From our special correspondent
Balloons fly away, fists rise. On October 14, George Floyd would have turned 47, and a hundred people gathered at the very spot where he was killed, at the corner of 38e Chicago Street and Avenue. The balloons are quickly blown away by the strong fall wind over Minneapolis. Small candles – electric – are placed in front of a giant portrait of the face that has become an international symbol of the fight against racism.
“We demand justice. We will not abandon the place until it is returned! “, cowardly at the microphone Jeanelle Austin. This neighborhood resident became, by force of circumstances, one of the site managers. An aunt and a cousin of the deceased are there, to thank the population for their support. Before the crowd takes a “Happy Birthday” both festive and militant. This mundane crossroads of America, with its gas station, small grocery store, and supermarket-like Evangelical Church, has become a memorial. The streets are blocked, a giant fist is planted in the ground, symbol of the movement “Black Lives Matter”.
There is no longer the crowd of angry days, but there is always someone to talk to. Flowers have been laid, the gas station has become a HQ. “The city wants us to free the crossroads to let the bus pass, specifies Jeanelle Austin. We have nothing against the bus of course, but we have demands. This part of the Southside was traumatized by what happened. We want justice for George Floyd, and repairs for the neighborhood. “ A list of 24 claims has been established and communicated. It is first of all to judge the police officers involved in the drama, starting with the main accused, Derek Chauvin, prosecuted for murder. But also to shed light on a dozen other cases of police violence that have occurred in recent years, and to vote aid for the revitalization of the neighborhood and for the fight against racism. Five months have passed since the George Floyd drama, but Minneapolis is unwilling to turn the page. “It was a shock for us, because we saw ourselves as a modern, progressive city, remembers Julie, resident of an adjacent neighborhood. We thought we were better than that. “ The image of the great city of Minnesota, always well placed in the rankings of places where it is good to live, because of its unspoiled nature and its open-mindedness – it welcomed many immigrants and elected in 2018 a Democrat of Somali origin in Congress, regularly denigrated by Donald Trump – took a hit.
“Minneapolis thought of herself as a pretty, well-dressed girl, but that’s not it, ironically Coventry Cowens, co-founder, in 2018, of the Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery. It’s a harsh, but welcome wake-up call! Minnesota only started seeing its black people with Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement, but we were there long before. We are part of the history of this region, it is time to face this reality. “
Minnesota is the last state in the Midwest to have a museum dedicated to black heritage. “The city is engaged in a big conversation now about racism, and it’s not going to fall back, continues Coventry. Next year will be the trial of Derek Chauvin. Young people are not going to give up, believe me. And it’s not just black youth. It’s the movement of everyone, Whites, Latinos, Asians… It’s quite different from the 1960s. “
The shock of May 25, under the gaze of videos, changed the situation. Initiatives are multiplying, despite the pandemic which is affecting the city hard. The approaches vary. For Demetrius, 30, the solution lies in dancing and mediation. Every Wednesday, his group meets in what is now called “George Floyd Park” for sessions open to Bipocs (Black, Indigenous and People of Color). The “white allies” are entitled to their meeting the next day. ” It must be a collective approach,but also individual, recalls this jack-of-all-trades artist. We all, including us blacks, must question our own behavior. “
Others contact Team Dynamics, a company founded in 2018 to help institutions, companies and individuals better approach diversity. “We get a lot of calls, confirms Alfred Walking Bull, speaker at Team Dynamics and himself from various cultures, since this practicing Catholic grew up on a reserve. People want to change. It’s not just public statements and “Black Lives Matter” signs in a garden. Many institutions question their own behavior. “
Sincere or “politically correct” approach, the Guthrie Theater, a major theater in Minneapolis, aware “To be predominantly white ”, Has thus started a work with Team Dynamics. “Or a religious congregation of a hundred people, Unitarian, adds Alfred Walking Bull. In this case, it is a training of seven weeks, two hours per week, for the whole congregation.. The same weak link persists: what to do with the MPD, the Minneapolis police? The city seems destitute. It had promised its dismantling this summer, before going back, measuring the difficulty of the task, and the awkwardness of this announcement. And if the State of Minnesota has adopted a set of measures – including the ban on the immobilization technique at the level of the neck which cost George Floyd the life -, the effort does not convince Michelle Gross, who has Founded twenty years ago the NGO Communities United Against Police Brutalities (CUAPB).
“This ban comes with so many exceptions, she sighs. A real reform is not the end of the police, but the reduction of its field of action. It is not for the police to intervene, for example, when an individual suffers from psychiatric problems and has a crisis on the public highway. She does not know how to do! ”
Many interventions of this type end badly, as for Daniel Prude, suffocated during his arrest in March in New York State. But CUAPB, and other associations campaigning for broader reform, face the Minneapolis Police Officers Association. This lobby, which has the ear of elected officials in rural Minnesota, blocks any major reform. He is also at the side of the police officers involved: it is this organization which provided a lawyer to Derek Chauvin, released on October 7 after the payment of a deposit of 1 million dollars.