works, a metal fabricating business owned by Walter Tetzlaff. That year, the fiercely anti-union Tetzlaff had faced off against a Minneapolis labor organization, the Ornamental Iron Workers Local 1313, that was working to organize his plant. A year earlier, Minneapolis’s beleaguered labor movement had scored a major victory. The victory came when the Teamsters union was able to win major concessions from of group of local trucking companies after a bloody summer-long strike.

During the height of the Great Depression, the Ivy Building at the corner of 27th St. and 27th Ave. was home to Flour City Ornamental Iron Works. It was the site of a three-day protest by the iron workers union. By the end, two were shot to death and 28 injured. The same building was damaged by fire in the May 2020 protests over the murder of George Floyd by police officers in South Minneapolis.

With an emboldened labor movement follow the settlement of the truckers strike, Walter Tetzlaff found himself on the defensive as he pushed back against Local 1313’s demands. When Tetzlaff refused to bargain with the union, Local 1313 called his workers out on strike on July 11. At first, Tetzlaff tried to keep Flour City open with a nonunion crew. But faced with a hostile crowd of labor sympathizers who surrounded the plant night after night, he backed down, at least temporarily, and closed the factory on July 28.
Later in the week, a small contingent of Tetzlaff’s non-striking workers met with Minneapolis Mayor Thomas Latimer and told him that they wanted to go back to work. Latimer assured the group’s leaders that they would get ample police protection if the plant reopened. On Friday, July 31, a few of the men were able to get through picket lines with the help of about 50 Minneapolis policemen. That night, as they were leaving the plant, a crowd of nearly 1,000 union sympathizers stoned the strikebreakers. Tetzlaff closed the plant again but obtained a court order a month later which enabled him to keep a skeleton crew of armed guards inside the plant.
Tetzlaff’s ploy only succeeded in further enraging the strikers who surrounded the plant for days at a time. “Each night the singing and shouting crowd passed in front of the plant,” the pro-business Minneapolis Tribune reported, “missiles were hurled through windows. The crush of broken glass sounded above the imprecations shouted at the workers housed inside the plant.”
By Sept. 10, the crowd had swelled to more than 5,000. Just before midnight on the 10th, the police charged with tear gas to disperse the strikers and their supporters. “Firing over their heads, “ the Tribune recounted, “the police drove the protesters and spectators, including women and children, down alleys and between buildings. In the charge, the police did not distinguish between picketers and spectators.”

Two killed on Sept. 11, both sides blame other
The next night, on Sept. 11, the picketers were back in force and so were the police. At about 11 p.m., a local police official gave the order to disperse the crowd. “Armored cars roared into action, “ the Tribune reported. “Up and down 27th Avenue they went, laying down a barrage of tear gas. The crowd scattered. It seemed for a moment that the crisis had passed. But then a new group of strikers rushed up to the plant and shouted to the crowd not to turn back.”
“Just after 11, the first shots were fired,” the Tribune told its readers. “The picketers scurried for cover as the police advanced, clearing 27th Ave. Then the battled settled into guerrilla warfare. Members of the mob dodged in and out between the houses, peppering away at the police and the plant with rocks and stones. Rifle bullets whizzed through the street and fire poured into the police line from a vacant field near the railroad tracks.”
Two hours later, the battle was over. Twenty-eight people had been wounded. Two bystanders, 21-year-old Melvin Bjorkland and 18-year-old Eugene Cooper, had been killed in the cross fire. Bjorkland happened to be walking through the neighborhood surrounding the plant after attending a church social when he was killed. Cooper was standing on the sidelines watching the battle when he was shot in the chest.
After the shooting had stopped, the police claimed that a group of picketers armed with rifles had fired on them, a charge vigorously denied by union leaders. Later in the month, a story in the Minneapolis Labor Review reported that the first shots were fired from within the plant by Tetzlaff’s armed guards. “It is known that 20 of the 26 inside the plant were private detectives brought into the plant,“ the Labor Review maintained. “There is only one conclusion that can be reached, that they were brought in deliberately with the idea of fomenting strife.”
In the end, neither side was able to prove its case. The source of the bullets that killed Bjorkland and Cooper was never determined.
Then, almost as quickly as it started, the strike at Flour City Ornamental Iron was settled when Tetzlaff and the heads of eight other iron working firms agreed to Local 1313’s demands. On Sept. 21, both side signed an agreement which enabled strikers workers to go back to work. The agreement established a 40-hour work week and gave workers a small, but significant wage increase.
In later years, Minneapolis’s labor movement would celebrate more wins and suffer more defeats. But the battles of the mid-1930s, including the one at the Flour City Ornamental Iron Works, would succeed in breaking the tight hold of Minneapolis’s anti-labor organizations on this city’s economic life.

