In Minneapolis, the community came together to remember

I have spent the past few days in the throes of fiery protests.

On Monday, we witnessed the extraordinary spectacle of crowds being aggressively cleared before curfew – just before the president made his way to St John’s Church and held up a Bible for the cameras.

Hours later, we saw an otherwise calm, controlled night descend into a scene reminiscent of a war zone.

People raised their fists after George Floyd's memorial in Minneapolis
Image:People raised their fists after George Floyd’s memorial in Minneapolis

We struggled to make sense of what we were seeing as we were hit with tear gas.

But after a week covering what has felt like a monumental moment for America that captured the attention of the world, this was the first time I’d been to the site where George Floyd died.

As we stood by the flowers and the reams of messages, I was struck by the silence – the pensive faces, people standing in silence as they stared at the murals honouring his life.

In some corners, there were pockets of heated debate – as people shouted about the need for urgent change.

More from George Floyd

  • George Floyd death: Trainee officer charged over arrest tried to object, court told

  • George Floyd death: Nicola Sturgeon says it is ‘hard to not conclude’ Trump is a racist

  • George Floyd death: Hundreds join family at memorial to remember black man ‘killed by pandemic of racism’

  • Ahmaud Arbery killing: Defendant Travis McMichael ‘shouted racial slur’ as jogger lay dying

  • George Floyd memorial: ‘Pandemic of racism killed him’, family lawyer says

  • Lee Rigby’s mother calls for his image not to be used in ‘divisive’ posts against Black Lives Matter protests

But there was also understated, gentle gestures. Two families with six young children who had travelled in from the suburbs, were clutching flowers and praying as they spoke to me about the realisation they needed to listen.

Messages and flowers have been left close to where Mr Floyd died
Image:Messages and flowers have been left close to where Mr Floyd died

White privilege was a word and an idea they seemed well acquainted with despite being so young – and very keen to confront.

The air was filled with the sounds and smell of a community that had come together.

The scenes we saw play out just days earlier were hard to reconcile with what was in front of us: neighbours brought out drinks for strangers, food was being served for free.

George Floyd's family during memorial

‘Pandemic of racism killed George Floyd’

Michael Wilson, an industrious, eloquent 38-year-old, has been at the heart of it all. He works for a furniture company and had brought spare chairs and stalls for people to sit and work from.

Speakers were brought in to broadcast Mr Floyd’s memorial service – and everyone sat on the floor in the intense heat, hanging on every word and moment.

As Reverend Al Sharpton said “it’s time to stand up in George’s name and say ‘get you knee off our necks”, there was rapturous applause.

It was as if they were in the room – a rallying cry that resonated with everyone there.

U.S. police officer hugs crying girl asking "are you going to shoot us"

Police officers hugs crying girl at protest

There were as many white people as African-Americans that came to mourn at the place where George Floyd begged for a breath. There were grandmas, babies, pastors, performers, activists.

There was also a deep sense of optimism. This wasn’t peripheral people, outsiders looking to agitate, this was a group of locals determined to get justice, but policy change too.

We know states are considering an end to chokeholds, that there’s a push for a full review into police use of force.

Those debates have raged before, but this feels different.

Jameila talks to Sky News about racism.

‘White people essential to ending racism’

As Jesse Jackson, the civil rights activist who has been on the frontline of the fight for racial equality, told me he is convinced America is on the cusp of a turning point.

Minutes later, Mr Floyd’s family arrived – his brother Terrence delivering an impassioned plea for no violence.

:: Listen to Divided States on Apple podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Spreaker

So many families have tragically endured the trauma of losing a loved one in police custody. So often, there are no convictions that follow, no material change.

As he stood alongside the Black Congressional Caucus, Minnesota’s Attorney General acknowledged the delivery of a justice could be a long journey.

Who was George Floyd?

Who was George Floyd?

Mr Floyd’s attorney Benjamin Crump, who also came to see the crowds here, knows it will be an uphill struggle to convict the four officers charged as well.

But this time, it does feel like there is a sense of drive, purpose and recognition unlike anything we’ve seen in recent years.

No matter where you sit on the spectrum of the debate around racism and police violence in America, everyone seems to understand something needs to look and feel different.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *