It was the scene that forced the question: why did you come to sit here on this bench to read a book? In addition, a novel by American author Jodi Picoult. My Sister’s Keeper. A story of kidney donation. Strange.
Because it was Tuesday afternoon in St. Paul, the twin of Minneapolis, just west of the imposing Minnesota State Capitol, where hundreds of people, mostly young people in their twenties and thirties, are are gathered under a blazing sun to demand justice for George Floyd. The African-American was killed on May 25 by asphyxiation, his neck crushed by the knee of a white police officer. And Alex Liouzzi, an official in the state’s school system, had barely stepped out of the crowd to sit on his bench.
“I needed to come and think about all this,” he said, while closing his book and smiling. I am introverted. The voices of the demonstrators carried reverberation to us on the administrative buildings all around. The leaders of the demonstration chanted, at the foot of the institution heavily protected by the soldiers of the National Guard, their demands: “no peace without justice”, the conviction of the police officers involved in the blunder for first degree murder, the end of discrimination, the end of impunity for the police.
Together, they also shouted the name of the victim. So that nobody will forget it. “Things are well done right now by this movement,” said Alex Liouzzi. I was there yesterday. Today, the spokespersons are all black. And it’s good. White people have to step back a bit to listen to what they have to say. And then he continued. “This is the first time that I have participated in such a demonstration. In the past, I felt the same anger at this kind of crime. But I kept it at home. “
A historic moment
Earlier, not very far from Boulevard Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr., a figure in the American civil rights movement in the 1960s, crossing the Capitol square, a shy couple in their twenties said the same thing: “This is our first demonstration. We couldn’t stay watching this in front of our TV at home, ”explained Nathalie. “For things to change, you have to get involved. We have the impression that a page of history is being written, “added Alexander, adding two more white faces, masked, on this movement now colorless taking more and more extent in this corner of the American Midwest, as elsewhere in the country.
“A box of earthworms was opened with this murder,” said Vernell Beal, a 71-year-old retiree who met on Plymouth Boulevard in the morning, in a residential area where blacks and whites live today. The street was the scene of violent clashes between the police and Luther King worshipers in 1967. He, an African American, was not there. He arrived in the 80s. “Black people have been abused for over 400 years. Everyone knows it. You know it. No one can ignore it. It is time for this to stop. And the four policemen [impliqués dans la mort de George Floyd] have to go to jail. “
Police under investigation
To ease the tensions of the past few days, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz made a major step towards protesters on Tuesday by announcing an investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department into the death of George Floyd, a directed investigation by the state human rights commissioner, Rebecca Lucero. Among other things, it will need to examine the policies and procedures of the police force over the past 10 years to determine whether it has engaged in discriminatory practices against people of color. A first in the history of this state. “We are going to bring peace to the streets when we tackle systemic issues,” Tim Walz summed up on national radio this afternoon.
“We can no longer live divided as we have been doing for so long,” said Sarah Fohrenkamm, a white artist painting the name of the victim on a barricaded facade on Minnehaha Avenue, on the corner of Lake East. street, epicenter of the incredible violence which, last week, took the surrounding businesses into the flames. The police station where the 4 policemen responsible for the blunder were on duty also passed there. Like the post office.
A surreal decor that, six days later, resonated intensely with the accusation launched Tuesday by the Democratic candidate for the White House, Joe Biden, against Donald Trump. According to him, the American president transformed the United States into “battlefield”. “He thinks the division is helping him” to win the presidential election on November 3, said Biden, who is ahead of the billionaire in the polls.
It is at the heart of this battlefield that Cornell Griffin decided to set up a platform on Tuesday in the Target parking lot, just in front of the burned out police station, to harangue the passers-by and invite them to take the route of change by coming to sign the wood for its structure. “These ruins are powerful,” he said, like the preachers Americans. He is in fact the leader of a civic movement born out of last week’s riots. Voice from the Ashes. The voice of the ashes. That’s his name. “Peace will come when justice is done for George Floyd, by the conviction of the four police officers for first degree murder,” he said. The man with the murderous knee and deaf ear to Floyd’s lamentations is accused of involuntary murder. The other three were laid off.
But on the streets of Minneapolis, these sanctions and charges are still perceived as not being severe enough. “If white people are more and more involved in the protest movement today, it is that the murder is obvious this time,” said Alex Liouzzi, sitting in the shade of a tree near the Capitol. This is not the first blunder in the history of this country. But in the past, white people managed to find justifications. The presence of a weapon. Violent behavior. But there, there is nothing of all that, and that is what forces white people to mobilize and that is what could make this crime a turning point in the struggle of African-Americans and of the majority of whites in this country to end discrimination. “
Trocon Griggs, in his thirties, also wanted to believe it, Tuesday, when he came to look for food in the parking lot of the Holy Trinity Lutherian Church, transformed into a distribution center for people in need. And he said, “We can’t stand all this violence anymore. The contempt has lasted long enough. Now it’s just stopped. “
This report was funded with support from the Transat-Le Devoir International Journalism Fund.