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Third Precinct may relocate to 2633 Minnehaha Ave.

Posted on 28 August 2020 by Tesha Christensen

The Minneapolis City Council is currently reviewing a proposal from property services staff to relocate the Third Precinct Police Station into the Seward industrial area at 2633 Minnehaha Ave. A council committee received the recommendation and final approval of a lease agreement will be up for a vote on Friday, Aug. 28.
According to Ward Two Council Member Cam Gordon, “If the action is approved, the hoped for move-in date would likely be sometime in mid to late October. This facility would offer space for most of the staff formally housed at the third precinct, excluding 311. This follows and an extensive search of any and all suitable alternative locations, the recommendation from staff is to authorize a three-year lease with an option to renew, which would give the city time to make a longer-term plan.
“I regret that this proposal is moving so fast that we have not had more time to work with the community. I have until the 28th to determine my vote and to influence this decision for others. I have already made clear to staff and my colleagues that this proposal is certain to raise concerns from nearby residents and property owners. While some are likely to welcome it as a positive thing, others will have more uncertainly and some may have strong objections.
“I believe that if this move is to happen those concerns and objections need to be addressed and there needs to be clear community benefits, reassurance and accommodations made for the local residents and businesses and that those should be made with their input. I am working with staff and neighborhood leaders to convene a virtual and an outdoor meeting early next week to hear from people and get feedback. In the meantime I welcome you to send it to me.”, 612-673-2202, 612-296-0579

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Inspector discusses state of policing in Third Precinct

Posted on 28 August 2020 by Tesha Christensen

‘To be told all police officers are racist and irredeemable is hard to take’


Inspector Sean McGinty has been coordinating the operation of the Minneapolis Third Precinct since August 2019. It has been a year filled with events he could never possibly have imagined. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The Third Precinct of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) covers such a huge square area that if it were a city, it would be third biggest in the state.
Its headquarters suffered serious fire damage and looting during the Uprising, and all staff have been disbursed to work in locations across Minneapolis. Inspector Sean McGinty has been in charge of the Third Precinct since last August. He said, “Our crime prevention specialists are working from home, our investigators are operating off-site, and our beat officers are storing their gear in various other precinct buildings.”
He continued, “We started the year with 110 sworn officers. Every city department had to make cuts due to COVID, and we were heavily impacted in our precinct. Most of my discretionary officers have been absorbed into the 911 response team, and the city is in a hiring freeze.”
What does that mean for this neighborhood?
The precinct had to cut 17 Community Support Officer (CSO) positions. A CSO works 20-30 hours per week in the MPD for up to three years in a civilian capacity, while enrolled in an approved, two-year law enforcement program. The program exists to improve communication, understanding, and cooperation between MPD employees and Minneapolis’s diverse communities.
New hires to the police department come from the pool of CSOs who have completed their training and education. There was a class of 29 recruits slated to start this month. According to Inspector McGinty, “It was the most diverse class we’ve ever had, and now we can’t hire them.”
It’s anybody’s guess what the MPD will look like after the 14-month review period has ended. All six city council members from the Third Precinct support dismantling the MPD. Inspector McGinty said, “That’s very difficult for us to understand. To be told that all police officers are racist and irredeemable is hard to take.”
“Everyone agrees that deep reform must happen within the police department, and I don’t know anyone who has done more to try and change policing than MPD Police Chief Medaria Arradondo.”
For his part, Inspector McGinty attends every community meeting he is invited to. He said, “It’s not uncommon for me to spend a couple of hours after a community meeting talking with residents. We can write the word ‘reform’ on a piece of paper, but until we start human building relationships – nothing will change.”
As mentioned in last month’s Longfellow Nokomis Messenger, Inspector McGinty encourages people who live in the Third Precinct to connect with him in small, safe, backyard conversations. He can be reached at sean.mcginty@minneapolismngov, and is interested in having honest, challenging conversations.

