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Minneapolis uprising: Meet the people protesting the death of George Floyd

Sha and James

Sha and James Susan Du

Sha and James

Sha: It’s overwhelming. You’re shell-shocked, you’re really trying to process everything gradually, just trying to take everything in, the scene. For me, I’m more behind-the-scenes; usually I donate money and things like that in my advocacy. But I just felt like it was a necessity to come out here. It was really in our backyard. It was very overwhelming to see one of our brothers go through that in broad daylight in a good neighborhood. My uncle and aunt, they lived in this area for 50 years.

I just wanted to come out here and show support in some way, uniting with other people like James, who are really out here just wanting to have a voice and ask for justice.

Coming from Mississippi, where racism is really out in your face, I always say that you know racism there. Here I think it’s very subliminal. I think this incident has really pulled the veil back that people of color, especially black people, face here. The inequalities in our relationship with police. We’re still recovering from Philando and what we endured through that. This is a land of opportunity for so many people. Minnesota is a melting pot. Coming here, people expect more than what’s happening now. We pay these people to protect and serve. So we demand justice for him. This could have been anyone. This could have been my brother or my cousin or just my friends and even James.

I’m hoping we can bring justice and comfort to the families and just say enough is enough. Also I think it’s very important that now our mayor and governor have to be held accountable for the disparities. I think for so long a band-aid has been held over, has been placed over the racial disparities here. Minnesota is one of the most segregated states in this country. Now everyone is looking to us. I think we should show the world that we are resilient, we are strong, we are powerful and we can get through this.

James: This is our message. This is our outbox. Now the police, you gotta look in your inbox. You have a message that’s unread. Go and read it.

Davonna and Dominique

Davonna and Dominique Susan Du

Davonna Powell & Dominique Rucker

Davonna: The anguish that people feel and the despair here, you can just feel it when you get in the area. It’s heartbreaking. And it’s hopelessness. This is something that I’m glad is being brought to light, that it’s catalyzed a movement, a revolution, but it’s still sad to see. These are the neighborhoods that we grew up in, that we live in, that are in this state.

I grew up in North, started my family in North, I own my home in north Minneapolis. There was a fire in front of my house last night and we’ve been up. We haven’t really slept in three or four days because there’s shootings, just chaos. There are so many different elements. It’s scary, and necessary at the same time.

I have a tact somewhat to the way I approach my daughter because she’s still young and she has white friends. Her grandfather and her uncle are both firemen, another one of her uncles is a police officer. So I’m trying not to jade her in that aspect. But there are systems of oppression that keep black men less than, and that’s just the truth. I tell her what’s going on in a way that she can understand it as a young person. Hopefully movements like this, this revolution, it aids in her not having to navigate the systems that I’ve had to navigate my entire life and my ancestors before me.

She’s out and she’s reading everything and she’s trying to gain a better understanding of why are people so angry and why did the police kill George Floyd, trying to wrap her little mind around it. I just try to guide her in a way that she’s not jaded or making holistic statements, but she’s truly understanding that there’s evil in this world and there are people that are evil-doers and people that are evil-watchers, and she has to do her part in breaking down those systems just as the rest of us do.

Anything I can do to help support mental health and promote wellness in my community, I’m all for it. I’m glad that this matter sparked a revolution across the nation but still understanding what it’s for, it’s not blacks versus white, it’s not even about cops versus citizens, it’s about the people against systemic racism and discrimination. And that’s what’s important to me. Anytime I feel like the narrative is getting skewed, or it’s about politics, I feel like it’s my place to speak up and redirect the conversation. No, it’s not about that. It’s about right versus wrong.

Elijah

Elijah Susan Du

Elijah

I’ve been out here all three days. I’m biracial, I’m 6’6”, black and bald. I’ve dealt with feeling out of place my entire life.

I was down on 38th where it happened. That was peaceful. They were playing music over there.

I’ve been in Minnesota for 15 years, I’ve been in Minneapolis for four years. I’m from New York City, so I grew up in the projects. I grew up in poverty and I grew up dealing with what a lot of these people deal with on a daily basis.

Here, I have plenty of friends that are white and plenty of friends who had a completely different upbringing than I had, that don’t know what it’s like to worry about your next meal, that don’t know what it’s like to eat ramen for a month straight because that’s just what your family can afford, to not be able to pay for a loved one’s funeral because the family didn’t have any money or they didn’t have an insurance policy. I know what it’s like to be in the neighborhood and have the shit go down and you don’t call the cops because they don’t come to help you. That feeling in itself, none of my friends have ever felt, none of my friends will ever feel, regardless of how empathetic they are. You need to be in those shoes to feel that.

When I was watching these people get tear-gassed yesterday and I was watching the courage of these people running around the corner, dousing themselves with milk, running back to the front lines, all ages, kids, adults, older people, all races, I’ve almost never felt the city come together like that outside of a miscellaneous concert or something like that.

But as sad as it is to say: If shit didn’t hit the fan in the past couple of days, you think we’d be talking about it? You think the news would be talking about it? There’d just be another slide on the [newscast]. It would’ve said another black man died in Minneapolis and four cops got fired and in other news, Donald Trump....

