People! I haven't posted here in a while, mainly because life has been so insane. There's been plenty to post about, and almost all of it has had something to do with the murder of George Floyd here in Minneapolis last May. Marches, art exhibits, protests, fundraisers, town meetings, petitions, social media posts, heated arguments ... all of it to try and get justice for a victim of police murder this time. And yesterday we got it.
Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all three murder counts yesterday, and Minneapolis erupted in a collective sigh of relief and complete jubilation through sobbing tears. People that weren't here cannot imagine what it felt like in the city. The TENSION. I'm somebody that has to DO something, or I'll go crazy, so yesterday I set out to get the vibe of the day, having no idea that a verdict would come in that afternoon.
I began on Lake Street, where guys in yellow vests were everywhere, frantically boarding up the few glass windows that remained exposed. Business owners were torn about doing this again after the uprisings last May when Floyd was murdered, because you only board up if you think there's going to be riots, and there's only going to be riots if the murderer was found not guilty, and we didn't even want to let ourselves imagine that that could happen. But you also don't want to be sweeping up glass all over again, so most businesses caved in and threw up the plywood.
Armored trucks and National Guard members with machine guns were patrolling nearly every corner. It was all very unsettling - but it didn't stop a couple from standing outside of my beloved Ingebretsen's trying to get some curbside sausage! (They were successful).
People were trying to go about their business, but you couldn't escape the ominous feeling of either impending doom or complete joy - it would only be one or the other, no in between. It's terribly sad that there was any sense of suspense AT ALL, as the entire world has watched George Floyd's life being snuffed out under Chauvin's knee on repeat for almost a year.
There should have been exactly zero debate, but it's 2021 in America ... and you just never know. I had highly respected and intelligent activist friends tell me that thought there was no way Chauvin would be convicted. But we kept marching and yelling about it. We're EXHAUSTED, and I can only imagine how the Floyd family felt throughout.
I decided to head downtown to see what it felt like, and I really didn't think there would be a verdict in until maybe the end of the week. It was so eerie. Very quiet, all was boarded up, and there again were National Guard people guarding - against the People. Very sad. Mary Tyler Moore was tossing up her hat in front of a fenced off Dayton's.
First Avenue was done up in black boards, and featured a red star with George Floyd's name there with all the other luminaries.
The Irish Bar across the street was locked up tight, and they too were rooting for George Floyd.
I love that there are always people who try to brighten things up, and one boarded up street had a row of crocheted flowers all along that added a bit of cheer into a very heavy atmosphere.
Nicollet Mall was on lockdown, but there too someone had come along to make it a little more beautiful amidst the chaos.
Over at the Hennepin County Government Center, where the trial had been held, reporters lined the streets with their news cameras, but not very many.
The plaza in front of the Government Center had a few people milling around, being interviewed by out of town media, holding signs in support of George Floyd, and generally just waiting around for something to happen. Feeling a little bit helpless.
I chatted with some guys there in a car with Daunte Wright signs on it (the next police murder victim we have to fight for justice for, after he was unbelievably murdered during the trial just ten miles away!), and they were cautiously optimistic that there would be a guilty verdict. That was hard to hope for when you looked around at all the things being done to protect buildings and property from people that would be rightfully upset with any other verdict. I was truly and deeply afraid for the city that I grew up in, that it might never recover from such a blatant injustice.
Suddenly there were murmurs going through the little cluster of reporters that a verdict had come in and might be read in the next hour! WHAT?! As I have been torn the entire year, I was again torn at staying put to see what happened, or going home because I'm the main caregiver to both my Mom and brother right now, and if something went really bad, I really can't risk something happening to me that I can avoid. TOUGH ONE for me, who likes to be in the mix all the time, but this was HISTORY. I headed home as fast as I could.
The news was already on, and Mom and I sat on the edges of our seats. The spot where I had just been standing at the Government Center was now filled with thousands of hopeful and nervous Minnesotans. At just after four pm, the jerk Judge (didn't like him the whole time, very condescending and power tripping) took the mic, and began reading the counts. I was sweating, shaking, already in tears. When I heard the first "GUILTY", I jumped up and screamed. The second "GUILTY" had me sliding down to my knees. The third "GUILTY!" collapsed me into heaving sobs of relief and bittersweet happiness. That FOR ONCE justice had been served, but that didn't bring back the life of George Floyd for his family. It didn't convict Daunte Wright's murderer, or all the other many, many victims of police murder and brutality - but it did FINALLY show accountability in law enforcement, and the hint of better days ahead for everyone - IF we keep all the feet to the fire. And we WILL. I needed to get back out there immediately, for now I knew that there would be no danger - only my People rejoicing.
