They have marched for miles, slept for few hours and faced projectiles from police — all in the middle of a pandemic.
And yet demonstrators who have shown up day after day to protest the death of George Floyd in police custody say they will be there until justice is served.
Demonstrations have happened daily since Floyd died last Monday: at the site of his arrest, the Third and Fifth police precincts, City Hall and elsewhere.
The rallies, marches and protests have evolved over the days, bringing out people who serve a variety of different roles. There are speakers, of course, but also musicians and artists, medics, people passing out bottled water and others cooking food.
On Sunday afternoon, several hundred people returned to gather outside the Cup Foods in south Minneapolis where Floyd was arrested. The site has blossomed into a memorial, with rings of flowers on the asphalt, chalk writings and a mural of Floyd.
People were jovial, righteous, even spiritual. Crowds formed occasionally to listen to a speaker, raise their fists and chant Floyd’s name. Cooks barbecued sausages and chicken wings on charcoal grills. A band played instrumental gospel music under the shade of a church.
Tequoyah Moore, 26, roamed the intersection holding a sign that read, in part, “WE CAN’T STAY SILENT.” This week was her first time demonstrating, she said; she has now gone out three days in a row.
“It feels like history in the making,” she said. “I’m addicted to coming out here. I want to be here all day long. I don’t care if my feet hurt.”
For her, “justice” means all four officers involved in the encounter with Floyd facing second-degree murder charges, she said. She’s worried policymakers are not listening to peaceful protesters, and that the media are focusing on the destruction from earlier in the week instead.
“I’m looking for equality,” she said. “I want people to realize that black lives do matter.”
Jonathan Adanene, 23, has been out since Wednesday. He’s using the opportunity to push for charged officers to be financially responsible for their actions, even grabbing the microphone at some rallies to make his point. Beside him, his friend Payton Bowdry, 22, wore a face mask that said, “I STILL CAN’T BREATHE.” He has protested since the first march Tuesday at both the Cup Foods and the Third Precinct.
“If something is going on in front of your house, would you run away or would you stand up for it?” he asked. “Some people actually run away from this, but not us.”
For Justin Splinter, who is white, the experience has been educational and his role one of support. He has come out to protest since Tuesday, both outside the Cup Foods and the Fifth Precinct.
“White people can’t be silent,” Splinter, 37, said. “It’s not enough just to think that it’s wrong: You have to take action.”
Underneath the shade of a gas station roof, three cousins watched from a distance as a speaker rallied the crowd. One of them, Keliea Hollie, 30, was out for the second time. “One day honestly didn’t feel like it was enough,” she said.
Her cousin Hollie Neadeau, 28, had been out since Tuesday. “I’m going to just keep being in these streets,” Neadeau said.
Both said they wanted all the officers involved in Floyd’s death to face charges. Like others, they said they feel like elected leaders haven’t yet gotten the message.
Protesters also gathered Sunday afternoon outside the State Capitol, where speakers urged legislators to fix police violence and discrimination. Wearing a Malcolm X shirt that said “By any means necessary,” Samica Sendelbach of Fridley stood on the lawn of the Capitol, remarking that she hopes to see peaceful protests go on — and the violent ones end.
“We have to fight every day,” said Sendelbach, a St. Louis native who returned home to participate in the protests after a police slaying Ferguson, Mo., in 2014.
Phylan Pugh of Inver Grove Heights went out to a gathering on Lake Street on Saturday by herself. She later described it to her daughter, Marley, 12, and sparked a deep conversation.
“She floored me with her knowledge of systematic racism,” she said.
Her daughter wanted to be part of the protests, so Pugh brought her to the Capitol along with her husband and one of her daughter’s friends. Their family hopes the protest continues for a while.
“As long as it takes to get people engaging in conversations,” Pugh said. “It’s really unfortunate the destruction that has happened. But the impact is it’s getting people to talk about it.”
Jocelyn Ferguson and her friend Alariana Johnson, both of Minneapolis, were at their third protest in four days on Sunday, this time on the lawn of the Capitol. They’ve also marched on Interstate 35 and gone to the memorial at Cup Foods.
“We’ll be back tomorrow,” said Ferguson. “We’re not going to stop.”
They admit they’re tired.
“But we’re more tired of people being killed than standing out here.”
Miguel Otárola • 612-673-4753
Kavita Kumar • 612-673-4113