Minneapolis' spitting, lurking laws 'reminiscent of the Jim Crow era'

Advocates calling for the repeal of Minneapolis' spitting and lurking laws say their elimination acts as a launch pad to make the city more fair and just, but more needs to be done to address the racial disparity. A City Council vote on the ordinance is expected on Friday.

The news conference came on the heels of the ACLU's arrest disparity report released in late May, a study of Minneapolis police data that revealed black people are nearly nine times more likely to be arrested for low-level offenses in the city than white people.

ACLU: Black people arrested more than white people in Minneapolis

Minneapolis council member Cam Gordon is among the advocates pushing for a repeal, saying the laws are contributors to the "new Jim Crow" in the city today. The spitting rule was once rooted in the fear of spreading tuberculosis, and the lurking rule comes right after a no hats in theaters policy. These are the kinds of low-level offenses mentioned in the ACLU report, which claims these are tools to target minorities.

"People of color deserve to have a decent quality of life, and that cannot happen if we continue with the same system of policing that we have in place which is reminiscent of the Jim Crow era," Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds said.

For their part, Minneapolis police continue to say the statistics aren't that simple and context is everything, and in those neighborhoods of color, there are a lot of arrests for driving without a license and no insurance -- a common offense especially in those areas -- skewing the stats.

However, the ACLU and their allies hope to keep the city's feet to the fire and call for leaders to keep examining racial profiling issues. Friday's repeals, they hope, are a small, but necessary launch pad.

"I think there's a good chance we can start a process of repealing some of these ordinances that are adding to these disparities," said Anthony Newby, Executive Director of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change.

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