Mpls. residents decry racism, violence after Fla. shooting

Church meeting
Dozens of Minneapolis residents met in a basement room of northside Church of the Ascension Sunday, March 25, 2012 to discuss gun violence and racism in the wake of Florida teen Trayvon Martin's death.
MPR Photo/Rupa Shenoy

Minneapolis residents gathered Sunday afternoon to discuss gun violence and racism in Minnesota in the wake of the shooting of an unarmed black teen in Florida.

About three dozen residents met in the basement of Church of the Ascension in north Minneapolis to discuss Trayvon Martin's killing.

Talk quickly turned to local shootings, and how to stop a cycle of violence in north Minneapolis. Speakers said adults have to hold children accountable, get them involved in community building and urge them to be leaders.

Resident Portia McClain said a subtle kind of racism in Minneapolis feeds an environment where young black males don't value themselves, their community, or their culture.

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"Minnesota's a different kind of place," McClain said. "There's this undercurrent racism of, 'Oh, I'm not racist, but yet it's there.' You don't know where you stand. So how do you fight it?"

McClain said every black mother worries every day that what happened to Trayvon Martin will happen to their son.

Leroy Duncan, who helped organized the meeting, said he grew up watching friends and family die or get caught up in the justice system.

Duncan said the Minnesota Legislature this session passed a self-defense law some call the "shoot-first" bill, which would allow the shooting of an unarmed person in a public place if they appear threatening. Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed the bill.

Duncan said a similar law led to Martin's killing.

"What happened there could certainly happen here if Gov. Dayton didn't veto that bill," Duncan said. "That policy is really what's at the center of this debate down in Florida. We definitely want the policies that have to do with gun violence as well as gun control to reflect the problems that we're seeing in our communities."

Duncan said the state should focus on passing laws that keep guns off the street.