Minneapolis protesters voice concerns of the nation

Guest Author

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Minnesota is my home. I spent my adolescent years growing up in and around Minneapolis. It is truly surreal to see restaurants and businesses I frequented for years in uptown be boarded up in response to the protests and looting. Having just come back from two months in Santiago, Chile, the feeling here in the Twin Cities is eerily similar.

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This crowd was emotionally exhausted, full of despair and frankly just fed up.”

With graffiti in support of the Black Lives Matter movement visible everywhere you look, and everyone walking through the city wearing a mask and goggles, this is a changed city.

Demonstrators sitting in the front yard of Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman’s home in south Minneapolis May 28. The protests are in response to the killing of George Floyd. (Photo courtesy of Ben Leonard)

The crowd I witnessed outside the Minneapolis 3rd Police Precinct on Thursday evening was something I’d never seen among other demonstrations here in the states. This crowd was emotionally exhausted, full of despair and frankly just fed up. 

Minneapolis is in a state of revolt. The murder of George Floyd, a Black man arrested for an alleged fake $20 bill, was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and not just in Minneapolis. There have been protests — some peaceful and others not — in Denver, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Memphis, Tennessee, and Columbus, Ohio, since George Floyd’s murder, all connected to the protests sparked in Minneapolis. The 3rd Precinct of the Minneapolis Police Department at Lake Street and Minnehaha Avenue has been the epicenter of the protests and is now completely burned down along with other buildings on the surrounding block. 

The graphic video of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin digging his knee into George Floyd’s neck has garnered international attention and outcry over the unnecessary use of force. As two other officers used their body weight to hold Floyd down, he was handcuffed and compliant.

The protests related to the murder of George Floyd are the result of decades, if not centuries, of pain, anguish, oppression and violence that the black community has endured in our country.”

Chauvin has now been arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter by Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. While protests have been centered around the 3rd Precinct, there have also been protests at Freeman’s home in Minneapolis.

A protester with a signs stating the names of other people of color that have been killed by police outside of the Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct before it was burned down. The protests were in response to the killing of George Floyd, May 28, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Ben Leonard)

The protests related to the murder of George Floyd are the result of decades, if not centuries, of pain, anguish, oppression and violence that the Black community has endured in our country. Here in Minnesota, there is a sentiment among parts of the predominantly white Twin Cities metro area that we are a progressive leader on all counts when compared to our Midwestern neighbors. That is only partially true. Compared to other states and the District of Columbia, we have the second worst income gap between white and Black residents, the third worst homeownership and poverty rate gap and rank 39th in educational attainment

It is impossible to have a conversation about police brutality and murder in the Twin Cities without talking about the death of Philando Castile. In 2016, Castile, a Black man, was shot by Jeronimo Yanez, an officer with the St. Anthony Police Department. Yanez was eventually acquitted of the charges brought against him. There were protests right after his death, and Yanez was acquitted. The deaths of David Smith and Justine Ruszczyk are other examples of wrongful death at the hands of Twin Cities metro police. And those are just the high profile cases. 

From the predominantly white, upper class neighborhood where Mike Freeman resides in south Minneapolis, we look across Interstate 35W and see the burnt remnants of an old Minneapolis. The Minneapolis of the past. We look to the future with hope — hope that this is the final wake up call for the systemic change of our police system that we have needed since the start. 

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Ben Leonard

Colorado State University student

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