Need for community reform
While he believes strongly in police reform, Inspector McGinty also believes that there must be some level of community reform. He said, “There’s a hyper-partisanship rippling through everything right now. Everybody’s on a hair trigger. My officers tried to enter the homeless encampment at Powderhorn Park when an adolescent girl was raped last month, and they were chased out with rocks and bottles. We cannot provide public safety if we are under assault.”
In the wake of COVID cuts and the murder of George Floyd, there is a reduced police force in the Third Precinct more focused on crime response than crime prevention, according to McGinty. In addition to the lack of new hires and the eliminated community engagement positions, there have been officer resignations and PTSD claims filed for extended medical leave.
Editor’s Note: The Longfellow Nokomis Messenger welcomes reader comments on the future of policing in Minneapolis. What do you hope to see? How do you feel about the nature of this change for our city? Comments can be sent to editor Tesha Christensen at

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Anna Zillinger shares update on East Lake Library

Posted on 21 August 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By Elena Vaughn

The East Lake Library was damaged and remains closed, but a majority of books can be recovered, according to East Lake librarian Anna Zillinger. A county insurance assessment is in progress, but she believes a majority of the books can be recovered.

While some books will have to be replaced due to fire damage, the building is sound. The building will undergo reconstruction which should take six months to a year. Zillinger is grateful for the “community members, our library regulars, that kept it safe. We thank the community and the organizations who helped protect and recover our space.”
Curbside services are unavailable until the building is opened, and all holds have been transferred to other libraries or put back on the hold list. If a book isn’t available at East Lake, it will be available by curbside at another library, such as the nearby Hosmer library.
Although the building may be out of commission, the library is still serving the community. Staff from the East Lake Library will be at the Midtown Farmers Market getting library cards throughout October. More information can be found at the Seward-Longfellow Library Community Facebook page, including information about virtual programs. There are lists of educational books at and unlimited e-resources. Zillinger particularly recommends “How to Be an Anti-Racist” and “White Fragility.” E-books are available on Kindle, iPad, iPhone, or the Overdrive app.
Zillinger believes in the East Lake Library. Working in libraries since 2001, she has always focused on “community outreach in urban libraries,” she observed. Growing up on the west side of Indianapolis in what she called a tough neighborhood, she said she loved the local library and wanted to bring that feeling to other cities.

Zillinger said, “Libraries were always my home, so we’ll rebuild our library home together.”
She continued, “We have so many ways of building community in the meanwhile.” More services will be added over time as safety allows.

Clean-up crews outside of East Lake library following damage in late May/early June 2020.

Anna Zillenger brings the Minneapolis Central Library bike along on an outreach trip to southern neighborhood residents.


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‘It feels like everybody is on edge’

Posted on 29 July 2020 by Tesha Christensen


“I keep wondering if my block is safe,” said lifelong Longfellow resident Troy Houle. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Troy Houle is a lifelong Longfellow resident. His parents still live in the house he grew up in. He lives just a few blocks from them, as does his sister.
Troy has been a Minneapolis Park Board employee for more than 25 years. He said, “They call me a ‘senior man in the system’ now.” He has worked a second job at East Lake Liquors for more than 20 years, and knows this neighborhood like the back of his hand.
Troy said, “My family and friends are all from right here. A lot of the buildings that burned down, they’re what our neighborhood is about. They were part of our history. It feels like we’re starting over.”
Adjusting the brim of his fishing hat, Troy continued, “I’ve always been a strong minded person. Normally, I’m really confident about being out in the neighborhood but little things scare me now. We’re coming up on the Fourth of July and the firecrackers are really hard to listen to. I keep wondering if my block is safe, my daughter, my neighborhood, my neighbors?”
Liquor stores were hit hard in the unrest following George Floyd’s murder. Troy said, “With Minnehaha Liquors and Chi-Lake Liquors closed down, we have a lot of new customers at East Lake Liquor. I used to know most of the people who came in to the store. People are coming from outside the neighborhood now, and it feels like everybody is on edge.”
Troy credits the owners of Star Auto (and their friends and neighbors) with saving several businesses on E. Lake St. from looting and arson. He said, “There were 30-40 people every night of the curfew protecting Star Auto, ACE Hardware, the Longfellow Market, and East Lake Liquors. We have a lot to thank them for.”
Echoing what many people in the neighborhood are feeling, Troy said, “The experience has made me more vigilant, more aware of my surroundings. I check in on my parents 3-4 times a week now. Our neighbors have gotten a lot closer. It’s like that saying, ‘If you see something, say something.’ Everybody’s talking more, because we know how quickly things can change.”

