The indelible image of George Floyd’s May 25 death under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer has sparked a global uprising against a system in which racial disparities are rampant and black Americans are disproportionately brutalized by law enforcement.
In Southwest Minneapolis, many thousands of people have flooded the streets in loosely organized protests — marching along Lake Street, surrounding the headquarters of the 5th Precinct, plastering Uptown with photos and murals of Floyd’s face, and occupying the residential street in front of Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman’s Lynnhurst home.
Though small groups have engaged in looting, most protesters have been peaceful — holding signs, chanting slogans, gathering signatures and listening to speeches about social justice.
At sites across the 5th Precinct, the Southwest Journal asked local residents and protesters to share why they’ve taken to the streets. The following interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
On the steps of Buzza Lofts in Uptown, Thursday, May 28
It has been a very hard few days being black in Minneapolis. Minnesota was not as prepared for what it now has brought on itself.
A cop casually had his knee on his neck.
I don’t think this is any different from the L.A. riots back in the ‘90s. Minnesota is one of the most segregated places, still, in the United States. People shouldn’t be that surprised that we’re seeing today a real uprising. If they don’t convict those officers, it’s just going to be worse.
I haven’t been protesting. It’s too much for me because that’s the neighborhood I grew up in. When this is all done, no one is going to be issuing black people a therapist for their trauma.
I live here. They tore up CVS. They are going to be OK, because they’re corporations that can get their windows fixed the next day. They tore up Studiiyo23, which is owned by a man of color, for no apparent reason. There are all these people who are just angry and you can’t stop anger.
A lot of the world won’t get to see the video of white kids throwing bricks, bringing out bats. A lot of the black elders have told the young black kids, “Don’t follow suit, you can’t just get out of jail like they can.” But a lot of black kids and kids of color have followed suit because they’re angry.
As a person from South Minneapolis, I was so proud to see black folks organize so quickly and so swiftly — to be in Oakdale, to be in Robbinsdale, to see them at the precinct, to see them at 38th & Chicago.
Most protests are peaceful. I watched a video yesterday of them sitting around in a circle on 38th and actually playing Michael Jackson’s “We are the World.” You’re not going to see that on the news.
They have to convict him. If they don’t, well, a lot of the younger generation — black, white, whatever — they keep saying, “[We] don’t got nothing to live for.”
To see Bob Kroll [the head of the Minneapolis police union] at that rally, high-fiving Donald Trump. How are you supposed to feel safe?
At a protest blocking the intersection of 50th & Penn, shortly before curfew, Friday, May 29
I live in Linden Hills and have been out protesting the past three days. I think the past few days have been extremely painful to my community, and because I am able-bodied and healthy, I feel it’s my responsibility as a citizen of Minneapolis — and as someone who lives in this neighborhood especially — to use my voice to speak up. Silence is one of the worst things you can do.
Devastation is one of the main emotions I’ve been feeling. It’s everything with Floyd, the D.A. [Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, whose home was being picketed nearby] and the police. And I’ve been starting to realize that people in my community who I thought were allies are not. People have come out and been frustrated with either the protesting or rioting and not understanding the purpose, and that’s been hard to deal with.
This isn’t new to our neighborhood, this isn’t new to America. The only thing that’s new is that it’s being recorded and posted to the internet for people to see. It’s been especially frustrating for people to be like, “This isn’t my city; my city isn’t like this normally.” No, it is like this. Minnesota is one of the worst areas of segregation. We just don’t acknowledge that.
As someone who plans to have kids, this is terrifying. I’m scared to bring humans into a world like this. I come out for the future generations and for us.
[A white man in a black truck loudly accelerates toward protesters before pumping his breaks. He honks his horn, shouts “F— you” out his window and then continues through the intersection.]
I’m hoping these people who are driving through — it’s impossible to convey the black experience to people who are not willing to listen. I have never in my life seen this. In my perspective, I would have imagined everyone in this community would support me as a black female and would support other black residents. These little things right here make me shake. It’s so under the surface, which is concerning to me. People truly have these emotions and feelings, and they walk around with them and don’t share them. And you don’t really know who people are.
A lot of people don’t understand that the community in the 3rd Precinct is one of the worst for COVID cases, and that’s something we need to keep in mind. These protests where people are keeping their distance are productive. People need to stay safe but also participate in the dialogue happening in their communities.
