I vividly remember Mr. Floyd’s murder. The killing that would completely shift my perception of my city, the killing that would cause my childhood landmarks to go up in flames. I remember reading the headlines reporting that yet another innocent Black man had been murdered by the hands of the police. I was disgusted by this racist, normalized American act. When I was informed that this murder took place not only in the state I was born in and raised, but had occurred not even three miles from my home, I felt enraged. Seeing the thumbnail of the now-recognized video of Mr. Floyd being murdered in the streets I had so proudly owned, I had never felt a feeling quite like this. Hearing the audio, Mr. Floyd screaming the barbarous words “I can’t breathe...”, hearing him call out for his mother — I think I can speak for anyone who watched the gruesome video, that stomach-dropping, twisting feeling and that lump of anger curl in your throat. This was enough. My people were angry, my generation of youth was angry. We were scared.
The day after Mr. Floyd’s murder took place, protesters from all over the city gathered, declaring conflict. Protests began as peaceful, young Black people expressing the pain they endure every day, people of every color marching our city’s streets, chanting and holding up signs. Many people who are not local to Minneapolis may wonder, “How did this unity turn into flames?” How did this occurrence begin? Police. We were peacefully protesting until the police arrived; they arrived equipped with riot equipment. I remember marching and chanting, hearing yelling, informing us, “They’re spraying us!”, leading up to stampeding and pain.
I recall this thought popping into my head, this notion that occurred in many of our heads: this is war.
The night of May 26th, 2020, rapidly escalated. Protests were no longer being led by a specific group, streets flooded with angry people — mostly young people — and aggressive energy was immersed in the air. I had not participated in the riots taking place down my street; instead, my mother and I had virtually joined, as it was dangerous. I reminisce a lot thinking back to staying up all night watching the broadcasts of Target being burnt down and looted, the liquor store being destroyed, my childhood library’s windows being shattered, becoming shards, witnessing people spray paint vulgar messages on building’s bricks. Watching my city explode with rage, seeing the fires from my backyard, hearing helicopters above, the distant but close yells of my community demanding this cycle ends now. I could smell the burning, and the tear gas police were using against civilians. I distinctly relive the shots as well. I was on my phone constantly, playing people’s Snapchat stories of them participating in looting, running the streets at night, the disturbing excitement. I was proud of my city. It gave me hope.
When Tim Walz called in the National Guard it felt as if the government was telling us we were wrong to be upset, that we should just deal with seeing Black people being murdered by police. My mother and I attended protests taking place on Lake Street — one distinctive memory I have was on the first day the National Guard had been called in. They were suited with militia equipment, tall and heavy guns, dressed in riot attire from head to toe, lined up in a single file, and ready for war. My mother recognized an old student of hers and they began to talk about what was happening around us. The entire crowd was not violent at this moment, we had only been reciting our warrior chants. At this moment, we were greeted by shots of rubber bullets, sudden tear gas flooding our area, the National Guard yelling into their loudspeakers to “Get Back!”, “Back Up!”… I was washed in fear, my mom has never grabbed my wrist so hard or ran so fast with me. I can still taste the gasses, groaning from the stinging in my eyes, that feeling in my stomach was something I’ve never experienced, as well as the sight of my mom’s fear within her.
Why was our own government against us? Why do the people in power have so much resentment towards us when all we want is change?
My community had been the center of many attacks throughout these days of riots, some ranging from tiny hate remarks to findings of gasoline behind my local movie theater and cafés. At one protest I attended at George Floyd Square, a red car raced through the crowd knocking me off my feet — I can only imagine the ones subject to the semi-truck attack on 35W. The news never reported the people who attempted and committed these attacks, and if they did, they made us seem like the violent ones. We knew the faces of these attacks, the privileged white kids coming from Wisconsin to my city to destroy, the KKK participants who would taunt my neighborhood’s streets, revving their engines. My neighbors would rotate stakeouts, standing in front of our houses holding bats in case of a sudden attack. The National Guard shot us with rubber bullets for being on our own porches. My home began to feel like an unsafe place.
The storm wound down to grey clouds, the rage became a wary peace as Derek Chauvin was taken into custody and arrested for his murderous crime. Protests began to become a safe haven for many, with food being passed around our communities, meditations being held in many local parks, and unity hugging our city. The park located across from my house was filled with grocery bags, diapers, sanitary products, and happy families. The riots did produce peace in ways. I look back on people from out of the cities joining us to clean up our streets, children running around sweeping with their friends, constantly being given free food and support, and it made my soul warm with joy.
Our country is still left with the mark of systemic racism. Our country is still taking Breonnas, Philandos, and Georges away in the hands of the people who are supposed to protect and serve. I am proud I got to live through this revolt, and hold pride within my city. I look forward to telling these stories to my children, my grandchildren, and their friends. However, nothing will bring back Mr. Floyd, and the repetition of these murders is ongoing. I hope our government knows that my city is full of strong warriors, and we will riot once again for our people.