In Minneapolis, the bells almost didn’t toll for Dr. King

Some decisions are easy. And then there’s government.

On Wednesday evening, bells across the nation were to toll in remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on the 50th anniversary of his assassination.

Decisions don’t come easier than this one. If you’ve got bells, let freedom ring. Literally.

So it was surprising when the commission in charge of the bells atop Minneapolis City Hall put the kibosh on plans to ring the bells 39 times. King was 39 when he was gunned down.

The Star Tribune reports Municipal Building Commission Director Erin Delaney, who manages the building, consulted with Hennepin County Commissioner Jan Callison, who chairs the Municipal Building Commission, and it was decided Minneapolis wouldn’t participate because the policy for the chimes is they’re only used for concerts.

“I got the request, and it was not something that we do,” Delaney tells the paper. “We don’t toll the bells. We have a scheduled concert series. … I think it’s important that it be noted that we don’t do these things arbitrarily.”

That decision probably would’ve stood up had the Star Tribune not published a story on its website that caught the attention of three other commission members.

Not long after that, the Commission reversed its policy and last evening, Minneapolis didn’t stand out in the nation as one of the few big cities that had bells and didn’t think they should be tolled for Dr. King.

Tower Bell Foundation Chair Tony Hill said perhaps the commission didn’t have enough time to properly ponder the request to ring the bells.

The request was submitted two weeks ago, the Star Tribune says.

Volunteer bell ringer and former Star Tribune reporter Dan Wascoe noted the bells have been run for the passings of Michael Jackson and Kirby Puckett.

“The bells have many functions, including to remind our residents of noteworthy events, making us more of a community,” he said.

If they can play for Prince, they can play for Dr. King.

  • jwest8

    I’m glad they relented, even if their cover story is bogus.

  • BJ

    I wouldn’t have known, or cared, had I not seen this that Minneapolis City hall has bells.

  • MrE85

    We should leave these decisions to Quasimodo. He usually makes the right call.

  • Guest

    THIS is the difference between a newspaper and a blog.

    • I’m not aware of anyone who’s ever claimed a newspaper and a blog are the same thing. Dismiss what I do if you want, but if this is where you learned what was in the newspaper today, I’m not understanding what your underlying complaint is.

      • Barton

        I assumed (and we know what assuming does…) that the OP was referring to your recent post about the slow death of the local newsroom. A local reporter for a newspaper can get this kind of reaction. A blogger may not be able to do so.

        • Guest

          Exactly, I was not putting down Bob’s blog, just referring to the impact newspapers still have.

          See the article on Elder Abuse making changes.

      • Guest

        Saying newspapers are still very much needed.

    • Jim in RF

      I read about this in the Strib online yesterday.

    • Guest

      Oops, sorry, I meant the impact of the news that the bells were not going to be allowed making a quick change in policy in the newspaper as opposed to the news in a blog.

  • Barton

    I would have been fine with them not ringing the bells IF their policy on not ringing for anything other than concerts was actually followed. I heard them ring for Prince and Kirby. Thus their policy isn’t really worth the megabits on which it is written.

    I didn’t hear the bells last night. I was watching the very excellent show by Louis Gates, Jr. on PBS.

    • DavidG

      I think the point made regarding those occasions was that they coincided with regularly scheduled concerts.

      But even if they merely changed the content of a previously scheduled performance, they kind of established the precedent.

      • They’re just bells. It’s not a Supreme Court decision.

  • Rob

    When I heard that these various government folks were so tone-deaf about this, all I could think was “Hell’s bells, people!”