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At public safety forum in north Minneapolis, Don Samuels promises more federal help

Samuels, who is trying to unseat U.S. Rep Ilhan Omar, pledged to take community members’ concerns to Washington.

Fifth Congressional District candidate Don Samuels addressing residents during a public safety forum at Shiloh Temple International Ministries in north Minneapolis on Thursday.
Fifth Congressional District candidate Don Samuels addressing residents during a public safety forum at Shiloh Temple International Ministries in north Minneapolis on Thursday.
MinnPost photo by Mohamed Ibrahim

A few dozen Minneapolis residents gathered Thursday night to voice their public safety concerns — from personal experiences with crime to inadequate responses from police — to Democratic congressional candidate Don Samuels.

One woman described her mother’s bike being stolen from their front yard and police officers telling her they could do nothing beyond filling out a police report. 

A group of Somali elders, through a translator, said they used to take walks for exercise, but have stopped doing so out of fear, and their health has suffered since. 

“A couple years ago, police would come in 15-20 minutes,” said Khalif Qary, an 88-year-old man who has lived in a south Minneapolis public housing unit for 18 years. “But these days we don’t have security in our public housing. The security stay maybe only four or five hours. We don’t have security after 9 p.m. and no police, so we don’t go out.”

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Samuels, a former Minneapolis City Council and school board member, is challenging  U.S. Rep Ilhan Omar in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District and earlier Thursday was endorsed by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey.  

Samuels told those gathered at Shiloh Temple International Ministries on the city’s North Side that he would take the concerns of community members to Washington and leverage his relationships with local officials in the district to bring back more federal resources.

“I want to hear about that stolen bike even though the federal government is not directly responsible for that … I want to hear about it because I’m going to talk to the mayor about it,” Samuels said. “We’re going to listen to everybody, and we’re going to make sure we carry the pain on.”

The divide on policing between Samuels and Omar has been stark, illustrated namely by Omar’s support for a ballot initiative last year — framed by opponents as an effort to get rid of the police — that would have amended the city charter to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a new public safety department. 

Samuels said the effort was “immature,” calling instead for the police department to remain intact and reform it from within — what he called a “both, and” approach. 

In a statement, Omar’s campaign pointed out her list of endorsements, which includes Attorney General Keith Ellison. Omar last year endorsed Frey’s opponents for Minneapolis mayor

The event, attended largely by supporters of Samuels, featured testimonials of support from former City Council President Jackie Cherryhomes, Edina Mayor Jim Hovland and Hennepin County Attorney candidate Martha Holton Dimick.

Along with Frey, Hovland and three other suburban mayors in the district on Thursday endorsed Samuels, who said he’d use those connections to relay the concerns of citizens to local officials who can improve their conditions. 

Samuels touted his efforts to help reduce gun violence in north Minneapolis, including a lawsuit he filed against the city to increase police staffing levels. The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in June that the city must uphold its charter and provide 731 police officers.

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He described listening sessions he’s held in his north Minneapolis home and said he’s walked up to young men who appeared to be selling drugs on the street and told them to leave. In one instance when four men threatened him with  their dog, he  called 911 in their presence and described their appearance to the operator.

“This is my life,” he told the audience. “I’ve laid down my life for this, and I’m going to lay down my life for this in Washington.”