The Minneapolis Uprising

Editors Note. Workday Minnesota is based in Minneapolis and for now out of my living room in South Minneapolis about a mile and a half from the 3rd Precinct. Over the last three days, our neighborhood has changed dramatically and indelibly. A lot has gone on that is more complicated and dense than what is getting reported. Therefore, as we settle into the unease and unknown of a mandated curfew and occupation by the national guard here is my best attempt at making sense of what’s happening. I am not claiming to be an authority just a guy riding his bike around town to feel this moment and echo it back to you. 

The communities that are affected and stepping up to help are people and places that I adore and have reported on. I am not objective or claim to be so. I am a community member trying to figure out how to heal. I am confused and struggling but what I do know from my past standing arm in arm with so many wonderful people is that if we don’t understand whats happened to us it will make it even harder to heal and move forward. 

-Filiberto Nolasco Gomez

On Thursday night, changing winds foretold a massive escalation as the Minneapolis Uuprising entered the third evening. Swirling clouds of smoke from continuously smoldering buildings mixed with chemicals used by police have wafted all over Minneapolis. The sounds of confrontation are endless flashes and bangs. 

By late Thursday night, the 3rd Police Precinct was breached and set on fire. 

In response, the National Guard was called in leading to overnight arrests. The presence of the National Guard transitions the State’s presence from police with rubber bullets and chemicals to soldiers with large threatening guns. 

According to Vice, the state is watching us from the skies. 

“Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is flying a Predator drone, military technology used for surveilling and killing terrorists abroad, over Minneapolis as protesters continue to demonstrate against police brutality, according to publicly available flight data. The drone flown over Minneapolis is an unarmed version of the aircraft.”

The National Guard has now occupied the area around the 3rd Precinct. It’s a mix of calm and the ominous threat of violence. 

Notably, journalists of color from CNN were arrested by the National Guard while broadcasting in the early morning Friday well before former MPD officer Derek Chauvin was taken into custody.

The world is watching and responding. 

Solidarity protests have erupted in New York City, Denver, LA, San Jose, and other US cities in solidarity with Minneapolis over the death of George Floyd.

Colin Kaepernick is offering to pay the fees of those that are arrested. 

Locally, Minneapolis School Board Director Josh Pauly announced Friday that he wrote a resolution to terminate the districts’ contract with the Minneapolis Police Department. This follows the surprising announcement on Wednesday from University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel that the U would cut some ties with the MPD. 

A petition is circulating asking for Governor Tim Walz to appoint Attorney General Keith Ellison as a special prosecutor. 

A petition asking to defund the police is also circulating.

In response to what they say as Freeman’s mishandling of the murder of George Floyd, a group of local organizers, activists, and artists have begun collecting the 126,522 signatures required for an election to remove Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman from office. 

In a press statement they said that “since the beginning of this crisis, Mike Freeman has mishandled the case so far. Though video of the murder of Mr. Floyd clearly showed that his death was the result of racist violence by members of the Minneapolis Police Department, Mike Freeman took no action to arrest the murderers. For days, as local communities suffered in grief and anger, Mike Freeman refused to issue an order to arrest the officers.”

Earlier this afternoon, John Harrington, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, announced that Chauvin was taken into custody by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, who said that Chauvin was taken into custody in Minneapolis.

Shortly thereafter, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced that Chauvin has been charged with murder and manslaughter.

Hours later Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced a mandatory nighttime curfew for the weekend.

The curfew is for all public places, including streets, stretching from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. It’s in effect beginning Friday night and will happen again at 8 p.m. on Saturday night.

“All law enforcement, fire, and medical personnel, as well as other personnel authorized by the City of Minneapolis, City of St. Paul, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Minnesota State Patrol, or Minnesota National Guard, are exempt from the curfew,” Frey said.