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‘Reverend, you can lean on me’

Posted on 29 July 2020 by Tesha Christensen


When Lake St. burned, Father Joe Gillespie gathered each night with others at the Church of St. Albert the Great in Longfellow. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Father Joe Gillespie’s first pastoral ministry was at Cook County Hospital in 1968. He moved from Minneapolis to Chicago, and started his new job with energy and enthusiasm. Then Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, followed by violent anti-Vietnam War protests at the Chicago Democratic Convention. Chicago suddenly turned into a war zone.
When Lake Street burned in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, Father Joe said, “Those memories of Chicago came pouring back.” He felt a sense of post-traumatic stress and abandonment, saying, “We had no police, fire department, or mail service; even the paper boy couldn’t come here.”
But Father Joe knew he had to stick around. Despite invitations from nephews in Plymouth and church administrators in St. Paul to take shelter with them, Father Joe didn’t go looking for a way out. The Church of St. Albert the Great in Longfellow is his home.
Instead, he gathered with neighbors and parishioners on the church grounds each night. Together they watched the Walgreen’s drugstore at the end of the block go up in pentecostal flames. Three dozen residents from Volunteers of America slept on the basement floor of the church during the curfew, fearing that their Lake St. residence would burn to the ground.
Father Joe walked up and down Lake St. every day during the week of unrest. Usually he walked alone, remembering places his family had frequented when he was a kid growing up in the neighborhood. His eyes welled with tears outside the ruins of the Town Talk Diner, where he had gone many times with his father. He could almost see himself and his three siblings sitting high up on stools, dangling their legs and sharing a single pancake.
Father Joe attended the Ecumenical Clergy March on June 2 with hundreds of other faith leaders, and walked the neighborhood streets once more. When the march ended at the George Floyd Memorial site, everyone was asked to kneel in silence. Father Joe dropped to one knee, but found he couldn’t stand up again unassisted. An African American woman nearby said, “Reverend, you can lean on me,” and helped him to his feet. That’s the way he sees it now. This is a time to lean in, lean on, and help each other stand strong.
The Church of St. Albert the Great recently reopened for services on Pentecost (the seventh Sunday after Easter) at half capacity. Father Joe explained, “Historically the early Christians had to celebrate in secret, just a few at a time. They celebrated in the catacombs so they wouldn’t be seen. They celebrated during the plagues. They just kept going. I guess you could say that we’re right on target.”

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‘We just want our lives back’

Posted on 29 July 2020 by Tesha Christensen

With three college degrees, Bunni ended up broke and homeless last December. She hopes to get permanent housing in September. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Bunni (last name withheld on request) has lived in Minneapolis since 2007. She moved here for college, and ended up with three degrees in art, business, and law enforcement.
Last December, she also ended up broke and homeless. There was nowhere for her to live, so she parked her van across from Powderhorn Park with her dog and called it home. From December to March, it was cold but quiet.
In the aftermath of the uprising, Powderhorn Park began to fill up fast. Eventually a group of Native American women decided to leave the park for safety reasons. They moved to a new encampment in the Longfellow neighborhood just for women, and she went with them. Bunni was formerly married to a Native American man. Of his community she said, “Once you’re welcomed in, you’re part of the family. We stick together in the native community. We share our last. We give until it hurts.”
There have been major problems in the start-up phase of the Longfellow encampment. Four ill-intentioned men, who self-identified as protectors of the women, were evicted by a coalition of encampment residents and Native American leaders on July 13. Almost 100 people descended on the encampment that night and literally shouted the four men out.
In the eight days since the encampment began, the residents find themselves starting over again – supposedly with a coalition of women leaders this time.
One of the greatest indignities about being homeless is the sheer visibility of it. Anyone passing by can see who lives there, and many stop to take pictures. Bunni said, “Not all homeless people are bad people, probably most of us aren’t. We just want our lives back. We’ve all had jobs, and lost them. We’ve all had homes, and lost them. Many of us have had children, and lost them.”
On the day of this interview, Bunni had just secured affordable, permanent housing which, unfortunately, wouldn’t become available until September. She said, “In addition to a roof over my head, I’m hoping for safety, recovery, and healing. I could really use your prayers.”

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