It was two o’clock in the afternoon on Friday when Liya, a teenage girl, spoke on the steps of the stairs to the Capitol in Minneapolis. She said she was exhausted by this violence, by threats to African-Americans, by fear of being what she is, a young black woman, but also that the time for change had come.
In front of her, several hundred confused students gathered to listen to her. His voice reverberated at the place of power, just behind.
The United States is about to enter a new era. At least that is what Reverend Al Sharpton, a civil rights activist and manager of James Brown in the 1970s, said last Thursday at the memorial service in Minneapolis for George Floyd.
The man was killed by city police on May 25 after he was suspected by a restaurant clerk of having a forged $ 20 bill. Since then, the country has ignited to denounce a free murder guided by systemic racism. In response, Donald Trump had his photo taken in front of a church with a bible in his hand.
“You changed the world, George,” said Al Sharpton. We will keep walking, George. We will continue to fight, George. […] We will change the time [dans ce pays]. We are going to make America great for everyone for the first time. “
More than a week after the assassination of George Floyd, the tension began to relieve, slowly, in the city of Minnesota where, after the concussion induced by the video showing the muscular arrest of the father of family of 46 years, the residents are now looking to place their collective future in a different tone.
“What gives momentum to the movement of the last few days, anger, fatigue, frustration … will also become the fuel for change,” said sociologist Joseph Gerteis. He is a teacher at the University of Minnesota.
“This anger can be explained by the fact that since the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, there have been several uprisings that have never succeeded in making a difference. But this time is different and George Floyd has certainly become that inflection point in a huge fight. “
Minneapolis City Council kicked off the change on Friday by passing a resolution now prohibiting police from using strangulation to apprehend a suspect and authorizing the intervention of colleagues who believe the use of the force is excessive.
Local officials are also considering dismantling the city’s police force and replacing it with “a transformative new model of public safety,” said council chair Lisa Bender.
An unbearable injustice
The transformation seems to be underway, and not only for the police force, judging by the demonstrations, here as elsewhere in the country, where the cause of African-Americans now seems to be increasingly supported by white Americans .
“This injustice is so persistent in American society that it becomes unbearable,” said Roger Johnson, a young retired man met this week in the parking lot of a golf course in Woodbury, in the wealthy and rather republican White suburb of the Twins Cities. . I am well placed to know the privileges of whites. I see that politicians maintain tensions so as not to lose them. This country is a melting pot where wealth is not distributed fairly, where institutions give more to some than others and this is what we must oppose today. I believe the case of George Floyd will help us come together now to end these systemic inequalities. And it’s in November that we’re going to see him. ”
He is referring here to the holding of presidential elections. The populist power of the radical right, with an authoritarian tendency, of Donald Trump will be challenged by the more moderate voice of Joe Biden, former vice-president under Barack Obama. The Democrat leads in the polls.
Melissa Tobias, in his thirties, was near North Central University in Minneapolis on Thursday to listen to the tribute to George Floyd. “With my neighbor, we felt the need to come here to meditate,” she said. She had put her bike on the lawn. She will state that it has never been her practice to publicly support such a demand movement, adding that she is aware of living in a bubble, with her privileges as a white man, but that from now on this status quo can no longer last.
“There is institutionalized racism that is so ingrained in all facets of our country that we are going to have a lot more work to do than just protest and vote. “
The end of privileges
Political scientist Sarah Combellick-Bidney of Augsburg University in Minneapolis said, “Whites remain responsible for the repression we are witnessing and the attempt to forcefully maintain the status quo by further crushing the lives of blacks. “
All week, Donald Trump has also been accused by a series of former US defense secretaries, including Jim Mattis and former White House chief of staff, John Kelly, to lack judgment by imposing a police and military response on a movement which, according to them, should be approached with more listening and compassion.
“The tactics of fear used as usual to divide the two groups seem to work less this time, however,” said the academic, seeing this as another sign of change in ordinary speech in the face of police brutality targeting African-Americans. .
“Many white people are beginning to see that, despite their immense privileges, they are also harmed by this system which disproportionately harms blacks and that their justice is linked to justice for black lives.”
On the steps of a church in the city center, a stone’s throw from where everything burned during the riots last week, David Holliday, a white father, has this awareness of a country that does not work well and who can no longer continue to advance with a population placed on different paths.
“Racism is anchored in the urban fabric of this city, marked by these highways built to separate black and white populations,” he said. Around it, dozens of volunteers were busy collecting food and essentials to distribute to citizens unable for several days to go to partially closed grocery stores due to social tensions. Particularly in poor neighborhoods.
“For the past few days, I have been impressed by the commitment of people to make a difference in the white neighborhood where we are. But I hope this consciousness will not be lost once all of this is over. “
Demolish to rebuild
For the African-American culture specialist at the University of Minnesota, Enid Logan, the unit visible today to denounce racial violence and exclusion, as well as the national and international solidarity that the death of George Floyd induced, “Give hope”.
“The question now is how to translate these protests into change. What needs to change is not just “hearts and minds”, but also the deep structures of racial oppression, embedded in all of our institutions, she said. This will require not only walking, but voting, investing, demolishing certain structures and institutions and replacing them entirely. “
This time of reform, the call for which has just been forcefully launched, will have to go through the next elections. For starters, said Al Sharpton in his funeral praise on Thursday. “We have to go back to Washington and stand up, Blacks, Whites, Latinos, Arabs in Lincoln’s shadow and tell them,” It’s time to stop this. ” “
On Friday afternoon, dozens of people continued to gather at the corner of Chicago and 38 streets.e street where George Floyd lost his life. John and Heidi, who carried a bouquet of flowers to place it on the improvised places of meditation, walked there gently with their two daughters, Michaela and Byana.
“This is the first time we have come,” he said. My daughters have seen violence on television. They were traumatized and this is not the image I want them to keep of this event. I want to show them the peace, the respect, the depth that is being expressed here, on this street corner. ” And he added. “This is what they should remember, from this moment in our history, to write the sequel in this country. “