Marches and rallies continue across Minnesota, calling for justice for George Floyd

A drummer taking part in a Native American drum circle
A drummer taking part in a Native American drum circle raises his stick in the air as the trailer carrying the circle passes under the Hennepin County Government Center during a protester caravan for Black Lives Matter and Native Lives Matter in Minneapolis on Sunday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

The sounds of a drum circle echoed down the streets of Minneapolis on Sunday, part of another day of peaceful rallies and marches around the Twin Cities, the nation and the world.

The Native Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter group started Sunday morning in north Minneapolis, with the drum circle on a flatbed trailer. They passed through downtown, singing and chanting, before heading to the American Indian Center in south Minneapolis.

From there the group marched to Lake Street and on to the George Floyd memorial site at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue.

The group — and other gatherings Sunday — spoke out against systemic racism and called for justice for Floyd, who was killed in Minneapolis police custody on May 25.

There also have been calls for defunding or abolishing the Minneapolis Police Department, and redirecting that money to other social needs and other ways to address community safety. Nine of the 12 Minneapolis City Council members attended a Sunday rally at Powderhorn Park, where community groups called for defunding police.

AG Barr: Not inclined to open federal investigation

The U.S. attorney general said Sunday he's not inclined to open a federal investigation into systemic problems in the Minneapolis Police Department.

"We stand ready to act if we think it's necessary,” William Barr said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.” “But I don't think necessarily starting a pattern or practice investigation at this stage is warranted."

The U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division conducts “pattern or practice” investigations to address broad problems in police departments related to use of excessive force, biased policing and other unconstitutional practices.

Barr said he hasn't seen evidence to suggest the Memorial Day killing of Floyd while in police custody represents a problem with the whole department.

"Just reacting to this instance by immediately putting the department under investigation doesn't necessarily result in improving the situation," he said.

Barr noted the state of Minnesota is already looking broadly at the police department and seeking reforms.

“We still have to look into what kind of use of force policies are used in that department, what the training has been and things like that,” he said. “That’s not something we can do overnight.”

Protests held around the state

While there were large gatherings in Minneapolis and St. Paul this weekend to honor George Floyd and call for justice, other communities around the state also hosted marches and rallies.

Well over 100 people marched from South St. Paul to West St. Paul on Sunday for what organizers said was a "Unity March" connecting the two Twin Cities suburbs. The marchers called for justice for Floyd and raised awareness of social injustice against people of color.

Peaceful marches and rallies in Minneapolis
Kids place flowers on the names of black people killed by police, written at the George Floyd memorial site on Chicago Avenue and East 38th Street in Minneapolis, on Sunday afternoon.
Liam James Doyle for MPR News

And a protest against systemic racial injustice in New Ulm in southern Minnesota drew about 30 people Saturday.

“It does give me a great deal of hope,” said co-organizer Rodrigo Tojo Garcia, “that people are receptive to the message that we're putting out there. People are receptive to these ideas and people really are engaging with them as opposed to just dismissing them out of hand.”

Tojo Garcia said he was inspired by the protests in Minneapolis, and so he contacted friends to gather near historic downtown New Ulm, where he lives.

“It's always kind of hard to take that first step and decide to go stand on a street corner and raise your voice about an injustice, even when you know you know that your purpose is right and that your objectives are just. It can be hard to take that first step,” said Tojo Garcia.

“I think this movement has been really good for this town,” added fellow organizer Casey McMullen, “because it really has shined a light on stuff that maybe people have been privileged to not have to think about. I think that more people are starting to notice things and take a stand.”

McMullen said she’s seen push-back, both on social media and from people “driving through and using inappropriate language, slurs, things like that. So there has been pushback — but overall, I'd say the majority of the feedback we've had is pretty positive.”

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