Brutal policing, a corporate surveillance state, Jim Crow-like segregation, public-private corruption at the highest levels, none of it would be achieved without massive cooperation to systematically deny the voices of Black youth and adults in downtown Minneapolis.
An Ongoing Investigative Series by Contributor Marjaan Sirdar
This report places Target Corporation squarely at the center of a decades-long racist policing/surveillance operation that began in downtown Minneapolis, but has since expanded throughout the city and country via its “Safe City” initiative. Looking past its friendly title, this Orwellian program uses harsh policing for low-level “lifestyle” offenses such as petty retail crimes, which is essentially what Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd for, and zero-accountability prosecution for brutal cops to achieve its profit-driven agenda.
On April 20, the jury in the Derek Chauvin murder trial delivered swift and decisive guilty verdicts on all three counts for killing George Floyd, reinforcing the state’s case that Chauvin’s actions were outliers; in turn this means “the system” is not guilty. 21st Century Jim Crow flips conventional wisdom upside-down with damning evidence that the problem is much bigger than policing, and the corporate-government corruption reaches all levels of the public and private sectors.
When cities like Minneapolis allow corporations like Target to set the parameters for law enforcement and prosecution through corporate giving, it not only leads to violence and massive unrest — following the murder of George Floyd and now Daunte Wright — it also leads to massive court settlements, costing taxpayers nearly $50 million in just the last two years alone for police brutality. On the other hand, since the murder of Floyd, Target Corp. has made record-breaking profits.
21st Century Jim Crow exposes sweeping implications that Minneapolis has served as a model for brutal oppression, social control, and the global surveillance state, inspired by Target Corporation, funded by Minneapolis taxpayers, and exemplified today in China with their own “Safe Cities” program.
Part 1 – Policing and Punishment in Minneapolis’ ‘SafeZone’ looks at the public/private SafeZone initiative launched in downtown Minneapolis
Launched in 2004, it’s an instructive example of how programs lauded as reforms can still impose punitive “law and order” tactics onto targeted populations. Part 1 questions the role community “justice” programs and businesses play in the displacement of said populations. With all the media coverage and all the reports about racial disparities in Minneapolis, they have excluded perhaps its primary feeder program into the criminal justice system: the Downtown 100.
Part 2 – Minneapolis Faces Facial Recognition provides evidence of how Minneapolis was a model city for massive surveillance in America after 9/11
This piece questions the new ordinance approved by Minneapolis City Council on February 12, limiting government use of facial recognition technology (FRT) — a technology that has been linked to sweeping human rights’ violations in China. Without including private entities in this ban, there is nothing keeping the wealthy from using police and private security, who are entrenched with corporations, from weaponizing FRT against vulnerable populations, thus exacerbating the city’s already worst-in-the-nation racial disparities between communities of color and whites.
Part 3 – Minneapolis’ Downtown Dark Alliance places Target Corp. at the center of a profit-driven public-private partnership
This alliance between the Downtown Council (which represents the downtown business interests), the city of Minneapolis, and Hennepin County, completely blurs the boundaries between government responsibility and corporate profiteering. Corporate giving has resulted in the criminal “justice” and law enforcement systems surrendering unprecedented power to Target Corp. and its associates, with devastating consequences for Black people especially, and the city overall. All of this with the stated goals of creating the ideal shopping environment for Target’s “suburban” base, for the sake of increasing Target’s brand and profits. [Listen to the audio version of Part 3 Minneapolis’ Downtown Dark Alliance by People Power Podcast]
In Part 4, Targeted: Young, Black and Harassed in Downtown MPLS, youth tell their stories of being systematically surveilled, criminalized and incarcerated by police just for being Black and homeless.
About the author of this series: Marjaan Sirdar is a freelance writer in South Minneapolis’ Bryant neighborhood, where George Floyd was killed by the MPD. He is the host of People Power Podcast.