On the street: ‘It’s really just a range of state violence’

Jake Armato. Photo by Zac Farber

George Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer has placed the city’s history of racial inequity and white violence at the forefront of a global protest movement. The Southwest Journal has asked local residents to share their feelings and experiences. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Read all of our interviews here.

Jake Armato

At a protest outside the 5th Precinct, Friday, May 29

If there’s going to be an escalation tonight, it’s probably going to be here. People are trying to break into an ATM, it looks like, right now. There are a few police on the roof of the 5th Precinct. 

I’m a volunteer medic practicing as a first responder tonight. I’ve been out the last three nights, from about 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. doing first aid and protesting and observing. It’s not what I expected. The atmosphere has been very jovial, very celebratory. There’s lots of cathartic rage toward police, but it’s almost very much like a party. At the 3rd Precinct itself, you had lots of young protesters in the front — no one was armed — peacefully protesting. And then you’d have a handful of people throwing glass. And the police would fire down tear gas canisters and rubber bullets.

I’ve seen about 100 people over the past three days. Most people have had bruising from rubber bullets or gas canisters, concussions, a lot of panic attacks, people struggling to breathe and needing eye wash. I did not expect this, but almost everyone who came in needing some type of first aid was from being fired at by police as opposed to violence in between people. 

I keep seeing people talk about violent protests and demonstrations, but I haven’t seen any violence. It’s really just a range of state violence.

Why did I come? I’ve always really cared about health care, and when I saw the video it was apparent to me that George Floyd was lynched in broad daylight during a plague. An American citizen was lynched by a public official in broad daylight during a f—-ing plague. That’s unacceptable, it’s state violence and it’s been happening for years.

This is all property. It can be replaced. But black bodies, you can’t bring them back to life. People have been fighting this for generations — their grandparents have been fighting this. It’s something hard to imagine as a white dude. 

This isn’t just about someone who died. It’s about the fact that [a lot] of the aid that the government has given out to families hasn’t been received. People are hungry, people have lost their jobs. And a lot of this is disproportionately affecting the African American community.