Downtown ambassador takes Melissa Hill's bike [VIDEO]

Categories: Notable MN
DID screengrab.jpg
This downtown ambassador will take your bike and "have you arrested for cursing."
The guys who walk around downtown Minneapolis in yellow jackets aren't police officers.

They're private employees working for a non-profit, Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District, and their job is to help make downtown "cleaner, safer, greener and better in order to achieve a more vital and vibrant downtown." They're called "ambassadors," and according to DID are supposed to be the "friendly faces" of the city.

But you wouldn't know it from watching a video of two DID "ambassadors" harassing an anti-war protestor who was chalking the sidewalk in front of the FBI building on Friday night. The ambassador came up and snatched her bike, claiming it had been "abandoned," threatened her for "defacing public property," and said he could have her arrested for cursing.

The unfriendly ambassador puts her bike into his truck at the start of the tape, recorded by anti-war activist Melissa Hill.

"I have you on video stealing my bike," she says.

"No one's stealing your bike," he answers.

"Yes you are!" she yells.

He tells her that she had "abandoned" the bike and he doesn't know whose it is, 'causing her to yell back, indignant, "I was standing right there!" That's when he went into her real sins.

"You were defacing public property," he lectured, and then told her she could get her bike back at the first precinct.

After a few moments of back-and-forth, Hill tells them, "You are not cops."

Later, she says, "You're fucking stealing my stuff," to which the ambassador gave a sly reply.

"I can have you arrested for cursing," he said.

Apparently the employee gave the bike back to her after the video was taken -- but the damage to his career was done.

DID Chief Operating Officer Sarah Harris complained to Block by Block, a Kentucky vendor that technically employed the "ambassador," and he has since been stripped of his yellow jacket. It is unclear if he will continue to work for Block by Block.

"Our ambassadors' role is to provide assistance to people in need," Harris told City Pages. "We're never supposed to be in the role of enforcement."

Their mission, she added, is "to make sure our people feel welcome downtown."

The employee's name has not been released.


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23 comments
2 Legit
2 Legit

Ugly, 60 year-old beer gut got owned, into a home for him

Njseme
Njseme

Hey, that looks like my bike, I recognize sticker.  Give me back my bike. 

Vincent
Vincent

Kneejerk reaction: "I wish some old fools with tucked in yellow shirts would run up on me like this."My reaction after I had pudding pop: "Eeks, They better get them old fools off the street, I ain't tryna see no videos of 2 old wasps dressed like bumblebees getting beat up" 

srsly
srsly

I'm glad the dude got fired, but his partner should've been canned, too. These guys are janitors, not security. 

DtMplsDude
DtMplsDude

Funny that they tell her she's on video, when it's her video that everybody's seeing.  This guy was in no way helpful, and obviously just had a grudge because she refused to "respect my authority" (See: South Park - Cartman).  When she would dispute one issue, they would deflect by bringing up something else.  "Defacing public property" had nothing to do with them grabbing her bike and claiming it was abandoned. 

Overall the system seems to be very successful.  I have seen the ambassadors assist many people. These two shouldn't be interacting with the public. 

Mn Voter
Mn Voter

Is it ironic that Minneapolis has a contracting outfit from Kentucky? Is the labor cheaper? Who made the decision on that?

Dan Feidt
Dan Feidt

While individual DID/block by block vendors might be friendly to some, the overall DID agenda is to shift the rights of public spaces towards the interests of downtown corporate owners. Fortunately the creeping nature of public private partnerships got pushed back here!

AJ
AJ

This is shameful for many reasons, one being that 95% of DID ambassadors do excellent work. They are so far out of line here. Clearly this one is on some kind of power trip and is representing his own warped ego instead of the best of Minneapolis. DID ambassador turned neon yellow vigilante. Next time, leave it to the professionals (MPD). These two ambassadors should be placed on leave until an investigation is complete.

green23
green23

I've heard of these "ambassadors" giving two other people a hard time over petty things.  From what I have heard, they certainly give the impression that they are law enforcement, though they don't specifically say so. For example, waiting for a bus or standing outside of a bar to smoke is apparently "loitering" or "lurking". If you look different or look poor, these bozos will probably want to mess with you.

