Thousands march to protest death of George Floyd after police brutality

Police and protestors clashed for several hours Tuesday evening.

Natalie Rademacher

 

With most donning masks, thousands marched in south Minneapolis Tuesday evening to protest the death of George Floyd, who died in police custody after a white police officer kneeled on his neck as Floyd repeatedly said that he couldn’t breathe. 

While the protest started out peacefully, demonstrators and police officers clashed in the rainy night outside the Minneapolis Police Department 3rd Precinct building. 

The event was organized after a video spread online of a police officer holding down Floyd by kneeling on his neck as he told police “Please, I can’t breathe.” The police officer has been identified by multiple sources as Derek Chauvin, according to the Star Tribune. The four officers involved in Floyd’s death, including Chauvin, have not been officially identified by the police department. 

Despite the pandemic, about 5,500 people responded that they were attending the protest on Facebook. 

The protest began outside Cup Foods at the intersection of Chicago Avenue and 38th Street, where Floyd was held down on Monday. 

People chanted “Let him breathe” as they held up signs and laid down gifts such as flowers on the sidewalk. 

“It is time for us to make a change with our words,” said Jackie Mack, who said she was friends with Floyd and encouraged chanting throughout the evening. “All we want is some justice.”

Most protestors donned masks during the event, and some like University youth studies professor Jessica Oliver-Tebben and son Rodney, handed out hand sanitizer, masks and water to attendees. To maintain social distancing, some attendees stayed a few blocks away from the epicenter of the protest. 

Francis Sullivan said he was too anxious to attend the protest so he wrote Floyd’s name in chalk outside of his girlfriends’ home on Chicago Avenue. He said he would be there until the chalk ran out. 

Attendees marched to the MPD 3rd Precinct building on Minnehaha Avenue throughout the evening.  At the station, some protestors spray painted words on the building and broke windows and doors. 

Police officers in riot gear confronted the protestors in the pouring rain, throwing tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd to keep people away from the building. Numerous protestors were hit with tear gas and bullets. Others stood by to help and pour milk on protestors who were gassed. 

During the clash, some protestors threw water bottles at police officers while others held hands and chanted. Protestors created a barrier of shopping carts from the Target parking lot across the street to shield against the rubber bullets and tear gas. 

The protest organizers, which include the Racial Justice Network and local Black Lives Matter chapters, said in the event description on Facebook that attendees gathered to demand the names of the four officers involved in Floyd’s death be released, along with calling for the officers to be fired and criminally charged. 

Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey said in a tweet Tuesday afternoon that all four officers had been fired. 

“This is the right call,” he said.

While protestors said the termination was a good move, many are now calling for the prosecution of the officers involved. 

Some University of Minnesota students showed solidarity with the Tuesday protest in their own neighborhood. Kruz Karstedt and his housemates decided it was safer to not go into the community to protest due to COVID-19 and instead held up signs on Como Avenue. Some cars honked as they drove by.

“It feels like we would be doing more harm than good going into a minority community during the pandemic,” Karstedt said. 

Minnesota Student Association President Jael Kerandi published a letter addressed to University administrators Tuesday evening demanding the University of Minnesota Police Department cease partnerships with the MPD due to Floyd’s death. 

“We have lost interest in discussion, community conversation, and ‘donut hours’,” Kerandi wrote. “The police are murdering black men with no meaningful repercussions. This is not a problem of some other place or some other time. This is happening right here in Minneapolis.”