MINNEAPOLIS – The young black man stood up in the back of the pickup truck, megaphone to his mouth, surrounded by hundreds of singing protesters who ignored the horns of the drivers blocked the road.
“What if George doesn’t understand?” 24-year-old activist Brandyn Tulloch called out to the crowd.
“Shut it down!” they screamed as one.
“What if George doesn’t understand?”
“Shut it down!”
“If. George. Not. Got it. It?”
“Shut it down!”
The crowd roared approval of the idea that their move would block the city if Jury hearing The case against former police officer Derek Chauvin failed to convict him when Floyd died.
Tulloch and his friends in Minneapolis have emerged as some of the loudest and strongest voices for police reform in the city and nationally, but their methods of confrontation and their reluctance to condemn riots, looting and arson have brought them into conflict with more established reform groups.
While the violence associated with some protests against Black Lives Matter has been condemned by many local residents and some conservative commentators, Tulloch and other activists say they are tired of waiting for the system to reform itself. They say the speed with which Chauvin has been fired, tried and sentenced, as well as President Joe Biden’s support for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, shows that protests can be effective.
They see themselves as the latest in the line of black activists causing “good problems” Words from former Congressman John Lewis, who marched with Marin Luther King Jr. Lewis, a Freedom Rider, was beaten, arrested and imprisoned while fighting for civil rights.
Lewis said in 2016: “We’ve been too quiet for too long. There comes a time when you have to say something. You have to make a little noise. You have to move your feet. This is the time.”
Although the nationwide protests last summer drew the ire of then-President Donald Trump, who said cities were “going to hell” for violence. Most of the actions, however, were peaceful, albeit impractical for drivers and local residents.
According to a US government report, between May 26 and the end of August, protesters did not engage in violence or destructive activities in more than 93% of the more than 7,750 demonstrations nationwide US crisis monitor, a collaborative effort by Princeton University that collects and analyzes real-time data on demonstrations and political violence in the United States
But Minneapolis city guides were hit by the riots and destruction after Floyd’s death. Although the damage was largely localized – including the looting of a target and arson a Walgreens – city guides said it had a devastating impact on small businesses in these areas, few of which have since reopened. In response, during the chauvinist trial, they called the courthouse with the Minnesota National Guard and barbed wire fences. Estimates are based on the damage caused by protests and riots in the Minneapolis area last summer at $ 500 million.
None of these security measures were required after the judgment and the barricades are now being dismantled. But the protest leaders remain angry. They believe government officials are more willing to spend money on fences and police than on changing the way the police treat people of color.
But they also say that Chauvin’s beliefs on all three points – along with the decision by Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo to fire the four officers linked to Floyd’s death and testify against Chauvin – suggest that they are postponing the city past the turning point to have. Arradondo dismissed the four officers the day after Floyd’s death, and after several days of protests, Chauvin was arrested.
The protests continued, and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who is Black, took the case and brought more severe charges against Chauvin than were originally made by local prosecutors, along with charges against the three other officials. These former officers will be tried later this summer.
112-year-old NAACP leader Derrick Johnson said the community outcry over Floyd’s death could be the equivalent of the police reform movement to breach civil rights in Selma, Alabama, after “Bloody Sunday” in 1965.
Another protest leader, Jaylani Hussain, said ahead of the verdict that he was prepared for a lengthy and personal battle on the front lines of public disagreement.
“Either we go home after a guilty verdict or we stay on the streets until we find justice by all means necessary,” he said.
He asked what is the value of property – usually insured – in terms of black lives lost to systemic racism?
Longtime proponents of reform, from Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton to local leaders like Trahern Pollard, say that working within the existing system will ultimately be more effective. In the hours leading up to the chauvinist ruling, Pollard pleaded with black activists in Minneapolis to avoid violence and looting.
“At the end of the day you will not make changes by burning and breaking into people’s businesses. That way you will achieve nothing,” said Pollard at a memorial to Daunte Wright, a black police killed in the suburb of Minneapolis, Brooklyn Park in the middle of the chauvin process.
Pollard, 48, leads “We Push For Peace”, a longstanding community-based anti-violence program in the twin cities. For 15 years he has tried to reduce violence in black communities while improving relations with the police and elected officials. According to Pollard, young activists expect the world to change immediately: “They want everything now and don’t understand that everything is a process in life.”
The Rev. Ian Bethel, who has been working to change the police force for more than a decade, said he understood the fear and stress in the black community.
However, Bethel spoke to protesters before the verdict was pronounced and called for peace. Bethel worked with Arrandando from 2003 to 2008 when both were members of the Police Community Relations Council, established at the urging of the US Department of Justice. The city police used too much violence against color communities.
Bethel, the senior pastor of the New Beginnings Baptist Tabernacle in Minneapolis, said violence by demonstrators would simply escalate the police response, despite acknowledging that “we don’t like the rubber bullets and tear gas they use,” and that The system still often favors white people over black people.
“Don’t hurt what we do at the table,” Bethel urged young black protesters. “Please. Stop this violence. Don’t tear our city apart any longer.”
The Federal Justice Department this week launched a new investigation into the pattern and police practice of the Minneapolis Police Department, including violence against protesters and racial prejudice.
41-year-old police reform attorney and President of Color Of Change, Rashad Robinson, stepped down from Minneapolis, saying there is room for all approaches. He said it would be a mistake to view last summer’s sometimes violent protests as separate from generations of pressure from black leaders. Color of Change is an online reform group with more than 7 million members.
“The protests had a deep impact on cultural conversation, but they are a direct result of years of growing outrage,” he said. “All of these things are deeply connected.”
Trahern Crews, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Minnesota, believes direct pressure on Minneapolis and other cities has been effective, but he also honors the work of those who came before him.
“I think we stand on the shoulders of the civil rights movement and need to take it to the next level because our very existence is socially, politically and economically at stake. We have no choice but to fight or die.” he said. “I don’t want to compare it or make it a competition, but I’m proud that we were able to put pressure on the cities of Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center to arrest and prosecute the officers involved in the murders of Daunte Wright and George Floyd unknown. “
Tulloch said he and other protest leaders would continue to push, realizing their efforts could make some people feel uncomfortable.
On April 12, after Wright’s death, Tulloch tweeted, “If you feel the urge to say something negative about the protest, riot, or alleged looting at the Brooklyn Center or MPLS, keep it to yourself. THEY STILL KILL BLACKS PEOPLE. Don’t say S___ unless you condemn the senseless murder of another black body. “
After the verdict, Tulloch said he remained committed to the movement. He said it was not his job to criticize how another black person wants to fight for reform, but he will continue to do what seems to be working.
“Is it naive of me to believe that I will see the change that I want to see in my life? Yes. But maybe that means my kids will see that we moved on, “he said.” I’m not sorry anymore I do not apologize. “