Two consecutive days of unrest in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Memphis and other cities demand an end to racist police and mob killings of African Americans
For two straight days and nights demonstrations have taken place on the Southside of Minneapolis in response to the brutal police killing of African American George Floyd.
Floyd was choked to death by a Minneapolis officer with an extensive record of misconduct complaints.
Corporate media reports have initially claimed that no disciplinary action was taken against the policeman who ignored pleas by Floyd saying he could not breathe and that he was dying.
Riot police in Minneapolis responded to the second night of mass protests with teargas, rubber bullets and armored vehicles. People were shown over videotape being chased and rundown by MPD cars.
Several buildings and cars were torched along Lake Street in response to the brutality used by law-enforcement. Police were pelted with missiles by angry demonstrators demanding that the four officers, who have been terminated by the MPD and the City of Minneapolis, be immediately arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The Third Precinct police station where the demonstration began on May 27 was later damaged with bricks and metal objects breaking several windows. Attacks were carried out at various businesses including Target, Cub Foods, Dollar Tree and an auto parts store.
One person was found dead on the street near a pawn shop. The death may have been at the hands of the owner of the business. Several merchants are guarding their buildings with firearms to prevent property damage and the loss of consumer goods.
One merchant reported that four cars were taken from his repair garage and one was rammed into a TCF bank at another location. Mayor Jacob Frey, who called for the arrest and charging of the terminated officers, has also requested the assistance of the Minnesota National Guard to assist in quelling the disturbances. The Mayor said in a press conference on May 28 that Governor Tim Walz had not yet given a specific response to the appeal for National Guard troops to be deployed in Minneapolis. Walz tweeted a message urging calm and warning against the dangerous situation prevailing in Minneapolis.
A description of events during the late hours of May 28 and early May 29 were chronicled by the Associated Press saying: “Fire crews responded to about 30 intentionally set blazes during the protests, including at least 16 structure fires, and multiple fire trucks were damaged by rocks and other projectiles, the fire department said. No one was hurt by the blazes. Firefighters were still spraying water onto hot buildings Thursday morning (May 29), and some buildings still smoldered, sending a bitter smell into the smoke-filled air. Windows were smashed out of several businesses in a strip mall, including a department store, a charter school and other businesses, and the destruction was visible for blocks. A Wendy’s restaurant was damaged beyond recognition.” (https://apnews.com/7013997bc5633f3113d65901ddb7e85e)
U.S. President Donald Trump said he is urging the Justice Department to conduct an investigation into the killing of Floyd. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) says it will carry out a “robust” examination of the case to determine whether Floyd’s civil rights were violated.
However, the Trump administration in its initial days revoked all federal consent decrees designed to monitor violations by local law-enforcement agencies in various cities across the country. Such executive actions signal to the police that they will not be subjected to legal scrutiny related to complaints of police misconduct.
Demonstrators Spread to Los Angeles and Memphis
Demonstrations erupted in other cities including Los Angeles and Memphis. Crowds gathered in both cities to speak out against police violence directed against African Americans.
In downtown Los Angeles on May 27 around 4:00pm, hundreds of demonstrators protested outside the Hall of Justice to bring attention to the police killings of Floyd and many more African Americans around the U.S. including in California. Later many of the activists entered the Hollywood 101 Freeway blocking traffic. Reports indicated that windows in two California Highway Patrol (CHP) vehicles were smashed. One person sitting on a police carrier was injured when the officer driving the car sped off landing the demonstrator on the road. The injured protestor was carried to an area hospital for medical treatment.
Dr. Melina Abdullah, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter in Los Angeles, said in response to questions about why the demonstration was being organized, noted: “We’re calling for officers who kill people to go to prison and because Jackie Lacey, the district attorney, won’t do that, she needs to be voted out.” (https://laist.com/latest/post/20200527/los-angeles-protest)
Many motorists passing the demonstration honked their horns in solidarity. The protestors chanted: “When We Fight, We Win” and “Jackie Lacey Must Go.”
Demonstrators later moved to the Los Angeles Metropolitan Detention Center where a rally was held. Inmates inside the facilities were heard chanting and banging on walls in solidarity with the protesters.
Speakers at the rally at the LAMDC included actor Kendrick Sampson and the mother of police killing victim Kenneth Ross Junior, 25, who died at the hands of the Gardena police in 2018. One activist Tanissia Sprull said of the action: “We’re protesting the police and we’re surrounded by police and they’re here to intimidate us so we won’t do this. We’re people, too, and there’s nothing wrong with being black and there’s nothing wrong with seeking justice for these families.”
In Memphis, an hours-long demonstration was held beginning outside a Midtown police station on Union Avenue. Police were summoned to the scene of the activity wearing riot gear, accompanied by K-9 units and deploying pepper spray. It was reported that two people were either detained briefly or arrested.
Outside the police station on Union Avenue, two counter-protesters from a group called “Confederate 901” supported the law-enforcement officers and taunted anti-racist activists rallying in opposition to brutality and unjustifiable homicides carried out around the U.S. One well-known Memphis activist and former City Council candidate, Theryn Bond, said despite health challenges she thought it was important to be physically present for the demonstration.
Bond told the media in relationship to the present situation in the U.S. and the role of the two pro-police counter-demonstrators that: “I came out here to be supportive, because this is bigger than one person. This is about more than a list of hashtags that shouldn’t even exist. What are we taught in science class? For every action, there’s a reaction.” (https://www.commercialappeal.com/story/news/local/2020/05/27/george-floyd-demonstration-memphis-shuts-down-union-avenue/5269833002/)
The demonstration in Memphis ended around 1:00am on May 28. Other marches, rallies and acts of civil disobedience are planned around the U.S. in the coming days.
Immediate Prospects for the Building of an Effective Anti-Racist Movement
These demonstrations in response to the police and vigilante killings of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Louisville and George Floyd in Minneapolis, are a clear reflection of the social crisis existing at present in the U.S. The COVID-19 pandemic has created an economic downturn not experienced since the Great Depression. Since mid-March at least 41 million workers have lost their jobs facing uncertainty related to manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare, housing, education and public transportation.
The general atmosphere created during the pandemic and before by the Trump administration and its allies have brought about great consternation and despair. Law-enforcement agencies and racists elements in the U.S. feel emboldened to lash out in a deadly fashion against African Americans and other oppressed groups.
In Washtenaw County Michigan, anger has surfaced resulting from the assault by a deputy sheriff against an African American woman in Ypsilanti Township, some 35 miles outside of Detroit. For three days demonstrations have been held demanding justice for the victim of the beating name Sha’Teina Grady El. The woman was arrested and later transferred to Taylor, Michigan, where authorities say she was wanted on an outstanding warrant.
On May 27, over 100 people gathered at the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s offices in Pittsfield Township. Additional demonstrations related to the incident are being planned.
These demonstrations against racism will undoubtedly take on other related issues which are socioeconomic in character. The development of a broad movement against racism and economic deprivation caused by the contemporary capitalist meltdown portends much for the prospects for transforming the U.S. into a just and egalitarian society.
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Thursday May 28, 2020