Minneapolis is burning as I write these words and anyone with eyes could see it coming. The week of May 26-31 the nation got a foretaste of what is to come. A beaten down people will not stay beaten down forever. You can hold them down, but they won’t be held down forever.
For those who choose to sit in judgment, this sign carried during a protest seeks to confront it: “Merchandise can be replaced. Black lives cannot.”
A volatile mix of youth who have been locked down due to the coronavirus pandemic and those who suddenly find themselves unemployed, coupled with the outrage over the brutal, televised cop murder of George Floyd—who the youth identified as one of their own—caused emotions to overflow.
And add to that the fact that to some extent, the police the day before were provoking the protesters. It was as if the cops wanted the young people to riot as a way of taking the attention off of them so they could say, “See, look at them; we are not the animals, they [the rioters] are the animals.”
Adding even more fuel to the anger is the fact that the system is dragging its feet. They never drag their feet when Black people are involved.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, while still trying to perform damage control rather than repair the damage, said in his press conference the day before that the cops who killed George Floyd “should be in jail.” But what he should have said is, we are arresting the officers and charging them to the fullest extent of the law: namely, with murder.
They want people to trust the process, telling people that they are looking at the autopsy. But how long does it take to conduct an autopsy?
It is not incorrect to assume that justice delayed may become justice denied. It’s why the protest at the Hennepin County Government Center last Thursday, May 28, sought to keep up the pressure and raise the demand: JAIL THE KILLER COPS NOW!
This did not occur in a vacuum. Valerie Castile, the mother of Philando Castile, wrote on Facebook that “the people were placed in an emotional corner. It was a case of fight or flight because of the horrific treatment of the people for over decades.”
“You want to treat people like animals and now you want to be surprised when people respond and act like animals,” said a Black man in a truck on Unicorn Riot’s live stream late last night commenting on the burning. “This is just like when they shot Tycell Nelson in his back. We’re tired of praying, begging, asking. Every one of them needs to go to jail.”
Another protester who looked too young to remember Tycel Nelson shouted into the livestream, “This goes all the way back to Tycel.”
They are right. This has been building in Minneapolis for years, and it likely started boiling as protesters reminded us, in December of 1990 with the murder of Tycel Nelson by cowardly Minneapolis cop Dan May, who ironically is still with the department as a high-ranking instructor. The LA Times ran a story about the shooting titled “Minneapolis Race Calm Shattered By Shooting… Hostility simmers between police and community activists.” I was one of those activists.
May shot Tycel after he ran out of the back door of a house party. He was unarmed, but May shot him in the back, killing him in cold blood. May got away with his crime because the system defends its own and then-Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman—who incidentally is again the county prosecutor—refused to indict, but found that May was justified in murdering Nelson.
Months after May murdered Nelson, the police sought to give him an award for valor. Black people in this city have been not only beaten down by the cops, brutalized, marginalized and disrespected, but have been forced to beg for crumbs from a large buffet. Last night was folks trying to get the attention of a nation, saying, “We done had enough!”
Every year the last six years around Thanksgiving—as if it is a part of the holiday—in Minneapolis, headlines blare that yet another study has concluded that Minneapolis is in the top five of the worst places to live for Black people.
White people are eating well, living well and prospering in the Twin towns. White people in the Twin Cities are better educated, make more money and have the lowest unemployment.
So while White folks in the Twin Cities are better off on average than White folks in the entire country, Black people are worse off than other Black people in the country. That’s right; while White people are living better than other White people, Black people in the Twin cities are worse off than Black folks in the rest of the country.
Moreover, the match was lit by the cop Derek Chauvin who ignored pleas for mercy while flaunting his power, and rubbed it in our faces, as he murdered George Floyd with a smile on his face. The psychopath—what else could he be—finally got to do what he joined the force to do, which was to see what it felt like to kill a human being, a Black human being.
So Minneapolis is burning, but you could see it coming!
It was a fire this time started by people who have been whipped into a crazed frenzy. It was looting this time, it was stealing of tennis shoes and cell phones, this time.
Eventually, yes, one day, the people oppressed by this lowdown, filthy, rotten, murderous system will educate themselves, analyze, organize and mobilize until they find a way to bring about a change that will allow BLACK, BROWN, RED, YELLOW, IMMIGRANT, MUSLIM, GAY, TRANS STRAIGHT, MALE, FEMALE, ALL OF THE 99% to live and be recognized as human beings, in a society of human beings.
But for now, those in power are not inclined to listen because they don’t care about a few burned businesses. After all, they all have insurance.
Justice, then peace.
Mel Reeves was the community editor at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder until he passed away on January 6, 2022. He had a long and storied history working at the MSR.
Find more about Reeve’s life and legacy here: spokesman-recorder.com/category/remembering-mel-reeves.