Minneapolis notebook: For George Floyd, for blackness, for breath, for life

June 2020 Minn. Floyd memorial (Victor J. Blue NYT)
People at the George Floyd memorial service in Minneapolis. (Victor J. Blue / N.Y. Times)


Monday, 1 June 2020 — Living under capitalism in the time of the COVID19 pandemic:

Minnesota Turtle Island Mother Earth

I acknowledge that I live on Turtle Island, on ground stolen from First Peoples by Anglos and Europeans. The nation state known now as the United States of America was founded on land theft by people who came to call themselves white and from the enslavement of people whose origins are in Africa who came to be called black. I acknowledge that I am a white, able-bodied womyn who lives with the privileges that the racist society I am living in gives to me and other white people.

“To the U. S.: You dragged us here via mass genocide. We are enslaved to building this economic engine which you still benefit from while sharing none of the spoils with us. You tell us slavery was a long time ago—get over it. You kept us in captivity for 16 generations; we’ve only been “free” for six! You create laws that limit our education or our ability to make a living. You terrorize us with lynching, rape and police brutality. But we’ve raised your children, cleaned your houses, wiped the asses of the relatives you never see. You can’t get enough of our music, food, our culture. You worship black athletes as gods, until they act human. What do you want from us? You tell us to go home. This is our home—such as it is. You say we are lazy. But do you give us equal access to opportunities? You accuse us of having a chip on our collective shoulders. Read above! Wouldn’t you? What pray tell more do you need or want from us? If you didn’t want us here, you should have picked your own damned cotton!” — Derek B Johnson-Dean, 30 May 4:22 pm; Southside Minneapolis community member; owner/massage therapist; former community health specialist, program coordinator, case manager

Sometime in the evening of Monday, 25 May, as my husband and I were sitting on our front patio, talking to some neighbors at a safe social distance, we heard what sounded like 3 or 4 gunshots. Shortly after that came the sirens. We weren’t sure if they were from cop cars or ambulances. Where we live, these sounds are not infrequent; just the “background” noise that sometimes happens in our otherwise very quiet neighborhood. You register the sound and let it go by unless it escalates, or unless you have previously suffered deep trauma.

The next morning, I learned the sirens were police sirens, and, that George Floyd, a black man, had been lynched by a white male cop on the street corner of Chicago Avenue and 38th Street, 4 small city blocks to the west of our home. NOT AGAIN!?! WHY?? No doubt, because capitalism, because racism, because police state in the “progressive” bourgeoisie heartland of the united states of amerikkka. ABOLISH THE POLICE!

“White fear of the black body will gentrify our neighborhoods, lynch us, spread a narrative of destruction distract and amplify that fear, and businesses will respond by shutting their doors and in doing so cutting off recourses for the black body.” —Antonio Duke, 30 May 10:41 am; Southside Minneapolis community member, actor, co-founder/co-artistic director at The Black Ensemble Players

That evening we joined an organized protest rally and march that started on the corner where George Floyd was lynched. The designated time for the protest was from 5:00 to 8:00 p m. When we left our house, at about 4:30, our block was already filled with parked cars and traffic and large numbers of people had begun marching toward the destination, which was the 3rd Precinct police headquarters, 2.5 miles east and north.

A few minutes after we arrived close to the corner, while I was calling a Comrade to tell them about the murder of George Floyd, someone overheard part of my conversation and corrected me. I had thought George Floyd had been shot to death, because of having heard gunshots prior to the sirens sounding the night before. I learned from this other protester that the officer, Derek Chauvin, observed and assisted by three other cops—(Thomas K. Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao)— had pushed unarmed, unresisting, unwell and handcuffed George Floyd facedown on the street almost under the police cruiser and had put the full weight of his body on the back of George Floyd’s neck. And he kept his weight there for almost nine minutes as George, struggling for breath, was groaning and crying out, “I can’t breathe! Please! Please! Please! Please, man! Oh, Mama!”

Another incident of police brutality enacted by MPD (Minneapolis Police Department) officers on the body of a black man. This lynching also was filmed in its entirety by multiple witnesses who immediately made their videos public on social media. In these videos George Floyd tells the officers he cannot breathe at least 16 times in less than five minutes. No officers provided any first aid or medical assistance to George Floyd during the lynching and Derek Chauvin kept his knee pressed down onto Floyd’s neck for almost a minute after the arrival of the EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians), who had to tell Chauvin to remove his knee.

