Ordinarily we at the Glean don’t cover sexual assaults. They happen with discouraging frequency, as do all sorts of other examples of the miserable things people do to each other, and this summary of the day’s news would just become too crowded if we were to try to fit it all in. However, sometimes there are crimes that are so shocking in their nature that they have a larger impact, and then we feel they should be noted.
Case in point: A string of sexual assaults that happened within minutes of each other in Powderhorn Park Wednesday night. John Brewer of the Pioneer Press sums up the details, but, in brief, a group of young men attacked a cross-country skiing woman and her children, assaulting the women and then threatening to assault her daughter, at which moment the woman fought back. Police followed footprints to a nearby garage, where they caught the alleged perpetrators as they were assaulting two teenage girls.
The details of the crime are disturbing, and this is compounded by the fact that the alleged perpetrators are very young. Abby Simons of The Star Tribune lists two of the boys as being 14, another 15, and a fourth 16. As is typical of the Strib comments, on their various stories about the event commenters have called for swift and terrible retribution, with some demanding to know the race of the alleged perpetrators (these comments are generally swiftly pulled, and then reposted, and then pulled again.)
But there are also some commenters who point out that children who engage in sexually predatory behavior often have histories of abuse themselves — an unexpected plea for compassion that is reportedly echoed by one of the victims. A post on the edemocracy forum purports to be from the cross-country skiing mother, who wishes to make it clear that she was assaulted but not raped, as some papers reported, and then offers her viewpoint. “I made a conscious choice to see the boys as human beings, not to see them as evil or bad. I focus my attention not on the boys’ actions but the pain behind their actions. I see those boys as hurting, scared children who didn’t get the kind of nurture, love and care that they needed,” she writes.
Hart Van Denburg of City Pages sums up Powederhorn Park’s sometimes turbulent past year, which has included drive-by shootings and one murder, but has also seem a decrease in poverty and crime in general. Denburg also summarizes the community’s response to this latest incident, which has galvanized people into action: They will, first of all, be holding a vigil on Wednesday evening, as well as organizing safety patrols. Sheila Regan of TC Daily Planet sums up neighborhood responses to the event, quoting City Council member Elizabeth Glidden: “The plan will be very meaningful to the community at large. My hat is off to these neighbors — one of the first things suggested was about bringing positive energy back to the park.”
The other big news story was of a thwarted terrorist bombing in Portland, Ore. It was an example of terrific police work, summarized by the Associated Press. The feds got word early on that a young man was plotting to blow up a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, and provided the youth with a dummy bomb in a sting operation. When the young man attempted to detonate the ersatz infernal machine, the feds swooped in and arrested him.
What does that have to do with us here in Minnesota? Well, as Kyle Porter of KARE11 reports, the alleged bomber, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, has a stepmother in Minneapolis. Generally, this is the sort of thing that might be mentioned as an afterthought — whenever a national event happens, local scribes go scrambling to find a local connection. But, since Mohamud is a naturalized Somali-American, the Somali community in general is expected to respond. “This is a state of shock and disbelief,” KARE11 quotes Omar Jamal, first secretary to the Somali mission to the United Nation, as saying. “We don’t want this to reflect the community. The community is full of law-abiding citizens.”
Their concern is understandable. Shortly after the plot was thwarted, Muslim leaders in Portland told the AP that they feared reprisals. On Sunday, the mosque where the young man worshiped was set on fire. A local Somali man tells Richard Meryhew and Abby Simons of the Strib that nobody should be surprised if the alleged bomber has relatives locally: “… [E]verybody who comes from Somalia has a relative here,” he says. “Minnesota is the hub.”
But why would they be concerned? Minnesota is known for its sensitivity and tolerance, yes? Well, not always, as demonstrated by a pulled ad for a Minneapolis bar that invited patrons to “Drink Like an Indian; Party Like a Pilgrim.” It not only showed a caricature of a drunken cowboy and Indian, but also included a cheesecake image of a voluptuous young woman dressed in a strangely fetishy Pocahontas-type outfit. Frederick Melo of the PiPress had the story. To the bar managers’ credit, he pulled the ad when people started complaining, explaining that it was created in a misconceived attempt to be “edgy.” They don’t make it clear if this edginess came from them being ignorant of the stereotype of drunken Native Americans or if they were deliberately making use of ethnic stereotypes, but the bar seems to have learned its lesson. We’ll check in on St. Patrick’s Day just to be sure.
Speaking of which, this author, who is both Irish-American and Jewish, is not sure if he is counted in Leora Maccabee’s list of “50 reasons to love being Jewish in the Twin Cities” (she does mention MinnPost as being run by some of her favorite Jews). But it’s a good list, which the people who run MinnPost, perhaps feeling flattered, has republished. We at the Glean would add a few of our own:
- Minneapolis’ crime boss in the middle part of the 20th century, Kid Cann, was Jewish;
- Hollywood actor Ron Perlman, who plays Hellboy, graduated from the University of Minnesota;
- The song “Funkytown” was written and produced by Steven Greenberg, a Jew from Minneapolis;
- The bundt pan was invented by Nordic Ware for Minneapolis’ chapter of the Hadassah;
- Minnesota’s unjustly neglected contribution to underground film, Sarah Jacobson, graduated from Edina High School and lensed or set “I Was a Teenage Serial Killer” and “Mary Jane’s Not a Virgin Anymore” here — both desperately in need of a revival.
A quick news update: You remember the tale of Rep. Tom Hackbarth, who was detained after parking in a Planned Parenthood parking lot, reportedly to check in on an Internet date, and was carrying a gun? He’s been suspended from leadership roles in the GOP House Caucus until the issue is resolved. Mary Lahammer of TPT and MinnPost has the story.
In arts: Those curious about the Twin Cities music scene in the ’90s would do well to head over to the Go Johnny Go blog, where John Kass has been posting images and tracks from many of the forgotten greats of the era, including Third Eye, Ultrasonics, and Three Car Garage. If they were to go back far enough to locate Public Work’s cassette release “Don’t Forget to Flush,” circa 1985, then this author would instantly revert back to how he was in high school, including Vans shoes, a skinny tie, and a shock of blond bangs that covered one side of his face.
In sports: Was swapping Brad Childress out for Leslie Frazier as the Vikings coach a good idea? Maybe. They were performing pretty miserably, and then, suddenly, in their first game under Frazier’s coaching, they beat the Redskins 17-13.