At issue was Metro Transit’s removal of bus service stops at that intersection. Metro Transit curtailed service to that corner at the requests of Minneapolis Police Department.
MPD asked Metro Transit to move bus stops two blocks to the north or south in response to one store owner’s allegation that the bus stop provided cover for loiterers and drug dealers whose violent behavior posed a safety risk to area residents and passersby.
Hamza Samir, who manages Wally’s, the corner store at Golden Valley & Penn said area youths would loiter at the bus stop and not catch the bus. He said the people who loiter there are just bad people.
Don Samuels, 5th Ward City Council Member said he would ask Metro Transit to consider moving the bus stop from the Southeast corner to the northeast corner, in front of Wright Barber Shop. He questioned why youths chose to, and were allowed to loiter in front of Wally’s corner store.
Is it because the store is selling tobacco products to underage youths without checking age identification, he asked. Is it because the store sells blunts, a mini-cigar product that drug users use to smoke marijuana, or because the store is selling single cigarettes illegally?
Samuels said the city has had the store owners on the carpet before and demanded that the store owners comply with regulations and laws. He said the city regulators will do random stings, aimed and determining whether store employees are breaking the law by selling to minors or breaking other commerce practices rules.
Reverend Eli Thigpen, pastor of the New Community Baptist Church, next door to the corner store, said the store management is responsible for the problems at the corner both for what is selling and because of how it treats some of the people who shop there. Thigpen said store employees are abusive to people, often chasing people out of the store with guns drawn.
“If a person is stealing in the store, the store employees should call the police. They should not chase these youngsters in the streets with guns. Somebody is going to get hurt,” Thigpen said.
Samir said store employees cannot call the police because the store owners get in trouble with Minneapolis Police Department for making too many calls for police help.
“Absolutely not true,” Council Member Samuels retorted. “There is no limit to the number of calls you can make to report crime.” He said store employees should call as often as they need to deal with criminal activity. He also said he did not know the limits of store owners’ ability to use firearms in response to theft or threat when the suspects are no longer on the store’s property.
For Corrine Wright, owner of Wright Haircuts, on the north side of Golden Valley Road at Penn, the real issues are transportation access and transportation justice for the residents of the community, and, the animosity and hostility created by Wally’s conducts business in our neighborhood.
Insight reported that 4th Precinct Commander Mike Martin, speaking to Willard Homewood Organization, said effective police work on West Broadway has mean “pushing” nuisance behavior to other locations. He said some of the bad actors that had created problems on West Broadway are now hanging out at Golden Valley & Penn. Or, he said, the intersection is a place where rivals from different neighborhoods cross paths, sometimes with hostility.
Recently, a motorist was injured as she waited in the northbound lane on Penn at Golden Valley and rivals shot across the street at each other. There was at least one other incident at the intersection that involved gunfire, observers said.
But those incidents, while too many, still are isolated and not reflective of the character of the neighborhood and its residents and businesses, said Wright. “When I see young people congregating I go out and talk to them. They respond to me respectfully. They will say ‘Yes Ma’am’ and move on if I ask them to,” she said.
Samuels seconded Wright’s observation by noticing that her business, which caters to African American men, does not have the problem of Black men loitering, so what is it about the corner store that invites loitering, he asked.
Community organizer Kenya McKnight called for clarity and separation of the issues that somehow got entangled, resulting in penalization of the entire community by reduction of access to transportation.
She said everyone in the community was concerned about public safety and everyone believed all impacted parties need to be at the table to discuss how to ensure and maintain public safety.
But everyone also believes residents have a right to public transportation that is accessible, McKnight said. Access to transportation services should not be sacrificed. People should work together to increase transportation options and work together to increase public safety, she said.
Etta Christon, stylist at Wright Haircuts, who organized the community rally protesting the reduction of bus stop service to Golden Valley & Penn said the rally served to create public and community awareness about a process that is unfair to the community if it allows one business owner to hold sway over public transportation needs of the community, and if Metro Transit and Minneapolis Police acted to deprive residents of transportation access without fully consulting residents and transit rider.
“The travesty,” she said, “is they didn’t tell the community about the decision or about the process that led to this decision. On top of that, they didn’t tell anybody that the decision would be permanent in 30 days.”
Willard Homewood Organization, the Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) residents’ organization that includes the Golden Valley & Penn location, is inviting elected official, local businesses including Wright Haircuts and Wally’s and New Community Church, and block club leaders to discuss both the problem of transportation access and public safety at its regular 6-7pm Thursday, October 21 meeting, at NorthPoint Community Services Building, 1315 Penn Av. N.