Also, I have strong doubts that any officer is going to place anyone under arrest for merely 'cursing'.

CarrieAnne Johnson
CarrieAnne Johnson

Damn! Way to stand up for your rights, Melissa Hill! Thank you!!! (And Mr. Pratt, thanks for posting a nicely written article too!)

Frank
Frank

Who's more annoying:  A power hungry rent a cop or a sanctimnious war protester who grew up in the affluent suburbs and is trying to find meaning?

Meh...50-50.

Screwthisguy
Screwthisguy

Fuck this guy.  Chalking on the sidewalk *IS* graffiti, but this guy is not a cop.  A cop would know that they have no right to take a fucking persons bike. 

I really love the complaint about cursing too.  The only place you really shouldn't be cursing, if you choose to, as far as the law is concerned, is in court. 

What I see here is some old fogey pissed off at a young whippersnapper protesting the war because he was in 'Nam and her "pantymimey nonsense" offends him because it reminds him of his younger brother was a hippy who smoked pot and skipped out on going to the war by lying about his sexuality.

There are times in life where I have been an asshole.  The thing is, 99% of the time, when the person is behaving like an asshole, they know it.  They'd just rather keep up the behavior than admit that they are doing it.

I'm so glad this guy got fired.  The DID people are pretty cool from what I've seen.  It's a shame no one else that was with her stood up for her. 

Guy
Guy

Many, many cities have Block-by-Block franchises. It has nothing to do with cheap labor. I think they're actually paid pretty decently considering how easy the work is. A coalition of businesses pay for the outfit to keep the downtown business district clean, safe, and welcoming. They're not some seedy parallel police force, even if a few of them might act like cops.

jww
jww

Since Kirk has yet to comment:

Leave it to the professionals?  But the MPD is a SOCIALIST police force.  What we need is more privately finaced policing.  Blah blah blah gay people...blah blah blah Obama...blah blah blah 1999 Saturn....bigotry, fascism.

Guy
Guy

I used to work as a Block-by-Block ambassador up in Duluth. I haven't had any personal issues with the ambassadors in Minneapolis, but if a lot of them are acting like they're cops, it's probably a management issue. In Duluth our manager always stressed that we had no power of authority and were just out there to clean up and assist people. The only time I called the cops was when a very drunk man stumbled over to me and told me he wanted to kill himself. Maybe the problem in Mpls is that there are just too many ambassadors and not enough management, or there are just a few assholes who need to be weeded out. It is a job that attracts a transient element.

julie1310
julie1310

Who's more annoying, a sanctimonious war protester or an Internet douchebag who mindlessly backs any authority figure no matter how flimsy his mantle of authority?

zerofor
zerofor

Not all protesters are from the burbs. Lot of the ones I know have family where the military is the only way out of poverty.

a
a

Why can't we use them in gang infest neighborhoods?  I mean, if black people can't look after their community - send in the white men in yellow?

Josh
Josh

Really, JWW? "More privately financed policing?"So, you'd prefer fascism to socialism?Benito Mussolini himself said: "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power."

Enrique
Enrique

Gee...I think if Frank was "mindlessly back[ing] any authority  blah blah blah" he wouldn't have referred to him as a "power hungry rent a cop. "  Those words aren't even too hard to read, not sure how you missed them.  I thought the point was they were equally annoying. 

jww
jww

  I was making a joke that you clearly did not get.  Settle down.

a
a

Looks like a riot.  That guy should have been punched in the face.

Maddy
Maddy

Enrique-

Don't mind Julie, she's like other middle class white kids who want drama in their lives who mindlessly backs anyone else who fights authority and assumes that if you are not 100 percent lockstep with their movement, you are against them.  So even though Frank made an apparently balanced point, she missed it because it wasn't 100 percent in her favor.

I used to do protests and I still agree with much of what they are protesting, but it was clear that as a woman of color and as someone who sought common ground rather than focusing on issues that divide, I wasn't welcome.  Fighting the imprisonment of so many black men wasn't "their" issue, just a war because that's what the cool kids did in the 60s.  Look around at the next protest and see how many of our black and brown faces there are..you will be hard pressed to find any.

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