Protests Sparked By The Death Of George Floyd In Minneapolis Intensify

May 28, 2020
Originally published on May 29, 2020 10:15 am
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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The seeds of outrage in Minneapolis were planted on Monday. That is when George Floyd died after a police officer used his knee to pin Floyd's neck to the ground. And those seeds have grown into violent protests. Last night, demonstrators looted and set fire to buildings, and the police shot rubber bullets and tear gas. The mayor of Minneapolis is now pleading for calm, and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz is sending in the National Guard. NPR's Adrian Florido is in Minneapolis and joins us now. Hey, Adrian.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.

CHANG: So these protests, I mean, they've been escalating since Monday, when Floyd's arrest and apparent suffocation by this police officer were caught on tape. Can you just talk about - what does Minneapolis feel like today?

FLORIDO: Well, it's tense, and it's sad. Parts of the city are smoldering. Last night, protesters lit several businesses on fire, including an affordable housing development that was under construction. People are furious. They want the police officers involved in George Floyd's arrest to be arrested themselves and charged with murder. Minneapolis' mayor, Jacob Frey, today asked people to stop the violence on the streets, but he is also calling for the officer who had his knee on George Floyd's neck to be arrested. Listen to what he said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JACOB FREY: Why is the man who killed George Floyd not in jail? If you had done it or I had done it, we would be behind bars right now. And I cannot come up with a good answer to that question.

CHANG: Well, the four officers who were present, they've been fired, but there have been no arrests yet.

FLORIDO: Right.

CHANG: We have learned that there are several investigations into this case. What do we know about those investigations?

FLORIDO: Right. At the federal level, the FBI and Justice Department have said that they are investigating whether these police officers violated federal law during the arrest. State and local prosecutors are also investigating to decide whether local charges should be filed. But as we've seen, you know, protesters think that the evidence in this video that went viral is obvious, is evident. And they are growing impatient, and they're saying that they plan to stay out in the streets until these arrests are made.

CHANG: And I understand that you've been out speaking to some of these protesters. What else are you hearing from them?

FLORIDO: There's tremendous anger and pain out on the streets, Ailsa, and also determination by these protesters to force officials to take their demands seriously. People are fed up seeing these videos of black men and women dying at the hands of police. I visited the corner where George Floyd's life slipped away from him. A memorial has sprung up there. And I want you to just listen to the voices of some of the people I spoke with.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

DINA WILLIAMS: Well, when I saw three officers holding a black man down and him screaming mama and I can't breathe and no one will help him, it sickened me. And I felt like it was time for me to take a stand.

SAM REEVES: Seeing that technique being done on someone that was handcuffed, he was not putting up a fight - he was actually pleading his case - it hurt.

EDWARD WASHINGTON: It broke my heart. I ain't slept since that [expletive] happened. I've been out here. I ain't going nowhere.

TIM: They don't know our neighborhood. This our neighborhood. It's where we growing up at. That [expletive] crushed me when I seen that 'cause that could have been me - me, my brother, my father, anybody.

FLORIDO: Those were Dina Williams (ph), Sam Reeves (ph), Edward Washington (ph). And that last gentleman, he would give me only his first name - Tim.

CHANG: You know, I'm curious. These protests are happening, obviously, in the middle of a pandemic. And the images that we're seeing from these protests are showing large crowds - some wearing protective masks, some not. Is that something that protesters or officials are concerned about right now?

FLORIDO: Officials are concerned that there's going to be a spike in coronavirus infections here in Minneapolis and across the state. Protesters told me a similar - you know, something - protesters I spoke with sort of all told me something similar, which was yes, this virus is dangerous. But the police are killing us, too. It's not just the virus. The police are killing us, too. And we have to be out here.

CHANG: That is NPR's Adrian Florido in Minneapolis. Thank you, Adrian.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Thanks, Ailsa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.