Monday, June 1, 2020

Minneapolis Marches - Beauty, Unity, Peace, and Terror: Sunday

Sunday morning dawned a stunningly beautiful day in Minneapolis. A beautiful day for a peaceful protest march. There were several planned, and after seeing how much unity and community there had been in the city on Saturday at the clean up, I felt comfortable and compelled to take part in the march organized for downtown Minneapolis Sunday afternoon. I'd been pacing our floors wanting to stand up for my people, and a little constricted due to my current role as caregiver to my Mom and brother. Daytime has meant peacetime every day of this ordeal we've been living since last Monday, so I was going.

I quickly drew up a "No Bail" sign to bring with me to U.S. Bank Stadium, where the "No Bail March" was going to go down. These are marches for justice for George Floyd, and the demand is that all four murderer police officers are arrested, without bail. This STILL has not been done, even though to not do so continues the unrest worldwide (THANK YOU, LA!) - and the MPD knows this full well. I parked on the outskirts of downtown, as in case things got crazy, I could get out of there easier. I walked the few blocks to the stadium, along with a stream of others dressed in the asked-for black, and carrying their own signs demanding justice.

There was a huge crowd gathered in the shadows of our Vikings stadium, and I was too far away to hear what the speakers were saying, but clapped and chanted along when it arose. Once again, helpers were everywhere, passing out waters, masks, hand sanitizer, buckets to pick up trash along the march route, and even pizzas. All for free, all for each other.

There was a moment of silence for Floyd, where everyone took a knee, and raised their fists in complete silence. Peace. Once the speakers were done, the march began through the streets of downtown Minneapolis. Honestly, it was like a giant, moving Bernie Sanders rally. All for one, and one for all. Every color, every age (babies in strollers to grannies in wheelchairs), all wanting to show that they stand up for justice together. Most everyone was wearing a mask so you couldn't tell that much what they looked like, but the eyes showed their good souls. Everyone was beyond polite, and all were in a great mood to inspire on a beautiful, summery Minnesota day.

The march was organized, and there was a specific route that journalists, officials, police and the National Guard all knew about. The roads had already been cleared (this is going to be very important later). We marched past City Hall, shouting George Floyd's name the entire way.

People on bikes and taking their Sunday strolls lined the streets, all shouting and raising their fists in solidarity (if not joining in themselves. Why?). The huge group turned on to Hennepin Avenue, heading for the Hennepin Bridge, this time shouting, "I CAN'T BREATHE!" - the last words spoken by Mr. Floyd. It was emotional. It was inspiring. It was beautiful to see.

Once on the bridge, there was another taking of the knee and total silence.

Like, you could hear a boat's engine going by on the Mississippi River below. Peace and unity and like minds together in the name of justice was one of the very most solemnly beautiful moments of my life, and I bet I can speak for just about everyone there.

Guys in a pickup truck were going through to give people icy cold water on this very hot day, and thanking everyone for being there, as they thanked them for the cool drink. Unity. Support. One Love.

The group then marched on down off the bridge, with honks from cars on adjacent streets honking along to show their support. Some girls were waving sage over the whole thing as we passed by (I hate that smell, but appreciate the cleansing sentiment). Others had the backs of their cars open, handing out snacks and drinks to anyone who wanted it. We turned on to University Avenue, heading for the 35W Bridge (the one that was rebuilt after the old one there collapsed). The freeway was cleared, as city officials knew this march was happening, and exactly what route it would take.

Marchers scrambled down the embankments on to the freeway, and it was pretty surreal to be surrounded by thousands of people on a major thoroughfare, all holding signs and unified in our mission. The bridge was the way back to the football stadium where the march had began. The idea was to cross the bridge, exit at Washington, and head back to the Skol ship to gather again to wrap up the day before curfew. It was SO beautiful to look across the water at our Minneapolis skyline, then turn around to see so many people of every make and style marching along together, chanting for justice - and more than determined to actually get it THIS time. Because THIS time, we have the whole world on our side.

There was another moment of silence there in the sunshine. A speaker far away from me was talking, and all I could make out from her speech, was "Isn't this BEAUTIFUL!?" Because it really was. We took another knee, we raised our fists, and we heard the silence of peace and reflection. And then, in the distance, we heard a horn. In an instant, people leaped to their feet and began running toward the edges of the bridge. No one knew what was happening at first because there were so many people. Then we saw it - a giant gas tanker coming down the freeway at full speed! I'm actually crying again as I type this, because it was so terrifying to think that people were about to be mowed down in this moment of peace, it was unreal!