I want people to open their eyes and open their ears and acknowledge that this is reality, this is what’s going on. Understand you’re part of the problem if you’re not participating in the dialogue.
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.
Jessica and Jeff Turner
Near the 5th Precinct, across the street from a small group lighting the Wells Fargo on fire, Friday, May 29
Jessica Turner: We live in the suburbs, in Champlin. I’m out here supporting. I’m with my people, whatever they want to do, however they want to do it. [An explosion sound.] I’ve got to keep my eye on that! Has any building exploded down here yet?
Honestly, what I want is accountability. We’ve all seen what happened. I’ve been feeling sadness and frustration. I want police to stop antagonizing peaceful protesters. [Flames leap from the Wells Fargo as cars honk their horns.] If they tried to stop the looting from even this block alone, I think it would be terrible with all the traffic. A lot of people would get run over, a lot of people would really get hurt, no lie. I think they should think about that.
I get that it’s the building, the looting and all of that. But none of these material things amount to a person’s life. As much as we can tear this down, we’ll build it back up. We’re the ones who built it any goddamn way. You think it’s the corporations and the big bosses that sit up there building this? No. It’s people like us who build it, who put in the work. We are going to come together as a community and we will rebuild our city — faster than you think. And Cub Foods, if they don’t want to come back, we’ll just start a new chain. There’s nothing we can’t do. If we have this same energy and same support building it back up, we’ll be all right.
Jeff Turner: It’s all of us, regardless of how they look at it. We paid for it. You’ve got to call it for what it is.
I grew up in this neighborhood. I lived at 3130 Pillsbury. I grew up around here as a teenager. I went to Lyndale Elementary, not even half a mile away. I grew up around the gangs that were in this neighborhood, and the 3rd Precinct has always been what it is. They had it coming. Period. Because of the corruptness.
One day I was sitting here as a kid at the beginning of a weekend in fall. There was a bus stop in front of the White Castle on Blaisdell. A cop pulls up, and I remember we made eye contact and I laughed. I had saliva in my mouth, and it came out when I spit. I literally just spit on the ground. He went through the drive-through parking of the White Castle, came back around and made us all stand up — asking what I was laughing at. He put our hands on the hood of his car. It’s September, October, so it’s kind of cold outside. Imagine what was going through our heads. He made us stand there.
There was an older kid from this neighborhood and they had it out from him. He’s doing years right now.
I used to be a night manager at the Uptown Rainbow Foods, and I recognized the face of that particular police officer, Derek Chauvin. We had a few people we had to call the law on for trespassing. I remember his face. He was one of the weird, kind of ready-to-go ones.
Jessica Turner: When consumers would come in, suspected of stealing, he wanted to take them to jail, but he didn’t have to, he could have just written this person up for trespassing. He’d be like, “You want me to take him in?”
Jeff Turner: You know what comes into my heart? Even with a minor charge, it was like “I’m going to f–k up a person’s life forever.”
During a march near Lake & Blaisdell, Saturday, May 30
There have been so many emotions this week — devastation, determination, motivation to get some answers from Mike Freeman, who finally spoke.
I was all for burning this down [except] the black-owned business. This is being televised!
But the systematic racism is not what it once was when we rioted in ‘65. We’ve got a younger generation who do care about their black friends. You see the majority of the people out here are melanin-recessive individuals. They do give a f—-k. Now we can go to Congress, now we can go to the governor, now we can talk to the mayor.
This past week has shown me what this city is about — uniting. I don’t live here, I live in the suburbs, and I was all for burning this motherf—-er down. But you see all these bikers and hippies. They’re about free love and really coming together and they support LGBT. They do like their black people. I’m not going to clean any of this shit up, but I appreciate the movement. Let’s leave [the wreckage] for a long while as a reminder of what it took to try to get some change.
I’m so sad that this man lost his life. One life gone and his life changed the trajectory of history forever.
During quarantine, you know people are not wound tight mentally. I’ve experienced some joy in all of this madness, in all of this chaos. It’s on a national level. My message is “Not Again, Jim Crow.” I see Jim Crow happening on a more professional level. It’s just not as in your face as it used to be.