Union Members are Stepping Up 

Vice Reports that union bus drivers in Minneapolis signed a petition and refused to transport police officers and arrested protestors to jail on Thursday. At one bus garage in downtown Minneapolis, some workers refused to drive buses that were being dispatched to transport police officers.

“I was on my route on Wednesday evening and there was a message that came over transit control asking for a bus to transport police officers,” Birch told Motherboard. “I interpreted this as Minneapolis police department preparing for mass arrests so when I had a moment on a layover, I created a post on Facebook saying that I’m a metro transit bus driver, and I don’t feel comfortable assisting the Minneapolis police department to make arrests. It got a lot of reaction, which was surprising so I created a petition.” 

The Minneapolis’s Federation of Teachers and Awood Center, have also issued statements condemning the killing as an act of racism.

“If we feel if something is unjust, then workers should have the right not to support the situation or provide their services,” Ryan Timlin, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005, which represents the bus drivers and 2,500 public transportation workers in the Twin Cities, told Motherboard. “This was not a strike.” 

“ATU members live with similar fears on a daily basis. ATU members face racism daily. Our members live in and work in neighborhoods where actions like this happen, and where this took place, now watched in horror across the globe,” a press statement from the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005, said. 

“In ATU, we have a saying: ‘NOT ONE MORE’ when dealing with driver assaults in some cases have led to members being murdered while doing their job,” the union said. “We say ‘NOT ONE MORE’ execution of a black life by the hands of the police. NOT ONE MORE! JUSTICE FOR GEORGE FLOYD.”

Many individual union members are spending time cleaning up the streets, supporting mutual aid groups and feeding families who no longer have access to electricity and food. Public transport is shut down and across the Twin-Cities businesses are boarded up and closed. 

White Supremacy

To try and frame what’s happening as protesters versus police, obscures the elusive but clear presence of provocateurs and white supremactists terrorizing peaceful protesters. Aside from threatening the physical well being of the largely POC crowds these individuals have also instigated some of the looting that has been on view  all over the country and world. 

As the uprising continues, the unique infrastructure created by activists over the years to support one another in the years of unrest since the murder by police of Jamar Clark, swung into action by helping to warn of the impending presence of SWAT teams and the National Guard. They were also able to confront the white men who appeared devoted to encouraging or instigating further violence. 

The most visible example is a white male who broke glass at Autozone. Attorney General Keith Elliosn weighed in, 

“This man doesn’t look like any civil rights protester I have ever seen. Looks like a provocateur,” Ellison said on Twitter asking for someone to identify the masked man. 

No doubt the presence of these provocateurs and white supremacists have been spurred on by President Donald Trump with his normalizing of racism and hate. 

On Thursday Trump demanded an investigation by the Department of Justice, However on Friday as the 3rd Precinct’s headquarters burned on television, the President threatened to send in the military to “get the job done right” if the “Radical Left” Mayor didn’t “get his act together.”

In what is hopefully not a warning, the president concluded his tweet: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts!”

PeoplesWorld notes that the quotes originated from the notorious racist and segregationist police chief of Miami, Walter Headley, who in 1967 declared “war” against what he claimed was a wave of Black criminals “taking advantage of the Civil Rights” Movement.

“Headley told the Miami Herald at the time that he intended to use shotguns, dogs, and a “get tough policy” that included the use of deadly force against Black people. “Felons,” Headley pledged, “will learn they can’t be bonded out from the morgue.”

He then boastfully claimed there wouldn’t be any problem with riots or civil uprisings in his city because, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Those were Trump’s exact words from Friday morning.”

Along with reports of provocateurs, many others have reported the presence of aggressive motorcyclists among the protestors along with others with clothing identifying themselves as members of “Aryan Cowboy”.

Filiberto Nolasco Gomez is a former union organizer and former editor of Minneapolis based Workday Minnesota, the first online labor news publication in the state. Filiberto focused on longform and investigative journalism. He has covered topics including prison labor, labor trafficking, and union fights in the Twin Cities.

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