An interview from Minneapolis: ‘There was a lot of sadness, and many people’s sadness turned into rage’

A photo of a man protesting against the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The murder of George Floyd by a police officer, as his colleagues looked on, was as shocking as it was unsurprising. Black lives, and the lives of minorities, have always been expendable. We’re inundated with stories of racial profiling, police brutality, and the outright murder of minorities at the hands of white racists. 

Rage at this latest example has resulted in protests across the US. Footage of the protests and police violence has gone viral. Solidarity for the Black Lives Matter protestors has poured in from around the world. 

Perfecting violence

But this is also an extremely dangerous moment in history. Trump, for all of his bluster, has the might of a well-armed police force and military behind him. He has the ability to order the demonstrators be crushed. So far, the movement has held firm despite the extreme violence directed at it. 

This violence has been perfected abroad. US ventures around the globe post-1945 served as neo-colonial experiments in refining violence. The US poured money into police forces and militaries that essentially became nothing more than torture and execution squads in client states.

These same states were often run by right-wing or far-right autocrats. Social movements of any kind that aimed to redistribute wealth or simply improve the lives of the masses of the underprivileged were crushed. And they were crushed with US weapons used by police officers and soldiers trained by their supplier.

History repeating?

Over the last few decades US society has itself become increasingly militarised.  When people see masked police officers with body armour clambering out of a heavily armoured transport, they no longer do a double take. It’s now so commonplace as to be mundane. This is itself a likely side effect of US imperial adventures as surplus military hardware is passed on to the police back home.

Hannah Arendt recognised a similar pattern in her magnum opus, The Origins of Totalitarianism. She argued that what paved the way for the “coming catastrophes” of Nazi-era Germany was the history of colonialism and imperialism in previous centuries. 

What Germany and other imperial powers had learned about control and extermination of those they considered lesser peoples, was now brought back to the motherlands for use there. Regarding the police, she wrote: 

The destruction of a man’s rights, the killing of the juridical person in him, is a prerequisite for dominating him entirely. And this applies not only to special categories such as criminals, political opponents, Jews, homosexuals, on whom the early experiments were made, but to every inhabitant of a totalitarian state.  

Trump “wants us all locked up”

The Beacon spoke to an activist on the ground in Minneapolis about the protests and what the future may hold. In the interest of safety, their identity has been withheld.

Why did you join the protests?

I was born and raised in Minnesota. I went right after we occupied the fourth precinct in Minneapolis. Minnesota will forever be my home, and how could I not go when I was requested. I lived in the neighborhood George Floyd was murdered in for five years. I knew Minneapolis was going to burst from the gentrification, racism, and the crushing weight of capitalism at some point.

What’s the general vibe/atmosphere? 

There was a lot of sadness, and many people’s sadness turned into rage; rage towards the system that has left nearly 25% of our population unemployed. Rage towards the constant fear and harassment of the Minneapolis PD. On the other hand, the community has truly come together. Seeing Somali, Black, Latino, and Native people come together to overturn the system was a truly beautiful thing.

Is there an awareness of the significance of these protests and that they’ve gone global?

Many people are so busy with trying to survive day-to-day that it was hard to keep up with the news. However, when I told them that solidarity actions were taking place in Ireland and the UK, their eyes would light up. They knew that George has changed the world.

Is there an expectation as to how long these protests will continue?

I don’t believe so. I’ve been in similar situations, and there is a definite ebb and flow. However, the material conditions are nothing like I’ve experienced, so with the massive unemployment numbers and economic depression, they may last far longer than anticipated.

What’s the political makeup of the protestors? Obviously Trump has been pushing that it’s nothing but anarchists (in the pejorative sense) and “anti-fa” while others, like Susan Rice, are saying Russia is behind the protests. 

There were some communists, anarchists, liberals, and working class people. I think it’s primarily working class people who saw yet another murder, and came together saying enough is enough. They have nothing to lose.

Did you witnesses much police brutality or have any close encounters as such?

I saw tear gas and flash bangs being deployed by the riot police on protesters, who were only armed with goggles and masks.

Are you worried about Trump’s move to criminalise “anti-fa” and the effect this will have on left-wing organising?

I am concerned. We’ve seen this happen before in America’s history with the black listing of communists and the House of Un-American Activities committee. However, I believe many leftists have studied their history and know how to prepare for something like this happening.

What do you think the end goal is, for the protestors and the administration?

From what I’m seeing, the main goal of the protestors is to abolish or defund the police. From Trump’s administration, I truly believe he wants us all locked up. There are still concentration camps locking up immigrants, and you best believe he’ll start locking up leftists as well. This is why we must stand in solidarity with ALL incarcerated people, from the black and brown people in prison to the migrants in the concentration camps. We are all proletariats and we all must be unified.

Donations to the Minnesota Freedom Fund can be made here.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons – Rosa Pineda


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