Community organizations call for peace after violent Sunday in Minneapolis

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Minneapolis Police are still investigating the motive behind a mass shooting that injured 11 people in the city’s Uptown neighborhood early Sunday morning. One person was also killed.

The shooting started suddenly, according to community members who are on the ground there working to prevent violence.

“There were no fights, no confrontations, nothing was going on other than young people having a good time then all the sudden gunplay started and that was when the chaos began,” said VJ Smith, the national president of MAD DADS, a crime prevention and youth development organization. “We have to get those guns, we have to get to those individuals who have guns so we can make our city safe.”

It’s a tragedy he was working to prevent. Smith told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS his team arrived at Hennepin Avenue South around 10 p.m., along with other community organizations.

He said the city asked them to help keep the peace after an active Friday night.

“It hurts my heart. It hurts my heart that happened last night,” Smith said. “I keep seeing those bodies being carried from that site and I see all of the people that came to rush even in the midst of gunfire to pick people up and get them to the ambulance.”

There were at least seven shootings on Sunday alone. In the past week, there have been 19 incidents of gun violence, killing four people.

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“There is some kind of war going on between individuals, and we know that, so that I believe that spilled off into this event,” Smith said. “It's hard to know if they’re all connected but we know there is a high level of intensity between certain groups in our city right now, and we have to address that before we start losing more innocent people.”

Minneapolis police have not confirmed a connection between the various shootings.

“We have seen unfortunately over the past several months an uptick in violent crime in Minneapolis,” Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said Sunday morning. "The numbers that we are seeing, it's a public health crisis. And so we are going to need all stakeholders to step up and be part of the discussions for solutions.”

Smith agrees it will take a collaboration between police and community organizations who can reach out to youth.

“So we can give them a sense of urgency of how you can resolve some things without gunfire,” said Smith. “We can resolve some things without killing a man or woman, and we can definitely resolve some things without killing innocent people.”

Trahern Pollard, founder of We Push For Peace, was also on Hennepin helping to defuse any conflicts on Saturday night. 

“Seeing all of those kids out there, laying down shot for no reason, it was very disheartening, it was very disheartening to say the least,” he said. “A lot of innocent bystanders were hurt last night for no reason.”

He voiced support for Chief Arradondo as he works to combat the violence.

“The approach that law enforcement is taking, I respect them,” Pollard said. “They're working hand in hand with community organizations. I think that's the exact way to go.”

He said as community members, they are able to reach the young people who may be participating in the violence. 

“We're working our tails off to try to get to the bottom of it to get it to stop,” said Pollard.

“We’re out here trying to make sure they stay safe and it's time for these young brothers and sisters to take a hard look in the mirror because it is totally a bigger picture … We're three weeks removed from George Floyd being murdered, and we're out here having these random acts of random gunfire, and, guys, that's not the answer.”

As the city looks at how to reform policing, Pollard doesn’t believe defunding the department is the answer. 

Both he and Smith told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS it will require collaboration to stop the violence, including an investment in community organizations that can defuse conflicts and help change lives to prevent future violence.

“What we want to do is we want to not only go talk to those guys about the senseless violence but we also want to create opportunities for them in terms of jobs and et cetera,” Pollard said.

Council President Lisa Bender did not respond to our requests for comment on Sunday.

Council Member Phillipe Cunningham released the following statement:

“The gun violence is out of control across this city right now, but we’re especially feeling it here on the Northside. I want folks to know I am continuing to work diligently with the Office of Violence Prevention to come up with an urgent safety plan to respond to the violence and try to get ahead of it with additional preventative measures. I have yet again asked City Communications to FINALLY get an OVP FB page up so folks know what’s going on and how to get plugged in. Hopefully that will go live this week. We will be hosting a meeting this week for folks to get involved in the efforts. We will get through this together, Northsiders.”

Mayor Jacob Frey also responded:

“Violence and lawlessness serve no one. The recent string of shootings across our city is only compounding our shared grief. It cannot and will not be tolerated. Chief Arradondo is reaching out to local, state, and federal partners for aid and MPD detectives are working to identify those responsible. Chief Arradondo has my full support.”