I have been beat up by the police on a couple different occasions. When I had my long hair and girl clothes, they didn’t bother me too much. As soon as I got a fade, the Minneapolis police beat me up. I was born a female and when you look the part of a brown female, they don’t really bother us as much. But as soon as I wore boy clothes, oh my god. I have experienced what it is to be a brown man in America.
I got tased down by the onramp to I-35 [in Kingfield]. I got pulled over for some noise ordinance — I had subwoofers in the back. I got out, I had some marijuana on me, so I ran. They tased me, and when they came to me, they put their foot in my back and pulled my arms back. That’s the interaction with police that stands out the most.
Until we understand the systematic level, nothing’s ever going to happen. I could tell you too much, but I’m going to die for what I know. I was extremely pleased when they put Trump in office just to show what this country’s been about the whole time. When they put Obama in office, I said, “Oh lord, illusion of inclusion.”
I don’t promote violence. I do promote change. I do promote growth. I support everything happening right now. But with these fires, my brown people ain’t no goddamn arsonists. The fires on a professional level that are burning down a building, that ain’t us. We don’t do that. We don’t know how to get to a pipeline.
I hope that we don’t have to lose too many lives. That’s what I hope. Do I think that’s going to be the case? I’m not sure.
At a protest near 31st & Nicollet with her five cousins, Saturday, May 30
We came out today because there’s a lot of crime going on, and it’s only right for the little ones to come out and see what’s happening around the world. A lot of stuff is repeating. The black community — and not just the black community — is tired of the nonsense that’s been going on. This is a time for everybody to get justice for anyone who’s been killed by the cops and is dying with our skin color.
It’s been like this for years. We’re taking a stand to say if you’re not going to do us right, we’re going to go crazy. We’ve been in quarantine for a long time, which makes it worse.
It’s been a crazy, emotional week. We’re still doing school and our house is three blocks south [in Lyndale]. The fire’s been going on. They all spent the night in my house. We’ve been coming out every day to show support for our community.
One time we were at the downtown Target and as soon as we walked in, we got accused of stealing. As soon as we walked in, they started following us. Not every black person steals, and I feel like never in a million years did I think I’d get accused of something like that.
I just hope everyone sees our side and does better in helping the community.
Painting the side of Calhoun Square with the faces of black people killed by police, Wednesday, June 3
I’m in eighth grade at Field, but I’m going to PiM [a Hopkins arts high school] next year.
I’ve been thinking about ways to elevate the voices of people of color, because as a white person I feel like I need to let them speak. But I also want to do my part.
I think there’s mixed messaging with Minnesota Nice — that we’re so liberal. But our police systems don’t show that. We’re just as corrupt as many other states. It’s not working anymore — it never worked.
I want to see police work for all people. I know some people are saying, “Get rid of the police.” I understand that and think we should get rid of the current police. But I think we need to reform and change so systems can work for everyone and not just white people.
Today we’re painting murals in Uptown. We were painting Black Lives Matter on the Victoria’s Secret building, but someone told us to paint happy messages so we left. They didn’t want any Black Lives Matter or social justice. We want to have our actual voices and say things that actually matter.
Of course we need to uplift people, but we need to show George Floyd’s face. A lot of people around me, like my white neighbors, they don’t have to look because it doesn’t affect them. We need to let them see. It’s just to pay respect as well.
I’ve been protesting, though I haven’t gone to one with pepper spray. I think the importance is that we need white people there. We can protect black voices. It’s not about us; it’s about protecting those voices.
I’ve also done some protest cleanup with my mom, and I have been dropping food in a neighborhood by Lake Street that’s kind of a food desert right now.
Some people only started talking about these things when neighborhoods got destroyed — of course that’s horrible; we helped clean it up — but the violence started before this man was unjustly killed. The violence didn’t just start; it’s been going on for hundreds of years.
There’s tons of stuff white people can do. Donate, sign petitions. Talk to your friends of color — don’t make them educate you, educate yourself. We have the resources to read and learn ourselves, so we need to do that.
My school is pretty white. There’s a lot of segregation, the way the schools are set up. I follow a lot of people online, like Rachel Cargle and Black Visions Collective, who I think are the right voices. Rachel Cargle talks about dealing with white supremacy and white nationalism and also about black feminism. I also try to follow a lot of smaller activists, mostly on Instagram. I’m not allowed on Twitter.