Aug 3, 2021 - Things to Do
National Night Out block parties return to the Twin Cities
A blue-and-red logo for National Night Out 2021, with an eagle and the phrase "police-community partnerships."
Photo courtesy of National Night Out

COVID-19 wiped out many of last summer's National Night Out block parties, but neighbors across the country are heading back to the streets tonight.

How it works: Neighbors who register with their cities can typically block off a street to hold a potluck.

Why it matters: It's a great way to meet and reconnect with your community.

  • NNO has also historically been a time when officers visit neighborhoods and build relationships. But it comes as police-community relations have changed dramatically nationwide in recent years, particularly following the murder of George Floyd.

By the numbers: In Minneapolis, residents have registered 1,407 block parties, which is more than the 1,371 events held in the pre-pandemic 2019, according to city spokesperson Casper Hill. (About 1,000 registered for a makeup National Night Out in September 2020, he said.)

  • St. Paul has 285 registrations for NNO parties this year, up from 86 last year but still down from 379 in 2019, said St. Paul Police Department spokesperson Steve Linders.

What they're saying: Linders said the police department is planning a typical number of officer visits to parties.

  • "Officers really look forward to visiting the events," he said.
  • Minneapolis police will also make appearances, said spokesperson John Elder. Though, they likely won't be able to attend as many given the officer shortage, he said.

Meanwhile, critics of traditional policing are hosting their own counter-programming, billed as an opportunity to "redefine and re-imagine what public safety means for our communities."

  • The Yes 4 Minneapolis campaign, which is backing a November charter amendment to disband MPD and replace it with a new division of public safety, is holding an afternoon event as part of the competing Night Out for Safety and Liberation.
  • While some supporters will host their own community events, others are encouraged to bring the message back to NNO gatherings, spokesperson JaNaé Bates told us.
  • "Just having a one-off day in the middle of summer in the hope that will smooth over decades of harm between police entities and communities isn't useful," Bates said. "But what is really great is having a time for neighbors to connect with each other."

What else is different: There's a pandemic still going on, and some block parties are skipping the potluck.

📸 Are you participating in National Night Out or an alternative event?

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