Council committee votes to repeal spitting, lurking ordinances

A City Council committee has voted unanimously to repeal the city’s spitting and lurking ordinances — low-level offenses people of color are disproportionally cited for in Minneapolis.

The full Council will vote on repealing the ordinances June 5.

Supporters of eliminating the ordinances say the laws allow police officers to act on racial biases and unfairly target people of color for criminal activity.

City Council Member Cam Gordon (Ward 2), who has led the effort to repeal the ordinances along with City Council Member Blong Yang (Ward 5), said he’s hopeful that the full Council will also vote unanimously in favor of dropping the laws.

Gordon tried unsuccessfully to repeal lurking in 2008, but said dynamics on the Council and in the community have changed. 

He referenced the book, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” as a seminal work examining how the country has shifted to more subtle forms of racist policing. 

Several young people of color testified in support of repealing the ordinances at Wednesday’s hearing and shared personal experiences of officers racially profiling them. 

Council Member Abdi Warsame (Ward 6), a Somali American, also shared his own story about being approached by police in Roseville while on a break from his job at Wells Fargo. He said officers asked him what was in his backpack, which simply contained a salad he had purchased for lunch.

“This is a no brainer,” Warsame said of the repealing the laws.

Nekima Levy-Pounds, a University of St. Thomas law professor and newly elected president of the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP, said removing the ordinances is the least the city can do in its efforts to address racial disparities.

She said she wants to see an overhaul of the city’s entire system of policing given high levels of complaints about excessive force from people of color.

“It’s time for a cultural shift,” she said.