It was the kind of local news story about an animal spotted in an unusual place that is often used for filler on the evening broadcast of a slow news day.
Yet, in today’s explosive political climate, one retweet of the story broadcast by the local Fox affiliate on the Twin Cities turned the entire incident into a forum of opinions on the calls for police reforms that the Minnesota legislature — split between a GOP-controlled Senate and a Democratic House — left unanswered when it adjourned without reaching an agreement on the proposals to change the way police operate in the state where George Floyd was murdered by a cop.
The story was of a black bear who wandered into a parking garage at Union Depot in St. Paul on Wednesday evening, expanding the range of the creatures who typically stay far from urban areas into a neighborhood that rarely sees that type of wildlife.
When Jason Lewis, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Tina Smith, saw the story, he immediately retweeted it with a comment that put him squarely on the side of police advocates who feel that there is no situation that could be handled by anyone better than a police officer.
But by all means, let’s abolish the police! Would love to see a “social worker” take care of this one. https://t.co/EE2WPDKg2m
— Jason Lewis (@LewisForMN) June 19, 2020
Lewis’ comment opened himself up to fierce criticism from those who feel that many situations now typically handled by police would be better addressed by government representatives with training in areas other than the use of force — with situations involving mentally unstable people handled by social workers and psychological experts and incidents like the wandering bear assigned to animal control officers with expertise in handling wildlife safely and returning them to their natural habitat.
The comments Lewis received on his Twitter post made it clear that he was swinging against the tide of national sentiment during this time of outrage over police brutality by increasingly militarized local officers.
Polar bears get warnings.
— Jared Millay (@moosekoenig) June 20, 2020
Or animal control?
— Timothy Collins (@wookietim) June 20, 2020
— HippieChick (@kathy_markovich) June 20, 2020
— Natalie Myers (@Catsy2Natalie) June 20, 2020
They already have non police staff to handle this, it's called Minnesota Fish and Game. You'd think someone looking to represent the state would know that?
— Iron Giant Resists (@JustinMHanlon1) June 20, 2020
Sadly, the bear was not available for comment on the situation. Luckily, one person updated the world on the bear’s status after his walkabout in downtown St. Paul.
A bear peacefully protesting its confinement to forested areas managed to escape any police brutality this time — no thanks to the Minnesota Republican Senate candidate — but if the Minnesota legislature reaches agreement on substantive police reforms, then perhaps its next excursion to the big city won’t be as fraught with potential peril — and political manipulation — as his last visit was.
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Vinnie Longobardo is the Managing Editor of Occupy Democrats. He's a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music, and art.