My phone was almost dead and texts started flying in as the rest of the country heard the good news too. I knew George Floyd Square would be the place to go, but I had to charge my phone! I paced around and watched the joy and tears on the news until I had enough juice to go capture it for myself and all of the people around the world that I knew were sharing in our relief and elation.
I had to park a few blocks away, but you could hear the celebration easily from there. Everyone was masked up but smiling with their eyes. Passing by people on the way to George Floyd Square (38th and Chicago), we'd say things like, "Happy day!" and it really, really was.
It got louder as I got closer to the Square, and more and more people were arriving in droves. Old folks in wheelchairs, hyper elated teenagers, little babies strapped to their parents' chests, strollers, white kids holding "Black Lives Matter" signs ... it was the scene of humanity we all hope for, united in their same cause. It was beautiful.
There were speeches in the middle of the sea of humanity, all met with thunderous applause and cheers. Chants went up for George Floyd, and it was way better this time, because we knew that George DID get justice, at least in the sense that his murderer will PAY.
Grills were being fired up, and food handed out to any and all who needed or wanted it. This was the street party we'd all been waiting for - and there was one just as big happening at the same time downtown! I imagine (and hope) it was happening in every household all over the city too. Pure ecstasy in the eyes of all that you met. It was an extra special day that I'll never forget, and was so happy to be a part of. We had WORKED for it.
Of course there remains much to do. The awful MPD must be reformed, but I'm doubtful it can, so it may have to be reimagined as a peacekeeping force of some kind, because it ain't working. We have to get justice for all of the other victims of police murder. We have to prevent these murders from ever happening in the first place. We have to examine the racist tendencies of normal, every day people too, because their tolerance is how this injustice has persisted for so long.
As happy as I was yesterday, I was also a little bit sad, because I was alone, as I have been for most of the actions around the George Floyd murder for the last almost year. I would have no problem finding marching buddies in L.A., but here I almost never could. People aren't comfortable talking about race things here that much, and I can't stop talking about it. I had childhood friends mad at me for being on the 35W Bridge marching when that psycho in the Semi truck came barreling through. Not concerned about me, but thinking I was a dumbass for being there. I've had some say "I donate" or whatever, because they can't bring themselves to be out in the streets showing up for justice. It's been really sad and hard for me, but not enough to stop me from showing up. And I'm a much richer, much better person for it, and hold out hope that they will join me one day. Change is coming, and you'd better be ready for it.
I have met so many good people, out doing the work, out fighting the fight, out making the art (the ART! SO much of it - they all deserve their own story), out getting into the "Good Trouble". I don't think anyone ever imagined that real change in systemic police brutality and systemic racism would come in a city like Minneapolis, but why not? It IS happening, and it all kind of makes more sense to me now as to why I'm still here (aside from the pandemic, that is).
Today is the five year anniversary of Prince's death, and I wouldn't be surprised if there might have been some divine intervention in play. Prince was all about social justice and equal rights, and he certainly would not want to see his city burn - which it definitely would have. It's a better day in Minneapolis today - and also in the whole world. Now we all know that police WILL be held accountable. We know that people from all walks of life will stand with each other in solidarity in the face of outright evil. And we all did this together. Don't forget that this would all have just been another little incident swept under the dirty police carpet if now for the bravery of Darnella Frazier, the true hero of this whole story. And now we must all be Darnella Frazier. Speaking up, filming, whatever it takes to be sure that we put an end to systemic racism once and for all. It's not that hard to love, and I for one am not threatened by melanin. No one should be. C'mon. It's 2021. Time to grow up, America.
The sun began to set on this historic day, but the party at 38th and Chicago showed no signs of stopping, as a brass band led a kind of second line around the square. At this point I realized that I had forgotten to eat anything the entire day, and was about to faint from starvation - and emotion.
I walked back to the car, raising my fist to all who passed, and getting one back every time. This time HAD been different. We HAD gotten some sense of justice for George Floyd and his family. And we knew that we could do it again. And WILL.
So much love to all of Minneapolis, and all around the world who joined together in this struggle to make better days ahead for ALL people. As much as we know there is still to do, I fell into an exhausted sleep with a smile on my face, ready to get up and get going again today.
When there is justice, there IS peace. But there is also actual, tangible joy, and we all felt it here in Minneapolis on April 20, 2021. Praise JAH!