MINNEAPOLIS — Protests in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death continued in Minneapolis on Friday night despite the arrest of one of the four former police officers involved in a Memorial Day incident that has sparked coast-to-coast outrage.
As the city’s newly-instituted 8 p.m. curfew began, a large group of police and National Guard members withdrew from the contested Minneapolis 3rd Police Precinct area, firing smoke grenades and flashbangs as they walked away. A crowd of at least 500 young people marched slowly toward them, many holding their hands high in the air and chanting George Floyd’s name.
An officer repeatedly broadcast over a loudspeaker that a curfew was now in effect and ordered the group to leave.
“You are ordered to cease your unlawful behavior and disperse,” the loudspeaker broadcast, as yellow and green smoke blew through the area.
Authorities fired rubber or foam bullets at the crowd every time members drew close before the officers and Guard members boarded city buses, at least temporarily ceding the area back to the crowd.
Earlier in the day, more than 1,000 protesters shut down the Hennepin Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi River during a peaceful demonstration before heading for Interstate 35. Earlier in the day, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said fired MPD officer Derek Chauvin was in custody and facing third-degree murder and manslaughter charges.
The crowd marched to the bridge, where they met with a group led by Korey Dean Sr., P.J. Hill and former Iowa State basketball player Royce White. Dean asked the protesters to adhere to the day’s 8 p.m. curfew, which was put in place in response to days of “civil disturbance.”
Not everyone listened. Several shouted “(expletive) that curfew.”
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People listened to a range of speeches from leaders. Dean encouraged young black men to become police officers so they can change policies and practices.
“We need to transform the police department from the inside,” he said.
A passerby scoffed, “What is he talking about? We don’t need more cops, bro.”
White said he was heartened by the turnout in his hometown.
“Where is Mayor Jacob Frey?” White said. “Why isn’t he out here getting maced with us.”
The former NBA player said his role as a professional athlete can help being more awareness to pressing issues. He added that rioters and looters aren’t using tactics he’d support, but he understands the frustration.
“We’ve been trying the peaceful route,” he said before the march. “And that hasn’t been working.”
Once on the bridge, a renewed cry of “no justice, no peace, prosecute the police” rang out.
Just before 6 p.m, the demonstrators stopped northbound traffic on the interstate. Motorists in the southbound lane, including a Minneapolis Fire Department truck, seemingly honked in support of the demonstration.
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The early part of Friday’s protest in Minneapolis was a far cry from the chaos of Thursday night, culminating in protesters breaching the MPD’s 3rd precinct building and setting it ablaze. That prompted a response from President Donald Trump on Twitter, where he called protesters “thugs.”
Speaking to a large group of protesters on Friday, Minneapolis activist Kon Johnson, 45, called for calm — but said he understood why people were lashing out.
“When you’ve held captive, you end up turning against each other,” he said, urging his fellow residents to exercise their voting rights to change the system he said oppresses people.
“What is it going to take to get people to listen? They say don’t incite violence, but no one is listening. What does it take to get them to listen? I mean, do we have to take this to the suburbs? To the capital? he asked.
“We can’t keep burning stuff down.”
Johnson added Chauvin’s arrest was just a first step. No charges have been announced for the other three officers involved in the incident.
“I don’t want to burn down (expletive) either,” he said “I don’t. But guess what? It’s gonna happen if this fool does not get life in jail.”