An eye-witness account of Black Lives Matter’s MOA protest

This participant found the event life-changing

Dear freedom riders, civil right activists, Soweto, South Africa, Mandela, Malcom X, Dr. King, armed forces, nameless, today I say thank you. Today I can truly say I got a glimpse into your world.

For the first time in my life I could almost feel your pain, your fears, your hesitation, and most importantly your strength.

Will I ever be as strong as you? Probably not. Will I ever be as fearless as you? I can’t even imagine. But I thank you for making my life easier. I thank you for actually giving me the strength to join the fight — the fight that with your efforts has become easier, and the fight you probably hoped would have ended by now.

However, I stand on your strength, I stand on your shoulders. I stand on your cries. I am comforted through your bosom, and only that way am I able to continue the fight.

Photo by Chris Juhn
Photo by Chris Juhn

I walked into the Mall of America Saturday, December 20 around 2:30 pm and instantly I felt my nerves. I kept walking around not really sure where I was going. After two minutes I started to hear chants, and from there I followed the sound.

My heart started to beat incessantly and all I could think about was, “Am I ready? Am I ready to start this journey? For I knew within my soul that this journey would be the rest of my life. Quickly the human thoughts started to plague my mind: “I could get arrested,” “What if this is on my record?” “What will happen to my career?”

And soon thoughts of the generation before me came to mind. If I back out of this, then everything the civil rights activists fought for has gone to waste. If I am afraid of an arrest, then what would I have done if I were spat on, beaten or tortured? With those last thoughts my nerves subsided and all I felt was strength, fearlessness, and the power to go on. It was at that moment that I walked over to the group of people that were fighting and joined the fight.

I could not believe it. I was a part of a protest.

We walked around the mall from section to section chanting, “No justice, no peace. Prosecute the police.” “The whole damn system is guilty as hell.” “The people, united, will never be defeated.” This was the most powerful thing I had ever been a part of.

Some of the most amazing aspect of this was walking next to people of different races — Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and others. We had the attention of shoppers staring at us in amazement, some of whom even joined us while others simply cheered us on.

At that moment it hit me — this is what life is supposed to be, humans supporting each other. It’s unfortunate that lives had to be lost before we could come together, but I sing even in this moment, “The People, united, can never be defeated.”

During our protest we had to lay on the floor like dead while chanting, “I can’t breathe.” Our motionless bodies sent out an important message. By this time the police officers blocking certain sections no longer scared me. The more they blocked us, the more creative we became.

When the protest was over, I realized in that moment that my life had changed forever. No more would I take for granted everything that those before me fought for. How grateful am I to those who fought so tirelessly, so that I can be me.

It was later reported that 3,000 community members, including families, clergy, and youth, peacefully gathered at the mall, according to Mica Grimm, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Minneapolis.

“Today’s protest was our biggest success yet,” said Grimm. “Thousands of people stood together, refused to be intimidated, and disrupted business as usual on the busiest shopping day of the year at the biggest mall in the country. As long as innocent Black and Brown lives are disrupted by police without consequence, we cannot go about business as usual.”

Julia Toles welcomes reader response to jtoles@spokesman-recorder.com.