Minneapolis Protests Continue as More Charges Are Brought Against Officers

Community members gathered around one of many shrines to George Floyd at the corner of Chicago Avenue and 38th Street in south Minneapolis’ Powderhorn Park neighborhood. (Courthouse News photo/Andy Monserud)

MINNEAPOLIS (CN) — Protests again carpeted the streets of Minneapolis Wednesday evening as the city went into its ninth day of mourning for George Floyd amid news that more charges were being brought against the former police officers who held him in custody.

The night took on a celebratory but determined atmosphere after Attorney General Keith Ellison announced that he would bring a second-degree murder charge against Derek Chauvin, who was filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Ellison also announced aiding and abetting charges for the three other officers who participated in Floyd’s arrest, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng.

Chauvin was first charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter and arrested Friday. Lane, Thao and Kueng were all in custody by the end of the day, according to jail records. Bail was set to $1 million for all four.

The site of Floyd’s choking, which has been largely a peaceful locale throughout nine days of turmoil and six days of curfews resembled a street fair. Artists worked on huge projects alongside the existing mural of Floyd’s face. The way to the intersection of Chicago Avenue and 38th Street featured two women burning sage. Music played as a food truck handed out meals, and volunteers provided water and food to the gathered community, including a group of barbecuers diagonal from the Cup Foods corner store where Floyd was killed.

“This has been considered a sacred space,” said Jessica Fischer.

The group of grillers, Beto Limon, brothers Jay and Damy Vega, and one other who declined to give his name, asked her to speak for them. All five live in the neighborhood, Fischer said, and had watched as Floyd’s death and the riots, fires and police suppression that followed hit their community.

“This has affected us a lot, emotionally,” she said, “but it’s been awesome, getting to know people that maybe we wouldn’t normally talk to.”

The unnamed man estimated that they’d served hot dogs, brats, burgers and veggie alternatives to about 80 people. The Vega brothers disagreed, ballparking a figure between 100 and 200.

That site went undisturbed all night by police and national guard enforcing curfew. Since curfews began, it has been cleared only once with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Peace and community were not the only words of the day, however. Even at that spot, speakers emphasized that four arrests, or even four convictions, were not enough.

In an impromptu speech in a gas station parking lot, U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar called on those gathered to push for systemic change, and warned that it would not be easily attained.

“We’re not asking for anything extra. Equal treatment under the law,” she said. “In order for us to re-imagine [the future], and to build something anew… we have to have clarity. We need to be strategic. And methodical.”

A crowd gathered to hear Ilhan Omar give an impromptu speech at the Speedway gas station across from the site where Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck on the evening of Memorial Day. (Courthouse News photo/Andy Monserud)

Omar elucidated a little on what that clarity would look like.

“They will want to talk about the riots. They will want to talk about buildings burning. But we are going to talk about George Floyd,” she said.

North of the vigil site in downtown Minneapolis, some leaders of the city’s black community took aim at another institution they said contributed to the police’s ability to act with impunity: the media. Former Minneapolis NAACP president and 2017 mayoral candidate Nekima Levy-Armstrong led a march from the office of local CBS affiliate WCCO-TV, where protesters demanded that the network fire anchor Liz Collins.

Collins is married to Bob Kroll, the president of the Minneapolis Police Officer’s Federation. The union leader, who has been elected by the union’s 800 members to three consecutive terms beginning in 2015, has faced widespread criticism after he called the protests a “terrorist movement,” and Floyd a “violent criminal” in a letter to members Monday.

Calls for Kroll to resign have come from former police chief Janee Harteau, who called him “a disgrace to the badge,” Minnesota AFL-CIO president Bill McCarthy, who said “we can only expect more deaths under his leadership,” and much of the Minneapolis City Council.

At the march, many demonstrators could be heard quoting a local comedian’s moderately viral song — arguably a spoken-word piece — about Kroll.

WCCO made a statement about the issue to local site Bring Me The News, in which it pointed to Collins’ 2019 defense against accusations of a conflict of interest.

“I haven’t reported on stories about the Minneapolis Police or the police union for the last two years,” Collins said. “I should also note that nothing that goes on the air is the work of just one person.”

Myles Bryant, who attended the march, said that wasn’t enough.

“I feel like if Minneapolis wants to be a progressive city, we need to have progressive media,” he said. “With the information we have on the two of them, that’s not adequate.”

Windows at Chicago Avenue’s Dragon Wok remained unboarded and untouched at the site where protesters have gathered to mourn George Floyd for nine days straight. (Courthouse News photo/Andy Monserud)

Other media outlets were not overlooked. Levy-Armstrong, with a crowd of hundreds, continued toward the headquarters of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, where she and others decried the paper for reprinting police information without questioning its validity and for comparing her, in her eyes unfairly, to fellow mayoral candidate Ray Dehn in the 2017 election.

The press and police were not the only targets at that rally, either. At that site, chief public defender Mary Moriarty said the justice system simply wasn’t equipped to deal with the abuses of police.

“I’m part of a system filled with racial disparities,” she said. “This isn’t just about the Minneapolis Police Department…. We see abuses every day, and we mitigate those abuses in court, but not enough.”

Levy-Armstrong took a more direct tack.

“Either a lawyer is a social engineer, or he’s a parasite,” she said. “And we’ve got too many damn parasites.”

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