The founder of the “True North Minneapolis
” Facebook page goes by the name Phillip I. Murphy. The postings at the page chronicle crime in the neighborhoods of the north end of Minneapolis, which are largely composed of black Americans. According to the progressive website, Fusion, he “isn’t a person of color,” but makes up for a lack of “melanin” with “colorful language.” True North monitors police activity in North Minneapolis, where over 50% of the population is black. In Minneapolis as a whole, black Americans comprise 20% of the overall population.
North Minneapolis has seen a sustained increase in violent crime. On Facebook, criminals are described as “thugs,” “pusillanimous pipsqueaks,” “shitbags,” and “cowards.” However, once he was labeled a racist, Phillips began calling them “urban terrorists.” He explained that he has imposed the terrorist label on criminals because of the terror they impose on the community.
Phillips noted in a post on True North that he started using the terms “urban terrorist
” and “urban terrorist cells” to better define the changing dynamic of urban gang structure. Forming about four years ago, wrote Phillips, new urban gangs consist of cells with 3 to 15 members in any given cell. Loosely organized, have no clear oversight or controls. The “urban terrorist cell” structure makes these gangs, “exceptionally dangerous for this reason.” Phillips wrote: “They rob, carjack, burgle, recklessly discharge firearms ad infinitum often striking innocent people with stray bullets, they commit homicides” across Minneapolis with “no regard for consequences.” He also noted that police chiefs of Detroit and Indianapolis have also referred to them as urban terrorists.
Phillips believes that citizens deserve to know that “shitbags” are on the streets with guns, despite indifference on the part of the media. The True North Minneapolis Facebook page has almost 5,600 followers. There are similar groups that are watching crime in the same area of Minneapolis, among them are: North Vent and NE Minneapolis Crime Watch & Information. At these Facebook pages, followers can vent their frustrations over police and to share information about criminal behavior. Police are believed to cruise the pages for information useful to their investigations.
The writer at Fusion claimed that moderators and administrator of such Facebook pages are “predominantly white and middle class, while the community on which they’re keeping tabs is mostly black
. The problem, then, is a racially tinged, class-divided clash between different segments of a community that share the same goal of stopping violence.” Hence, it prompted the question at the beginning of the article: “These white people are tracking crime in a black neighborhood. Is that racist?”
A local black activist, Felicia Perry told the interviewer “What these groups do is that they pit ‘us’ on quote unquote ‘them,'” while characterizing the True North website as validating bigotry. She asked rhetorically whether being a “police scanner hoe” making the neighborhood any better. Perry sees the attention from True North as being characterized by classism and race.
The website tracks news stories, as well as police reports of crimes and shots fired. For example, there was a closed-circuit video image of traffic on the I-94 freeway where two shots were fired at a motorist on September 28. According to Phillips, the week of August 16 recorded the greatest number of gunshots ever recorded since Minneapolis started releasing its gunfire-tracking data on a weekly basis.
The NE Minneapolis Crime Watch & Information
page on Facebook also runs tabs on reports of crime and gunshots. Among those registered recently was a report about the Boom Island amusement park in Minneapolis: “Boom Island parking lot, report of possible person with a gun. Involving two minivans. 13:58 UPDATE: One van left parking lot, a squad is trying to catch up. Other arriving PD requesting K9 for the other van. Occupants: One Somali F, three Somali M, one with the possible gun described as M, gray sweatshirt over T-shirt, age 20-30.”
In another post, images of a police arrest report showed a white man who had been arrested on sex charges.
The administrator of NE Minneapolis Crime Watch & Information page told the Fusion interviewer that some people believe that posting facts about crime is racist or classist. However, Diana Fisher, a black woman who is the administrator of the North Vent group said that the mugshots, crime reports, and criminal histories show that the offenders, more often than not are black, she said. Fisher told Fusion that her son is black and has been robbed three times for his bicycle, and held up at gunpoint for his cell phone. The perpetrators were black, she said. Her daughter was mugged by a black man, and her home burglarized by a black male teen. Fisher said that some people are offended when the facts are put in the spotlight.
This year, a black woman complained on the website about what she called “comments and generalizations” made about “people of color” or those on welfare, “basically people that are not white and middle class, are absolutely disgusting!” However, the Fusion writer admitted that the Facebook postings are innocuous, while noting that the administrators quickly remove inflammatory comments. One administrator wrote that he asks readers to point out racist content and explain why it is racist so that the users can learn.
However, this is not enough for activist Perry. The focus on crime, for her, means that there is less focus on the positive. She participates with groups such as Neighborhoods Organizing for Change
, which in her neighborhood recently held a forum for Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein in which Perry participated. Neighborhood Organizing for Change is a leftist group that is raising money for the legal defense of protesters who blocked the I-94 freeway this summer in the wake of the controversial killing of Philando Castile, a black man, by police this summer.
Philando Castile's shooting death was followed by raucous protests and rioting in Minneapolis, having come on the heels of an unrelated shooting by police in Baton Rouge. Leftist groups, such as Black Lives Matter, claimed that an inordinate number of black people are being shot to death by police. However, a study released by the Washington Post in July tells a different story:
"White officers shooting unarmed black men amounted to less than 4 percent of fatal police shootings.
"In about 75 percent of those incidents, police were under defending themselves or civilians.
"Most of those killed were wielding weapons, suicidal or mentally disturbed, or ran when ordered to stop.
"Nearly a third of police shootings involved car chases that began with a minor traffic stop."
In a study released in December 2015 in the Washington Post, there were other sobering statistics:
Of 965 persons killed by police that year, only 90 were unarmed, and the majority of those were white. In places like West Garfield Park in Chicago, where gangs run rampant, there is a higher murder rate (116.7 per 100,000) than world murder capitals like Honduras (90.4). West Garifield Park
, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, is 96% black.