I saw a recent Star Tribune news story about a group of people who, in the 11th hour of its due process, opposed an off-leash dog park’s being located within Martin Luther King Park in Minneapolis because, during the Civil Rights Movement of the ’60s, attack dogs had been set upon African Americans. Does anyone else wonder at the logic of connecting people today exercising their pets—not organizing dog fights—with wrongdoings committed by racists 50-some years ago? Does anyone believe her neighbor’s golden retriever puppy has been taught to attack a particular race of people?

If I could even imagine there being a nefarious racial-targeting motive to locating a dog-exercise area in MLK’s namesake park, I’d join in the furor. But this somehow seems to be camouflaging, most likely, the fact that those opposing the dog park simply dislike dogs and couldn’t come up with a more legitimate reason for thwarting the project. But they are so serious in their opposition, someone even predicted (read “threatened?”) young people would shoot the animals if the dogs were allowed in their park.

Would Dr. King really be offended by the presence of household animals in his park? Pardon me if I seem flippant, but somehow I think if this seeker of peace among all people were still here, he’d find more important things to worry about.—Sid

Anger rises over proposed Mpls. dog park

Some in the audience sang “We Shall Overcome” after the Minneapolis Park Board would not vote on a motion to bar a dog park in Martin Luther King Park.

By RANDY FURST, Star Tribune

Last update: January 19, 2011 – 9:59 PM

At a highly volatile meeting punctuated by angry allegations, a series of speakers, most of them black, blasted the Minneapolis Park Board for continuing to consider a proposal to put a dog park on the site of the Martin Luther King Park in south Minneapolis.

The animosity overflowed when the board rejected efforts to remove King Park as an option for the dog park. Some in the audience rose and started to sing “We Shall Overcome,” the anthem of the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Board Chair John Erwin promised the board would make a decision in February, but that did not pacify many in the crowd, who said putting a dog park in King Park would desecrate the memory of the slain civil rights leader.

Spike Moss, a long-time black civil rights activist, called a dog park at King Park “ridiculous,” citing the “savage dogs” that were once used to attack civil rights protesters. “All the parks are yours,” he said. “Leave one alone.”

He predicted that if a dog park was put in the King Park, young people would shoot the animals.

The dispute has continued to escalate over the past six months. Wednesday’s meeting appeared to pit the black audience members against the Park Board members in attendance, all of whom were white.

The board, however, appeared to focus on a proposal by Ben Harris, an advocate for the dog park who is white, who said that he and some opponents of the dog park had met to discuss the composition of a proposed citizens committee that would advise the board on where to locate the dog park.

Harris said it was the group’s intent to create a process that was “transparent and inclusive” to all users. His group was convened by Park Board member Brad Bourn.

Sandra Richardson, who is black, stood beside Harris during his statement, saying that she remained adamantly opposed to a dog park in King Park but supported the joint effort to find a solution.

Erwin acknowledged the opponents’ concerns and said he had received hundreds of e-mails about the dog park and promised a decision by the board in February.

Jon Olson, a Park Board member, said it was clear the black community found a dog park at King Park offensive and moved to suspend the rules so the board could vote on his proposal to remove King Park as an option for a dog park.

The motion to suspend the rules failed on a 5-2 vote.

That prompted some to start singing “We Shall Overcome,” others to shout, “Racist,” and Moss to say, “We’re citizens, too.”

Randy Furst • 612-673-7382

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