Another black man killed by police; businesses looted and set on fire; a tense confrontation between protesters and riot police — for the past three weeks, the Twin Cities made headlines around the world following the death of George Floyd, who was killed by Minneapolis police on Memorial Day.
Floyd’s killing was horrifying and gut-wrenching. It was caught on video that showed him repeatedly pleading for air as an officer knelt on his neck for several minutes. The seven minutes and 46 seconds of footage choked hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. and across the globe with pain and anger over systematic racism and police brutality.
Then the unrest followed. Tens of businesses in the Twin Cities were looted and burnt down, and many nights of protests and curfews went by. Streets were filled with fear and rage at night, and efforts to clean up the ravaged neighborhoods began with the sunrise.
More than three weeks after his death, Minnesotans living in and around the city where Floyd was pinned down by police continue to call for justice and racial equality, as they struggle to heal the repeated pain and trauma.
In the wake of Floyd’s killing, we asked Minnesotans in the Twin Cities metro area to share their thoughts and experiences around his death and its aftermath. From a fear and trauma to hope for changes, here’s what some Twin Citians said:
The below text messages are lightly edited for length and clarity.
‘This is bigger than just police brutality’
This is overdue. Black Minnesotans have been treated horribly for years. I've been black my whole life. We don't fit in, we aren't welcome, we aren't invited to the cabin, we aren't paid enough no matter what degrees or experience we have, we are born disadvantaged here. This is bigger than just police brutality. This is a whole system of oppression that has to be broken.
I hope leaders and those in power open their minds and hearts to change our nation. We should be contracted with to start community programs [where] we are the experts, [but] we don't have a seat at the table. We will make our own table if we have to, we, as a people, are only getting smarter.
— Lakeisha Lee
‘So much history adds to this situation’
There is so much history that adds to this current situation and I have lived through a lot of it. The killing of George Floyd is heartbreaking and disgusting. The state of our race relations is sadly not improving.
I'm a black father I have seven kids, plus countless employees and friends that I have to help them manage through their pain, anger, sadness and confusion. I love what I do but it does get hard. Staying positive and uplifting can be exhausting especially when you are as hurt and loss as them who look to you for comfort and guidance. The killing of George Floyd is heartbreaking and disgusting and has ignited a unbearable pain.
— Kerry Sutherland
Floyd died at the hands of those who should protect us
Our hearts hurt so much for this worlds great loss of George Floyd. I took my son near the 3rd Precinct so he could see what happened and to discuss why it happened. My son, who is 6 years old, was shocked to see the destruction in our streets, but more devastated that George Floyd died at the hands of the very people who are supposed to protect us. We will continue to pray for the family and friends of George Floyd.
It makes me question — who can I trust?
The words that I would associate with the riots is overwhelming. I've been struggling with Floyd's death, and all the violence that is happening with white supremacists and the police makes me question who I can trust. As a black man in a fairly white neighborhood, I am more cautious and wonder what other white people think about me as I pass by. I also get more nervous for being pulled over when I'm driving.
— Josiah Tusler
‘The system failed George’
I'm pregnant with my first child and I have been emotional watching that man call for his mother hopeless before he was killed, yelling out "I can't breath, please give me some water, please … Mama, I can't breath". This has made me cry and broke something inside of me.
I can never erase the image of that police pressing his knee on George, killing him to death and than dragging his body on the paramedics' slide board without supporting or protecting his head. The paramedics did not do their job properly and the cops killed George. The system failed George. This needs to end.
It’s a ‘chronic’ problem
Nothing can measure how angry I or all we felt about the video when you hear someone calling for life and those who suppose to protect him exactly doing the opposite. This issue about police and their use of force is been chronic in this city and many around the nation. It is time to put stop to this it is now for change no later.
‘Living in fear isn’t the way we should be living’
This movement is necessary. We have been living this daily with law enforcement for so long in Minnesota. I was even involved with a officer using excessive force on me. The policies need to be changed within the law enforcement department. The people of Minnesota is fed up and will continue to protest until change is made. Living in fear isn't the way we should be living.
‘Are we going to be free someday?’
I don’t know how to express myself, the sadness, the pain and the frustration [I feel]. I only ask myself one question: Are we, black people, going to be free one day? Still I can't find the great answer and I hope one day — just one day — it would be over. I feel heartbroken.
— Yaovi Agbemegna
'Scared to go out into the world’
I am writing a song for George and his family this has been devastating for a lot of people and I honestly am scared to go out into this world after all this but I have a job as a health care worker so I keep going and as an African American woman hope that this tragedy opens the eyes of this world. God bless the family of George Floyd.
Living in a society of ‘ingrained injustice’
We just bought a house in the Midway area, which is a progressive neighborhood. It was sad to see it looted and destroyed. But what do you expect when we live in a society of such rampant and ingrained injustice in every level? I always say things will get worse before they get better. This is the beginning of the worst.
— Joseph Morgan
Call for changes, beyond policing
As a Latino who witnessed Minneapolis explode and burn in 1968 and again in just about every decade since then to various degrees, I can tell you that if the focus is solely on the police not much will change. [We] need to deal with economic — access to living-wage jobs — and educational inequities — funding high quality public educational opportunities — in systemic ways, otherwise we will not move forward in any significant way.
— Avelino Mills-Novoa
'Angry and sad, all over again’
As a person of color, feelings of inequality that I've suppressed and rationalized are now at the surface. White friends would always discount any experience I had that felt discriminatory. They just didn't understand.
So, my black friends and I would discuss it, but I would bury my feelings around white folks. Now, my emotions are raw, and I've replayed past injustices, and am angry and sad all over again. I hope change happens, I hope people understand people of color aren't just whining — there is real injustice and unconscious bias.
— Pam Holland
‘Trying to heal’
As a black college student who had to go back home due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lives very close to where he was killed, this had been one of the most stressful semesters of my life. Right now, I am trying to heal, plain and simple. We never give ourselves enough space when black people are killed by police violence but it has never been more necessary.
— Gabrielle Hill
If schools ignore the problem, how will we address it?
As a black grad student studying at Humphrey School of Public Affairs, I am asked to stop making white classmates uncomfortable when I bring up the role policies have in creating our current disparities. If academics at a school of public policy will not discuss the issue, what chance do we have to mitigate the issue?
— Cassaundra Adler
‘Change starts here, right now’
Change starts here, right now, do not let another day go by. Write your thoughts out, keep writing the people in charge of this show. … The police union members should no longer tolerate misconduct. Not one incident, a “no tolerance policy” if you will.
No change means — the death of kids that look like ours will continue to occur. And white people need to step up, and stand up to their racist white destructive friends and family members. … Don’t look at the politicians to help you now. That’s out of their control. That’s out of our power. Make then stand down. Stop hating. Stop killing. Stop condoning their racism. Stop being complicit with their mindset.
— Rori Coleman-Woods