I don’t condone the looting—but it has everybody’s fucking attention. And everybody’s looking at Minneapolis, everyone’s wondering what’s going on, why’s the city behaving like this? We never thought Minneapolis could behave like this, out of all the cities in the state, out of all the states in the nation. We didn’t think Minneapolis would be the city to stand up and do some shit like this.

That man’s never going home. That man will never get to see his family. That man will never get to do any of that. None of his family members will get that. There are people that deal with that daily. There are people that leave the house and they’re fearful, daily.

I have plenty of friends that go to restaurants in this day, 2020, and more often than not, no matter where I go, I’m always out of place. Always. Every single day. I’m always reminded of what I am.

Emily S. and Myka D.

Emily S. and Myka D. Susan Du

Emily S. and Myka D.

Myka: We’re both from here. We live close to here. Grew up here. It’s kind of upsetting seeing our city like this, but at the same time, when you think about it, this is what people in the past did. This is what Malcolm X did. For us to just be standing out here freely without being racially profiled by each other.

Without this happening, we wouldn’t be here. It seems wrong in a way, but it’s right. There’s not going to be change unless we do something about it. The only thing that the police understand is violence, so that’s what they’re giving them.

Emily: These are the things we learn about, the things that we see. And we never expected it to be here in our very own city. But they’re showing up, they’re going out for our city. I don’t know what people expect. This is what happens. We want to see justice.

Just this happening again, period, is not something that should continue to happen. For it to happen again, it’s beyond peaceful protest. It’s beyond that. This is what needs to happen for us to be heard, just listened to, and maybe, hopefully, we’re praying that we finally get justice. It’s devastating that this happened in my city. But I’m also proud as hell. Look at everything that’s going on. Everyone’s coming together. I feel like we have unity, but this is just showing us that we’re getting our recognition.

Maria Flores

Maria Flores Susan Du

Maria Flores

We were not here last night. We went to Apple Valley to stay with my family. We were scared, we were running! My neighbors, when the fire is ready, my neighbor say, Antonio and Maria, go, go! The houses may be burning, go, go! And I appreciate that. But I’m very sad for everything.

We are Hispanic people. I don’t know what’s going on. I understand the people protest, but protest, like, pacific. I don’t know why they’re burning a lot of business, you know? That one is very close to my house. Right next door. And we are sad about that.

The firefighters came to help us, to control everything.

Part of the roof melted.

This was Metro PCS company, next is like a Somali bakery, and next is a little restaurant for Ecuadorians. All immigrants. We try to grow, we try to do everything because you know, my country (Mexico) is very poor. And we come to immigrate from there to here (20 years ago) for a better life. All life matters. All life. I don’t care if it’s black, white, Hispanic, or Chinese. Every life matters.

The police officer, it was wrong. But it was only one person, you know? I hope it never happens again, everything. This is like a crime.

We really love these businesses because they’re helping us to pay the cell phones or something. The Somali bakers, sometimes when they do a lot and they have extra cake, they say, “Oh do you want some?” We go almost every day because they have a little store inside, for picking up groceries, milk, things like that. And we’re sad about that, very sad. It’s not rich people.

Antonio Maurice Whittmon

Antonio Maurice Whittmon Susan Du

Antonio Maurice Whittmon

I live on 38th and Chicago by Phelps Park, right across the street, like one block away from where everything happened at. I was at home. After I heard about it, my whole community kind of just made it noticed that a lot of stuff was happening.

I’m originally from Brooklyn, New York, south side. My brother died from black-on-black violence, that’s why my mom moved us to Minnesota to get away from the fast lane. My brother was killed by a gang member. He was a gang member himself. Seventeen going on 18. I was around 12.

I just want us to go to a place where we actually try to come up from this and we don’t stay stuck doing the same thing. I don’t want to stay stuck in the same place. I wanna move forward. I don’t want to stay stuck in this bad place of everybody just going in stores, they’re shutting down fast food restaurants. We can’t even go to McDonald’s, nowhere to eat no more.

We understand that and everything. It’s crazy that all we’re asking is for them to arrest all four officers and not just for third degree [murder]. They need to have first degree because if we did that shit on camera, they would persecute us and hold us to the highest offense. You know how many people kill people, and they don’t even do it on purpose, and they in jail for 25 to life. So this is crazy that they protect their own, but when it comes to citizens like us, they don’t care, and we’re tired of that.

At the end of the day, we do come from a generation—we’re not the ’90s and the ’80s. Bring in your National Guard, your dogs, and they attack us and throw water at us. No, we’re gonna fight y’all, we’re gonna burn down shit, and we’re gonna show y’all we’re gonna fuck up shit, and it’s gonna cost rich people way more than it’s gonna cost the middle class and the lower class, whatever you wanna call us.

Why are you carrying the flag?

Freedom, unity. It’s the United States. I believe unlike the rest of the world, this is not a third-world country. We have a lot more freedom than other people have in their countries. We get to do a lot more than other people. That’s what this means to me. This is freedom. To protest. Peacefully. Not causing no harm, not bringing no problems to the world, not bringing anybody with me, just by myself.

[See more photos from the George Floyd protests here, here, and here.]