Minneapolis City Council Declares Racism a ‘Public Health Emergency’

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The Minneapolis City Council on Friday declared racism a public health emergency, a move that comes after weeks of unrest following the police custody death of George Floyd in May that sparked national outrage.

The council approved a resolution that states the city of Minneapolis will recognize “the severe impact of racism on the well-being of residents and city overall and allocate funding, staff, and additional resources to actively engage in racial equity in order to name, reverse, and repair the harm done” to black, Indigenous and people of color.

“Racism has various forms including historical, individual, systemic and that has not only continued to present day, but has been institutionalized to ensure the concentration of material, power and resources into the hands of white bodied individuals,” reads the resolution, written by council members Andrea Jenkins and Phillipe Cunningham.

Minneapolis has some of the “starkest racial inequities in the country,” the resolution says, including in the areas of poverty, home ownership, and obtaining a high school diploma.

Floyd, a black man, died on May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes as he pleaded for air, during which time he passed out. Within days, demonstrations and riots against racism and police brutality broke out in the city and in metropolitan areas around the country. Rioters burned a police precinct building in Minneapolis and damaged businesses around the city.

“It’s past time that we begin to address these systemic issues that have been plaguing our society for decades,” Jenkins said. “Naming this issue allows us to begin to dismantle its structures moving forward.”

In June, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights filed a civil rights discrimination charge against the city’s police department, launching an investigation into the department’s polices and practices over the last decade with an eye to determining whether it has used “systemic discriminatory practices towards people of color.”

After Minneapolis faced calls to overhaul and defund the city’s police department, the city council last month announced that a veto-proof majority had voted to dissolve the department. That proposal was opposed by both the Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo.