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Cops Sure Like to Take Stuff

Plus LGBTQ books targeted, MIGIZI's new digs, and saving up snow in today's Flyover news roundup.

Engin Akyurt via Unsplash

Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily digest of what local media outlets and Twitter-ers are gabbing about.

MN State Agencies Net Millions in Seized Assets

Here in The Flyover, we like to paraphrase the sources we link to, so it looks like we’re earning our paychecks and not just coasting on other peoples’ work. But sometimes a lede cuts to the heart of a matter and you just gotta quote it: “In 2022 Minnesota law enforcement agencies seized and kept more than $3.1 million in cash, vehicles, and other property from individuals who were not convicted of criminal wrongdoing,” Christopher Ingraham writes for the Minnesota Reformer. That’s a full one-third of what state agencies seized, and the big winners were Hennepin County drug and anti-violence task forces. In many of those cases, criminal charges were not even filed.

Asset forfeiture seems like a civil rights violation at best and an outright scam at worst—it allows cops to seize cash and possessions if there’s a suspicion of criminal activity, and since they keep the booty, that gives them a profit motive. Defenders of the practice say it’s a necessary tool in fighting crime, as defenders of every police practice always say. Given the small levels of cash often involved, how do we know cops aren’t targeting petty crooks or just someone they don’t like? Ingraham’s kicker nails it too: “Since there’s no way to know for sure, we just have to take their word for it.”

Book Brouhaha

Want a story that combines oh-so-many uncomfortable, hot-button issues? We present you this one from Becky Z. Dernbach at Sahan Journal. In it, readers learn that last week around 200 Muslim students—roughly 20% of the student body—at Ham Lake, Minnesota, charter school DaVinci Academy were withheld from school for four days to protest the use of “LGBTQ-friendly picture books.” Curated by St. Paul nonprofit AmazeWorks, 120 books taught at DaVinci are intended to impart age-appropriate lessons to kindergarteners through fifth-graders about accepting immigrants, folks with disabilities, and, yes, people of different sexual orientations.

Now the school board is involved, the Council on American-Islamic Relations is involved, and some Muslim parents are threatening to yank their kids forever unless the books are banned from the curriculum. One anonymous Muslim parent told Dernbach that Islam considers homosexuality a “major sin.” You might be asking yourself: Surely, students whose parents object to certain material can opt out of having it taught to their kids, including anti-bias picture books, right? Correct! That’s exactly what DaVinci executive director Holly Fischer is telling aggrieved families, but it’s apparently not enough. 

“We teach our children to basically respect others,” parent Aboubakr Mekrami said at a recent school board meeting. “We strongly object to this optional LGBT curriculum being used in the classroom.” Kindergarten teacher Lauren Metty sees things differently. “The books that are in the AmazeWorks resource really helped us to have a jumping-off point to have better and more fruitful conversations about these topics,” she says. Mekrami denied accusations of book banning, but when you’re demanding the removal of books because you want stories about certain identities excluded from the school… it’s really tough to meet ya halfway, man. (As you may have read, possibly in an un-banned book, our country is currently enmeshed in something of a grim book-banning boom time, with right-wing parents stirring most of the wrong-minded ruckus.)

Dernbach notes that if threats to permanently unenroll hundreds of students go through, it would be financially devastating for DaVinci. The base-level nefarious nature of charter school funding? That’s an uncomfortable, hot-button issue for another day.

MIGIZI’s Back!

It’s been a long road, but the Native American youth center MIGIZI has reopened in a new space at 1845 E. Lake St., less than a mile from its old location. After remaining untouched for the first two days of unrest following the murder of George Floyd, the old site caught fire on the third day; the community acted fast to salvage artwork and archives. The new space, just a few blocks from South High, was inaugurated at a ceremony last night, with performances from Little Earth drummers and jingle dancers. “We're just really excited for all of the different pieces that are coming through, how our program is growing and expanding in this new space, and how we can continue to keep the legacy of the original MIGIZI alive, this idea of raising the next generation of storytellers,” Binesikwe Means, lead media instructor, told Nicole Ki of MPR News.

Trollhaugen Ski Resort Has Snow. Also, Snow Scientist is an Actual Job.

Last weekend, meteorologically-peaking, it was hot as balls. But people nearby in western Wisconsin are still going to be skiing this weekend, dammit. That’s because Trollhaugen has been hoarding snow in a shady spot in the woods since last winter. “We probably lost about 60% of the pile that we had originally,” says Adam Mahler, who KSTP says is a “snow scientist.” (Cool job!) Despite the heat waves, their stash is still pretty epic, measuring at over 12 feet tall and 50+ feet long. Impressively, that’s enough leftovers to create a 36-inch base of snow to support Rail Jam, an annual season opener, competition, and open house.

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