I moved to the edge of the bridge, where so many people were crushing into that I felt my body being nearly pressed over the side, looking down at the water below. Everyone was trapped on a bridge over a river, and there was instant panic. I started yelling, "STAY CALM!" like a chant, and a few people near me joined in, and it kind of helped. We began to walk single file straight ahead, with the only goal being to get the hell off of the bridge. At this point, we all thought there must be tens of people killed and/or maimed, and people were sobbing openly. A woman with her baby in a stroller had a man in front of her yelling, "Let this baby through!" We just kept walking as calmly as possible, total strangers suddenly caring even more deeply about the person right next to them than they already had.

A fence had been flattened out so people could get over it and off the freeway faster, and that grassy area soon became full of the traumatized marchers from the bridge. We knew that the driver of the semi had been pulled out of the cab of his truck by the horrified marchers, but didn't know what had become of him then (we later heard that good people had surrounded Bogdan Vechirko and fully saved his life, so that he can be tried by the police - whatever good that will do. ), and that was scary too. No one wanted another death, especially at the hands of people who were out there trying so hard to do good, to demand justice, and to do so extremely peacefully. *I filmed none of this, as survival was more important.

Once gathered off of the freeway, people were shaking and crying and calling their loved ones, and so deeply sad that some psycho (He was. Don't argue with me. They're now saying he "panicked". Really? With thousands of people directly in front of you, you barrel straight at them?! The only panic was from the people fleeing from him. And maybe from him when he realized he was about to get the beating of a lifetime) had come along to wreck the vibe of what had been an absolutely perfect day of our city standing together in solidarity. I have questions. How did the truck get through to a designated march location? Why did the police you can see in the video do nothing to stop him? And REALLY WHY did the police than indiscriminately spray mace over people merely walking up the ramp away from the commotion? Peaceful, scared people were even more traumatized by jerk police who just can't stop being jerks! Mace? It was an organized march. We hadn't seen a single officer the whole day of PEACE, and the peace only stopped when they showed up. Again, BECAUSE OF THEM. THEY are WHY we were marching, and then they come along to totally wreck that too? There is such a disconnect in that operation, it's simply baffling. (Then, as we walked back to our cars, the cop choppers showed up with big, orange things of water to dump on the shaken people. Because they're so compassionate, and serve and protect so well). I'll say this. Yes, I know that there are some good cops. I have good friends who are cops - but I've even heard them say things that definitely let you know they treat Black people differently. I've been encouraged by the very few videos of police captains deciding to march with the People - like in Flint. But that is a rarity, and far too few good police make themselves known, and far too few of them stand up when their colleague has done something unthinkable ... as we're dealing with now. So, I'll just say this. If you are a good one - be better. SHOW us that you're better. Because after this last week, you don't have a lot of fans. Worldwide. You can and should do better because you took an oath to protect and serve, not murder and escalate the aftermath. Show us you ARE better this time by arresting the four who have so sullied your name, and by never allowing things like this - murder - to happen ever again. PLEASE.

Whatever. We won't be deterred. We WILL get justice. I would be right back out there again yesterday, even knowing how it ended up. Because I feel we MUST be. Lots of people I know don't feel that way (which is why I was there alone), but I will do even more work to make up for them, and hope that they will be enlightened by all of this too. George Floyd will not have died in vain, that much I know for sure. I KNOW that things will get better for people of all walks of life, simply because they must if we are ever to have peace again. No one is giving up. So racists are going to have to get over themselves, once and for all. The whole world agrees, and that's why you're seeing unrest across the globe, pandemic or not. Because citizens of the world all realize that we cannot continue how we have been. It's not working. Very clearly.

Some will say to "Vote" or call reps or do whatever stuff like that, and that's great. But it has historically not changed a thing. The only way we've ever seen change is by people standing up together against what is fundamentally wrong. That's what we're seeing now, and we're going to be so much better for it. Growth isn't easy, and it hurts a lot of the time ... but you learn. And you improve. And you maybe change the whole world.

This can end now. Arrest and convict all four murderers of George Floyd. Show that justice CAN be served in this nation. I've heard people say they're embarrassed that this is happening in Minnesota. I couldn't disagree more. How proud are we going to be when we know that racial inequality began its slow death march HERE in our beautiful, progressive, caring state? That WE made this better history! (People didn't like the people marching with MLK, Jr. at the time either, but I bet they wish they had now. History will very clearly show which was the right side to be on). That will be a wonderful legacy, one that we can all be an important part of. If you can find it in yourself to join the struggle for change. I'll be there, ready to stand side by side with you for a better world for us all.

Thanks and so much love to all the beautiful, wonderful, caring, empathic people I met and marched with yesterday. We are all better people for being there together, and we WILL overcome.


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