Edina's first official reaction to the arrest of Larnie Thomas was a defensive one.
On Friday, as the internet reacted to the video of Thomas getting arrested for walking in the street, the city rushed out a statement explaining what happened around noon last Wednesday. In short: What happened was Thomas' fault, and the woman who filmed the incident was putting everyone there at risk.
That woman, Janet Rowles, who is white, says explicitly she pulled over to film Thomas' interaction with a cop because she worried the 34-year-old Minneapolis man might be mistreated "because of his ethnicity."
Rowles says she and other motorists were able to easily drive past Thomas, who had been forced into the roadway due to a sidewalk closure, because he was "literally walking down the white line that marks the shoulder."
She tells a different story than the one the officer (and the city) had. In its statement, Edina said Thomas was walking "in the southbound lane of traffic," and the cop needed to pull over and speak to him due to "the risk to the safety of the public."
Thomas was cited with disorderly conduct and failure to obey a traffic signal as a pedestrian, a crime that doesn't seem to be much of an issue for all the white folks jaywalking carefree in Minneapolis and St. Paul every day.
On Sunday, Edina Mayor Jim Hovland struck a different tone in a statement addressing Thomas' arrest. Hovland says the cop was "following established protocol" in confronting Thomas. But that might not be a good thing.
"[Edina] will review that protocol and determine how to better approach this type of incident with greater sensitivity in the future," Hovland said.
The mayor says any such changes would be made with city officials working in concert with "other organizations." The Minneapolis NAACP was quick to seize on the arrest of Thomas, and the immediate defensive position the city took, as evidence of a systemic problem there. The activist group called for a six-point list of demands to be met, including the suspension without pay of officer Tim Olson, pending results of an independent investigation, and a formal apology from Mayor Hovland and Police Chief Dave Nelson to Thomas.
Hovland's statement stopped short of apologizing, though the mayor observed that the pedestrian citations Thomas faced will be dropped. According to Hovland, Thomas was taken not to jail after the video ended, but was instead "driven to a nearby shopping mall at his request and released."
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