I knew exactly where the killing took place: midway between Minneapolis and St Paul, east of the Twin Cities campus of the University of Minnesota. I’ve driven on Larpenteur many times. But Greg Laden knows the area much, much better.
A neighborhood where bad things don’t happen, filled with people who probably carry out their share of white collar crime (or who are academics, and thus have other problems) but otherwise pretty quiet. Nearby are the scary neighborhoods, the neighborhoods that are actually pretty typical urban zones, with varying degrees of charm, development, decay, all that. Nothing exceptional. But I have the sense that the people of Falcon Heights, Saint Anthony, Lauderdale, and this part of Roseville, a generally liberal and highly educated enclave, collectively identify, label, and talk about those other neighborhoods, which are blacker, crimier, scarier, bits of the “Inner City” (a term disdained by Twin City dwellers, just so you know) creeping out into the “better neighborhoods.”
The victim, of course, was a school employee and citizen of good standing who didn’t live in any of those nearby scary neighborhoods, and was not part of an inner city creeping, even if such a characterization was valid (which it only barely is). But he and the others in the car were black, and they were driving down a street where the city police probably feel a duty to keep the Inner City away, keep the blackness away. One good way to do that is to encourage black people to avoid driving down that particular street, a major local thoroughfare, and instead, stay south and in the city. Let Saint Paul take care of its own problems. Don’t be driving through our quiet neighborhood. How do you do that? Pull over black people with broken tail lights, obviously. Then shake them down. Make them regret driving down that particular street.
About two years ago, Joe Olson was pulled over by a St. Anthony Police Department squad car for running a red light in Falcon Heights, the same Twin Cities suburb where Philando Castile was shot to death by a cop Wednesday evening. Olson put his hands on the steering wheel and waited for the officer to approach his driver’s side window when he heard a voice emanate from behind his head.
“I heard this voice with a tremor of fear in it. Actually, it scared me. Is this a scared cop?” Olson told ThinkProgress. “And he’s standing three feet behind my bumper interviewing me through the outside rear-view mirror, which is really weird, and he sounds terrified. I have a Jeep Grand Cherokee that has tinted windows, so he can’t see in the vehicle very well, he can’t see my hands at all, and he conducts the entire interview through my rear-view mirror.”
Olson said he “could’ve had somebody sitting in the back seat with a rifle” and the cop wouldn’t have been able to tell. He added that the officer’s unusual demeanor “made me afraid, and he was incompetent, and that made me more afraid.”
And this sounds familiar: these were not police trained to keep the peace. These were cops shaking down commuters for money.
Olson, who served in the Falcon Heights fire department, said he also has reason to believe that Falcon Heights officials place great value on the revenue generated by traffic citations. The city of 5,491 spent nearly $700,000 on policing last year. Across the three communities the St. Anthony PD serves, officers issued 2,410 citations, but only made 833 arrests, of which 661 were traffic-related. Small towns using traffic citations as a revenue stream is far from unprecedented in America.
“I was on the fire department in Falcon Heights when they got the [St. Anthony] police contract, and the chief promised the city council that he would double their ticket revenue,” Olson said, adding that this happened before Ohl’s tenure. “They essentially run a slot machine where the incident happened. They’re always out there looking for anything — write a ticket and collect a buck.”
Put it all together. You’ve got a well-off, largely white community who have contracted a lazily trained police force to do two things: to intimidate black people from “scary” neighborhoods, and to skim off a profit from said black people. It’s an old story: the playground bully who demands the milk money from the other kids, only this bully is racist as fuck.
Local news also claims to have police scanner audio that explains the rationale behind pulling him over. They looked like perpetrators of a robbery, because he had a “wide set nose”.
“Would this had happened if those passengers were white? I don’t think it would’ve,” Dayton said. “So I’m forced to confront, and I think all of us in Minnesota are forced to confront, [that] this kind of racism exists.”
Other politicians are speaking up.
— Al Franken (@alfranken) July 7, 2016
My thoughts are with all those grieving the death of Philando Castile. There must be a full & thorough investigation into his death.
— Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) July 7, 2016
One of FtB’s bloggers is from St Paul, and she has a few things to say.
White liberals, white progressives: stop talking about tolerance. Stop being color blind. Stop saying we are all equal, and it’s what’s inside us that matters. It’s not true. “Love see no Color” is bullshit. Love has to see color; love has to acknowledge racism and institutionalized oppression or “love” cannot do anything about it.
Stop ignoring race from a misguided notion that talking about it with our kids will somehow poison their minds. The poisoning comes from our silence in the face of constant messaging they receive every day from television, the movies, video games, advertising, the news, LIFE, and the self segregation white people tend towards in our daily lives with our choices about where we live and where we send our children to school. The choice to ignore race is privilege. Our silence is privilege. And it’s killing our fellow humans.
He graduated from Central High School in 2001 and had worked for Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS) since he was 19 years old, beginning in 2002, in the Nutrition Services Department.
Mr. Castile was promoted to a supervisory position two years ago and was currently working in one of our schools during the summer term.
Colleagues describe him as a team player who maintained great relationships with staff and students alike. He had a cheerful disposition and his colleagues enjoyed working with him. He was quick to greet former coworkers with a smile and hug.
One coworker said, “Kids loved him. He was smart, over-qualified. He was quiet, respectful, and kind. I knew him as warm and funny; he called me his ‘wing man.’ He wore a shirt and tie to his supervisor interview and said his goal was to one day ‘sit on the other side of this table.’”