MINNEAPOLIS – More than a hundred people gathered in George Floyd Square on Sunday afternoon for a solidarity rally between the black and Asian communities ahead of pleadings in the murder trial of former Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin.
Organizers advertised the event as “a safe space to share grief and create joy” during the city’s tense times and dedicated it to Daunte Wright, the 20-year-old black man who was fatally shot. by a police officer during a traffic stop. in the nearby Brooklyn Center last week.
Tri Vo, 25, said he usually went to George Floyd Square when there were no crowds to be able to reflect and because he felt the space was reserved for blacks and natives. Vo, a digital organizer for the Southeast Asian Diaspora Project, said he came Sunday to help educate Southeast Asians on “their interest in this area.”
“I just think Southeast Asians are very out of touch with the idea of race relations and the factors that drive them,” he said. “We need to educate ourselves on this without making us sidekicks. We must be our own protagonists. “
Vo described the sentiment that preceded the Chauvin verdict as “apprehensive, disturbing”.
“I’m really worried anyway,” he said.
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Chavin is charged with second degree murder, third degree murder and second degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd on the last Memorial Day. If convicted of the most serious charge, he could face 10½ to 15 years in prison under the sentencing guidelines for first-time offenders. He could receive a lesser term.
The atmosphere in the square was almost like a music festival. As musicians and dancers performed for the crowd, people lined up around a barbecue, the smell of smoke hanging over the air. Others gathered around tables set by activists offering signs, water, snacks and art.
As a singer performed for the crowd, Mynx Seibert watched her goddaughter, Aria, pick up a paper flower from one of the tables. Seibert, 31, was from Wisconsin but decided to stop in the square when leaving the airport. Seibert went to protests in La Crosse, Wisconsin, but it was the first protest for her goddaughter, who wore a shiny purple shirt adorned with the words “Black Girl Magic.”
“She needs a little bit of her heritage and she needs to know what’s going on.” Seibert added.
She also said it was “heartbreaking” that there was so much uncertainty around the outcome of the trial and that she worried about what will happen to her friends living near the square if Chauvin doesn’t is not convicted.
“If he is acquitted, the city will burn,” Seibert said. “I have a feeling the Rodney King riots are going to be like a high school food fight over what’s going to happen. It’s dangerous.”
As a rapper took the stage, Tony Nhan wondered when it might rain. Nhan lives in Brooklyn Park, just 10 minutes from the police station where nightly protests took place against Wright’s murder and decided to come to George Floyd Square as the protests hit closer to his home.
“This is an emotional time for this city,” he said, adding that Wright’s death “only made things worse.”
The crowd cheered and cheered as family and friends of those killed by police in Minnesota, including Jamar Clark and Dolal Idd, delivered speeches. Toshira Garraway, Head of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, called on all minority communities to support each other in the wake of police violence.
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“We have to show ourselves no matter what,” she said. “If they take human life in these streets, we have to show up and we have to shut it down.”
It started to rain as more people spoke out, including some in support of 13-year-old Adam Toledo, who was shot dead by police in Chicago last month. Nearby, Johnathan McClellan of the Minnesota Justice Coalition chatted with reporters.
McClellan, who is working with Garraway’s group to push through nine police reform bills through the state legislature, said he hoped for a guilty verdict on all charges, but that he was ready to be disappointed because “history has shown us that it is difficult for someone who has been murdered by the police to obtain justice.
“We expect the worst but hope for the best,” he said. “It’s a shame we have to go to these lengths to get justice for a black man who was lynched on the streets of Minneapolis.”
As night fell, around 50 protesters gathered outside the Brooklyn Center Police Station for another night of protests over Wright’s death. Speakers thanked the small crowd for coming out despite the rain and handed out glow sticks which they held up during a moment of silence between short speeches.
Torrie Green, who works at a group home for people with disabilities, has gone out four times to protest saying she wants to make a change.
“I know things won’t change overnight or next week, but I hope eventually,” she said.
Green said she protested after Floyd’s death and Jamar Clark’s death, and when she heard that Wright had been killed she was like “when is this going to end?”
“What they’re doing isn’t right,” she says. “It could have been my father, it could be my niece, my nephew, you know anyone.”
She and her mother, Kristin Green, watched the Chauvin trial. Kristin Green thinks Chauvin will be convicted but doesn’t know how long he will be sentenced to prison.
As the crowd dances to a remix of “Every Breath You Take” with raised glow sticks, Amanda Vo and Ashley Vee handed out crisps and trail mix to protesters. Vee, 27, said that just being there makes a difference, but that she tries to find ways to meet the needs of the community.
“It is necessary to contribute in any way possible, it is terrible,” she said. “I’m not even focused on the cold or the rain, it’s like how can we help other people out here who are putting their bodies at risk for what’s going on?”
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Vee, 27, said she is watching the live stream of the Chauvin trial, but it can be tiring.
“Day in and day out it takes so much energy and then hearing about (Wright’s death) in the middle of it, what else is it like?” she said. “It’s just hard for me to hope that he will be held accountable and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Vo, 21, expressed frustration at the barricades and the increased security erected in response to the protests.
“All these structures to protect themselves and for what?” Said Vo. “Because the community is angry because it is not heard?”
She said what kept her going was the desire to use her privilege to support blacks and Maroons who could face more serious repercussions from law enforcement for protesting.
“I know there are a lot of people who cannot protest and who cannot be here because they are being killed,” Vo said.
Unlike recent nights of protest which ended in clashes between police and protesters, much of the crowd dispersed around 9 p.m. long before the 11 p.m. curfew.
Contribution: Elinor Aspegren, Grace Hauck, Eric Ferkenhoff, Tami Abdollah and Kevin McCoy