Thousands of people dressed in black marched through downtown Minneapolis on Saturday night during an Independence Day protest to call for racial justice and an end to police killings of Black Americans.
“This city will never sleep until we get justice,” Royce White, founder of the 10K Foundation, told a sea of demonstrators gathered outside U.S. Bank Stadium. The Black 4th, one of two marches held Saturday, sought to build momentum on a movement toward police reform in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police. “We are renegotiating our social contract with the state,” White said.
Following a rally on the stadium plaza, protesters zigzagged throughout downtown, occasionally kneeling at intersections to honor those killed by law enforcement. After dusk, sparklers illuminated the throng solemnly marching down Washington Avenue, hoisting signs with Floyd’s final words: “I can’t breathe.” “How many were not filmed?” one banner asked, referring to other police killings may not have received the same national attention.
Troy Mortenson, of St. Paul, said he attended the protest for his 9-year-old son. “I can’t imagine having him go through something like George Floyd went through,” said Mortenson, who is Black. “I’m scared for his future.”
Mortenson first got involved with social justice causes after the death of his close friend, Philando Castile. “To see him get shot in front of his child, that was it for me,” he said, describing the fatal traffic stop in 2016, parts of which were livestreamed on Facebook.
He lamented that it took Floyd calling out for his mother to wake America up.
The peaceful throng eventually crossed the Stone Arch Bridge, pausing to kneel with fists raised in the backdrop of Interstate 35W — lit with red, white and blue for the holiday. The marchers continued toward St. Anthony Main, where the event culminated with a festival of street food, live music and a homegrown fireworks show.
The 10K Foundation, the Justice Squad and Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence organized the march.
Earlier, at Roll 4 Justice, about 200 people on roller skates, roller blades, bicycles or on foot proceeded from Minneapolis City Hall to a rally at Bde Maka Ska.
They passed through several downtown and Uptown neighborhoods as they called for abolishment of the criminal justice system in favor of investment in social and mental health services.
“The people who live around Bde Maka Ska, they don’t know what we’ve been through or understand what this movement and revolution is about,” said Mari Mansfield of the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee.
The event was organized by MIRAC, CAIR-Minnesota, LatinoAltROCK, Asamblea de Derechos Civiles and Native Lives Matter.
Lukas Skrove biked from his Golden Valley home for his third protest since Floyd’s Memorial Day death in police custody. Skrove said he had to educate himself before he felt he could participate.
“I identify myself as a white person who has a long way to go ... cleaning up the mess white people need to clean up,” Skrove said.
Jewel Spearman, 19, of north Minneapolis, has protested police treatment of Blacks several times before and after Floyd’s death. “Not all people are free right now,” she said of the significance of the protest’s July 4th timing.
Also Saturday, the Northside Riders 4 Justice, a group of Black gun owners, rallied at the State Capitol in St. Paul against gun violence but for the right to keep and bear arms.