‘Nobody can give you freedom. You have to take it’: Police use tear gas to force peaceful protesters from streets of Minneapolis

Tactics decisively tougher after days of burning and damage

Andrew Buncombe
Minneapolis
Sunday 31 May 2020 10:34
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George Floyd: Minneapolis protests take over the city

Police fired tear gas and non-lethal rounds to force peaceful protesters from the streets of Minneapolis, less than an hour after a 8pm curfew was imposed.

On a night that saw protesters clash with police and National Guard in up to 30 cities across the nation, stretching from Louisville to Miami, authorities were determined to put a stop to the looting and burning that had taken place alongside peaceful protests on previous successive days.

After Minnesota governor Tim Walz claimed the protests over the death in police custody of unarmed black man George Floyd had been hijacked by extremists, he announced he was mobilising the entirety of the Minnesota National Guard for the first time in the state’s history. He claimed – contrary to what local media found – that up to 80 per of those arrested were from out of state.

“The situation in Minneapolis is no longer in any way about the murder of George Floyd,” said said Mr Walz. “It is about attacking civil society, instilling fear, and disrupting our great cities.”

The comment from Mr Walz, which were in line with the leaders of the mayors of the twin cities of Minneapolis and St Paul, indicated the authorities had decided to take a much tougher stance towards enforcing a curfew, that on Friday had been largely ignored ay protesters. On Friday, some protesters were involved in the burning of a number of buildings including a Wells Fargo bank and a Postal Service office.

At the junction of Nicollet Ave and 31st St, close to the headquarters off the police department’s 5th precinct, several hundred protesters sat on the ground listening to speakers. The mood was unwaveringly positive and peaceful.

At around 8.30pm on Saturday, a line of riot police emerged from the south and suddenly firing numerous canisters of tear and non-lethal rounds, scattering the crowd. As the protesters then fell back, police made a series of successive advances, firing more tear gas and rubber bullets.

Several members of the media were bit by the rounds, and many were engulfed by the smoke, even as they displayed press credentials and some were wreaking vests bearing the words “PRESS”. The Independent’s backpack was struck by one such round.

Two sisters, Nova and Thisy Sims, said that were staying put because the police were continuing to kill people.

Minnesota governor Tim Walz 'The situation in Minneapolis is no longer in any way about the murder of George Floyd'

“I can’t go home until they go home,” said 27-year-old Nova.

Her sister: “The crazy thing is we were not doing anything. We were just sitting there.”

Some residents supported what the police were doing.

Mike Anderson, who was white and said he was 64, said the protests had turned into “terrorism” and that the police had no option but to disperse the crowds.

“They’re burning down everything,” said one of his friends. “We have to get up in the morning and go to work.”

A little way away, a group of young African American men had a different perspective. They said they had been forced to take such a stand, because incidents such as the death of Mr Floyd were not isolated incidents.

They pointed to a long list of young black men who had died in encounters with police, something that a thousand or more peaceful protests had not stopped.

“I thought it would be different for my generation,” said Abdul Abraham, who studies computer scene in Chicago. “But now I am going to have to say the same thing to my son.”

His friend, who declined to give his full name, said peaceful protests could only take people so far. He praised the non-violent struggle of Dr Martin Luther King, but said his views were more in line with those of Malcolm X.

He said: “We appreciate Martin’s way, but now it’s time for Malcolm’s way – Nobody can give you freedom. You have to take it.”

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