The marchers were all social distancing, with lovers, family members, caregivers being in closer proximity to one another and almost everybody was wearing a mask or other face covering. On the corner where people were giving speeches, the crowd was packed more closely together at less than the recommended social distance from one another.

The crowd was very diverse for a Minneapolis demonstration—people of various skin tones, ethnicities, immigration status, the LGBTQIA+ community, different abilities and ages from in uteri to the very elderly, from different faith communities, neighborhoods, nonprofit agencies and political groupings. There was a motorcade of mostly men of African descent on motorcycles present.

“Wish I could get more involved with everything. Show my love and support. It’s hard to riot and protest when you are disabled, especially during a pandemic. I am here for my people, I will serve as a griot I’ll write the story, I’ll paint our rage.” — Oya Mae Duchess-Davis, 28 May 8:59 pm.; Southside Minneapolis community member, playwright, mental health and Multiple Sclerosis advocate, painter, multi-souled, black

We stood about one block east of the corner where George Floyd was lynched, so that we could maintain our social distancing more easily. This was the first large social justice event we had attended since the COVID19 quarantine had begun and my first time to estimate a crowd adhering to social distancing guidelines. From where I stood, I noted an apparent lack of identifiable police, activist marshals, clergy people or politicians; I estimated from 5,000 to 6,000 protesters. It was later reported that protesters had converged from multiple locations and the estimation was 20,000 marching on Tuesday night, closing a major 4-lane highway and ending at the 3rd Precinct police headquarters.

Our younger daughter, who is even more COVID-19-cautious than we are, drove from her apartment in St. Paul to Minneapolis to meet folks at the 3rd Precinct police building on East Lake Street and MInnehaha Avenue. But, as she approached that corner, she turned away, because by that time, the police—all of them dressed in full riot gear—had pulled out their big vehicles, with their big guns mounted and had begun firing mace, tear gas and rubber bullets, hitting protesters around the perimeter of the building. This instigated several incidents of rioting and property destruction including arson.

People from a multiplicity of diverse communities across the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul responded in acts of solidarity and resistance. It is predominantly—possibly solely — white people who have destroyed property and moved merchandise out of stores. Most of the property damage and the removal of merchandise has occurred after dark. The local and state police forces claimed and continue to claim that they are overwhelmed by the numbers of people protesting and the methods and geographic dispersion of those who destroy property and redistribute merchandise. The democratic governor of the state of Minnesota—a former public school teacher and national guard member—Tim Walz, made the decision over the week to involve state police forces, to fully deploy the Minnesota national guard and to put into place at least two 8:00 pm to 6:00 am Twin Cities-wide curfews.

There is no centralized single organization or group of organizations coordinating the protests here in the Twin Cities, nor elsewhere in the u s a. Of course, various groups are working together to coordinate some logistics and mutual aid, etc., but, as a whole, the movement at this point is decentralized. And, this is its apparent strength, outside of the large numbers of people participating. There is what seems to be an unspoken agreement that individuals and groups will share space and resources and ensure ground and other space and support for black people, even with particular activists who usually maneuver themselves into the limelight and the so-called “distraction” of “damage and destruction of private and public property”. Due to the COVID19 pandemic, there is a notable absence of printed literature at the events; there are abundances of masks, hand sanitizer, pre-bottled water—and more street medics and first aid kits than I remember seeing prominently visible at pre-pandemic protests.


From a black, Southside, Minneapolis poet, educator, arts organizer speaking outside of the Cup Foods Store 28 May 2020. (Cup Foods is the business from which a worker there made the call to the police to intervene when George Floyd allegedly tried to use a counterfeit twenty dollar bill to purchase cigarettes.):

“—Fire all four
—Arrest all four
—Charge all four
—Prosecute all four
—Incarcerate all four
—Divest from MPD
—Make it mandatory that a minimum of 1/3 of the police force in any city LIVE in that city —Institute a policy in which officers with a history of wrongful murder charges/police brutality/ etc are not hired to serve in our communities or better yet, at all

—Institute a policy in which each individual officer is required to carry their own malpractice/ wrongful death/injury insurance
—Remove the known members of the KKK and all other white supremacists from power within the department and the union.

