“When do we want the cops to go to jail?” asked the speaker. “Now!” replied the crowd of thousands gathered Thursday at the Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis.
That sentiment appeared to be shared by most people in the Twin Cities and around the country as solidarity marches took place in New York City, Columbus, Ohio, Denver, Memphis, Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Oakland in protest of the death of George Floyd who died while in police custody on Memorial Day.
On Friday, the protests continued, even as Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced that fired police officer Derek Chauvin was being charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death. Prior to the announcement, it was reported that Chauvin was taken into custody by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
Chauvin was the officer seen in the video pressing his knee on Floyd’s neck for at least seven minutes as he lay face down and handcuffed on the pavement until he became unresponsive. Floyd was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.
Lots have been written about the unrest that followed Floyd’s death, but the outpouring is quite simply fueled by the fact that four cops killed a man in front of witnesses and a national and international audience on social media and it took four days for the main culprit, Chauvin, to be charged.
The other three officers involved still remain free. Add to that the number of similar cases of unarmed Black men being killed over the years, and the unease of a pandemic, and you have all the makings of a ticking time bomb.
The Thursday rally was organized by veteran activists and organizations including CAIR and Communities United Against Police Brutality. “I don’t see a path for a peaceful city until all four are behind bars; there are enough laws and legal maneuvers to charge them and put them behind bars,” said Jaylani Hussein of CAIR.
In St.Paul, bands of protesters set fire to Target and vandalized stores in the city’s Midway area.
According to posts on social media platforms, the rioting was not initiated by the youthful protesters, but provocateurs and outside agitators. There were several videos showing a person who many said was a St. Paul police officer dressed in all Black who was shown breaking out windows of the Auto Zone on Lake Street.
Minneapolis has had a long history of well-organized and well-led militant but primarily peaceful protests by radical activists who kept the focus on the demand that police be prosecuted.
“You want to treat people like animals and now you want to be surprised when people respond and act like animals. This is just like when they shot Tycell Nelson in his back. We tired of praying, begging, asking. Every one of them needs to go to jail,” said a Black man in a truck on Unicorn Riot’s live stream late last night commenting on the burning.
He was obviously a Black man who had lived through the indignities dumped on Black folks in this town over the last 30-plus years. “We understand we need to be peaceful but look it seems they sometimes respond better when something burns,” said one protester yesterday.