Aszani Stoddard knows her black friends are afraid they may be pulled over and killed, which is why she put a Black Lives Matter sign on her lawn in Minneapolis’ Longfellow neighborhood last week. Now she is the one who is afraid after someone sent her an anonymous threatening letter about the sign.
She put the sign up on Friday. On Monday a misspelled handwritten letter arrived in her mail that said. “Please remove the racist sign in your yard. BLM is a racest terrost group and will not be tollerated in this neighborhood. Please do this now so no further action agenst you will be nessary.”
It was signed “The good people.”
“I was scared. It felt threatening to me,” said Stoddard. “I kind of froze. I couldn’t believe this was happening in this day and age.”
First she called the police and waited for them to arrive. “In the meantime I kind of sat with it and I decided to take a picture of it and put it on my Facebook page because I sort of felt like I shouldn’t sit with this by myself. I needed my community to help me deal with this.”
Stoddard says Minneapolis police response “condescending”
The response she got from others was “hugely supportive and powerful.” The response she got from police was not as encouraging. “They were very skeptical,” said Stoddard of the two Minneapolis police officers who came to her home. “One was pretty condescending.” Stoddard said they “wouldn’t even file a report because the threat is ‘too vague and people threaten each other all the time.’” She said the officers suggested the “further action” in the letter may just be a threat to take her sign and or sue her in civil court. The officers told her to call them back if “someone throws a rock through your window or something like that.”
“They sort of suggested I was being a little hysterical by worrying about it, and I’m a health care provider and I’m pretty much never hysterical,” said Stoddard who owns and operates a home birth midwife business. “But definitely they did not take it seriously as a threat.”
“That’s ridiculous,” said city council member Andrew Johnson who represents the Longfellow neighborhood. “Police should be helpful in filing a report.” Johnson says it’s not the first time that he’s seen the Minneapolis police not handle threats appropriately. He says when police appear not to care about a threat that “doubles down on the stress of the situation” for the victim. Johnson says most of the time Minneapolis police do a fine job but there is “room for improvement.” He has reached out to Stoddard on Facebook and the two plan to talk soon.
The UpTake contacted the Minneapolis police about the incident and provided a photo of the threatening letter. Public Information Officer Corey Schmidt says after reviewing the letter and call notes, the police will be contacting Stoddard to take a report.
Stoddard says her roommate also feels threatened by the letter. She says many people who have seen the letter on social media “overwhelmingly agree” that it is a threat and needs to be taken seriously.
One clue to who the letter writer may be is how Stoddard’s name is misspelled on it. It’s misspelled in the same way it is misspelled on her neighborhood block map. But she says the officers didn’t even want to pursue that lead.
Stoddard’s daughter thinks the writer is somebody older because “no young person would ever just write a letter and mail it to you.” She also says only an older person would use a paper block map and not look for her online to get her correct name.
Stoddard has asked her neighbors to put up their own Black Lives Matters signs and at the same time “keep an eye” on her house. She’s gotten a good response from her neighbors who she describes as being “progressive who welcome all kinds of people.” She’s lived there for five years.
What would she say to the letter writer?
She has a message for the letter writer. “Come talk to me because I’m certainly open to listening to other points of view and perspectives. We’re all in this together. We have to figure out how to have racial justice in this country.”
“We want to be the best people we can. We want to try to listen to each other and open up dialog. And I think especially with people who think Black Lives Matter is a racist terrorist group.”
“Be neighborly and come over and I’ll make you tea and maybe we’ll bring a few other people in on the discussion too but let’s talk about it.”
But Stoddard remains firm in her resolve about Black Lives Matter. “I’m not going to take down my sign.”