• April 11, 2016

Timberland_6_inch_bootsIn October, 2014, Tom Johnson, a Minnesota Vikings football player (6′ 3″, 285 lbs.), went to “Seven,” an upscale bar on Hennepin Avenue in Downtown Minneapolis, at about 1:00 a.m., where he hung out with friends till closing, around 2:30 a.m.

Believe it or not, when he went to leave and get his car from the valet parking service, he was told the wait would be around 20 minutes.

Wait….a 20-minute wait?!? Excuse my vulgarity but does that not totally suck?

And, remember: this was in October in Minneapolis. Standing outside on Hennepin Avenue at 2:30 a.m. after bar-close for 20 minutes in Minneapolis in October waiting for your car?!? Apparently, as is customary at Seven, Mr. Johnson was initially permitted to wait indoors while Seven’s horribly slow valet service retrieved his car (from Orono? Elk River? Mahtomedi?) — that is, until a Seven employee noticed Mr. Johnson was wearing Timberland boots. Timberland boots, associated with a kind of patron that Seven does not care to serve, are verbooten at Seven.

I note, in passing, that some “dress codes” are flat-out racist. Check this linked one out, for instance (and feel free to boycott Bar Louie in Uptown, by the way). Who came up with the Seven’s Timberland Boot Prohibition and why? How often is the boot bar enforced and against whom, I wonder? Again, I note in passing that the frigging bar was closing when Seven staff decided to give Mr. Johnson a hard time because of his boots. And I feel compelled to note, in passing, that Seven staffers appear to have had no problem with Mr. Johnson’s boots until AFTER Mr. Johnson had spent his money at Seven. Granted, it was undoubtedly past the bedtime of Seven staffers after a long night’s work when they were trying to empty the bar and go home…

But, so far, the story is just one of a stupid business — with bad valet service, a nutty dress code, and a bizarre take on customer service (ejecting a patron onto the street because of his boots at 2:30 a.m. because the establishment’s valet service is so bad).

Then the story went from private idiocy to a public problem….

Seven hired two off-duty Minneapolis police officers for security (and expressly NOT as “bouncers,” which is prohibited by MPD policy (see Complaint, Para. 21)) and, in that evening’s bar-closing commotion, Minneapolis police appear to have maced Mr. Johnson, tasered him, and arrested him apparently for being a large Black man. At least that is how Mr. Johnson’s lawyers make it seem from the allegations in their complaint. (The police testimony, which Mr. Johnson’s lawyers say is flatly inconsistent with video-recordings of the incident, tells a dramatically different story to be sure.)

This case is one of many such cases that have been increasingly brought to public attention in recent years. These incidents often have a polarizing effect on our communities. While many see a tidal wave of police-incriminating video confirming a pervasive and sometimes lethal social ill (police abuse of force) inflicted on some in our society from forever (literally), others dismiss these videos as “one-sided,” “out of context,” “not telling the whole story,” or otherwise. That is, they are inclined to believe the police officers’ testimony and are inclined to believe the officers’ actions were justified.

In the most egregious cases, the defenders of the status quo invoke the “few bad apples” trivializer, particularly palatable so long as it is not your brothers, your fathers, your sons, your friends being maced, tasered, and arrested.

Regardless of your view, I think it is fair to say that digital video evidence has brought to light police misconduct AND proper conduct by law enforcement. The technology has both incriminated and exculpated. The technology is not going away any time soon and, it seems to me, that it has changed and will continue to change the behavior of both law enforcement and the public, ultimately for the better, we have reason to hope.

And, finally, as aside:

Last week, the Minneapolis Star Tribune did us the favor of publishing an article about this newly filed high profile civil lawsuit, but consistent with its standard practice, the Strib did not think it worthwhile to post a link to the complaint as I have done. I have complained about this on and off for the past five years or more.

In September of 2014, @cagemasher commented on twitter that, “[O]n twitter a few weeks ago, someone from the @strib said it was up to each reporter, and whether they knew how to do it.”

Whether they knew how to do it?? Gimme a break. Strib Reporter Libor Jany and other Strib reporters do not know how to post a hyperlinked document? That is not credible. I would submit that it is (1) because the Strib is too cheap, and (2) because the Strib is short-sighted. When you’re the only game in town, it is quite tempting to nickle-and-dime your readership and deliver thin gruel to maximize profit. On the other hand, maybe it only seems that a city’s sole surviving print newspaper is immortal and immune from market forces….


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