Or, abolish the police.”

As always, the state responded to the massive, peaceful protest by attacking protesters with “non-lethal” weapons once the march arrived outside the 3rd Precinct police headquarters. While all four officers involved in the lynching of George Floyd were fired within twenty-four hours of his death, and this appears an unprecedented expediting of a police firing for the MPD, there is no doubt this was done both as a pre-emptive measure to attempt to placate the public and for political gain.

The powers that be want to “be” or “appear to be” in “control” of the police, the non- government organizations, the military and paramilitary forces, the left activists, the right wingers—however they are forming and manifesting, the petty-bourgeoisie, the non-profit organizations, the religious leaders, and the various communities as identified by skin color, ethnicity, gender identity, queerness, age, abilities, etc. This is true of the political and economic players at any level of government office or organized or informal business affiliations.

My view on what is occurring here in Minneapolis and in the state of Minnesota, in general, is that the elected and appointed governmental, police and military leaders are fearful and sweating because masses of people are moving so quickly from one organized protest to the next, and that—combined with the rioting, looting, fires and other forms of property destruction, multiple communities moving immediately to try to organize and distribute free mutual aid for those in need, the construction of barricades by protesters at many places where large number of police have appeared in riot gear, the occupations of buildings to provide housing for long term and now newly homeless people—has moved to a logistical situation in which those who have sworn to serve the kkkapitalist kkklass are unable to contain large numbers of very oppressed people and their allies.

Masses of people in cities and towns here in Minnesota, and now, across Our Mother Earth, are rising in solidarity with George Floyd, his family and community. The greatest numbers of people are engaging in peaceful protests. At the same time, enough numbers of people from whichever known or unknown groupings are destroying a variety of multiple properties, endangering public safety by many of their actions, and they and others are working to literally clean up the mess left behind as best they are able and to provide mutual material and other forms of aid to those in need. Here in the Twin Cites of Minneapolis and St. Paul, over 360 buildings—including the 3rd Precinct police headquarters and a large public library a few blocks away—have sustained significant damage. Almost 70 have been completely destroyed by fire.

This has been the most difficult—though not the longest— writing task I have ever done. I have been out of writing practice for many years and I am writing through the deep grieving of so many in my home city of Minneapolis, through my “own” grieving about George Floyd’s death and the poor people who will suffer because of the massive amount of property destruction and now much dirtier air, land, and water, the loss of what jobs they had left if they worked at any of the destroyed businesses or institutions; through the sadness and anxiety and anger about the COVID19 pandemic and how so many of our “leaders” continue to refuse to provide the most basic necessities for all people worldwide. What was I expecting!!??

And there is hope and excitement and a deep feeling of solidarity and love that so many people are rising up together and talking to one another even through our masks to ask what another person or a family or a whole community or everybody in the world needs and how can we get there? Many of us share similar thoughts about how we can move forward. I want to be a part of whatever is coming next with my Comrades and the other people I love and those I don’t even know yet!

Soon there will be memorial services for George Floyd here in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in Houston, Texas, where he was raised, and in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where he was born. George was an athlete, a rapper, a father of two daughters, a visual artist, a beloved, kind and gentle friend to many, a fiancee, a worker who recently lost the job he had for five years as a security guard for El Nuevo Rodeo, a restaurant and club on Lake Street, here on the Southside, when the business closed due to the corona virus pandemic. George’s skin is deep, deep brown, known as black; the beauty of his skin a liability on Turtle Island. At the age of 46, his breathing was stopped when he was lynched by a Minneapolis police department officer, Derek Chauvin, age 44; several days after he murdered George, Derek’s wife, Kellie, who is Hmong, filed for divorce and apologized to George’s family. Derek’s skin is peach colored, known as white; the color of his skin imparts power and privilege and is a death threat to people of many skin colors on Turtle Island and he is still breathing. He has been charged with third-degree murder of George Floyd. He has been moved to Oak Park Heights state prison, the highest custody level in the Minnesota corrections system. These two men worked possibly during the same shifts as security for El Nuevo Rodeo; George worked outside the club; Derek inside, during their shifts. It is unlikely that they knew one another.


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