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How Minneapolis Communities React To George Floyd's Death

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Why is the man who killed George Floyd not in jail? Those are the words from the mayor of Minneapolis today. Mayor Jacob Frey called for the police officer involved in the death of Floyd on Monday to be arrested immediately. A video that went viral shows an officer kneeling on Floyd's neck for several minutes. Floyd died later that evening.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JACOB FREY: We cannot turn a blind eye. It is on us as leaders to see this for what it is and call it what it is. George Floyd deserves justice. His family deserves justice. The black community deserves justice, and our city deserves justice.

CHANG: Hundreds of demonstrators demanded that justice last night in a protest that started peacefully. Police later clashed with protesters, firing tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowd. County commissioner Angela Conley joins us now. She represents the district where George Floyd was pinned down by police and later died.

Welcome, Commissioner.

ANGELA CONLEY: Thank you so much for having me.

CHANG: So can you talk about - what does your community feel like today? What are you hearing from residents...

CONLEY: Yes.

CHANG: ...There?

CONLEY: So I just - this is personal for me. This happened - this murder happened five blocks from my front door. I've been on the ground with community for the last two days. And what I've heard are tears. I've heard mourning. People are devastated. People are traumatized. They're looking for some tangible action steps. When things like this happen, we need to have somewhere to put our anger and our frustration because we're, frankly, tired.

So as a community, as a community of mourning people, we see things like our bodies being displayed for all to see. We see things like officers who go home after this happens. And what community is seeing and what, I believe, is seeing are this - these continuous acts of disgusting, excessive anti-black behavior - murders of unarmed black men and women.

CHANG: When you say that you and your community want to see tangible steps, let's talk about that. There were four officers...

CONLEY: Yeah.

CHANG: ...Present on Monday. All have been fired. What do you think needs to happen next? Do you agree with the mayor that an arrest should be made?

CONLEY: Absolutely. And that's the call that came from community for the last two days. All four officers should be arrested immediately. We want to see charges immediately, nothing short...

CHANG: All four, not just the one who pinned his neck down with his knee.

CONLEY: Absolutely - all four. They're accomplices. We want to see something like a trial and conviction and sentencing that - we've seen that happen before without video in Justine Damond's murder. I think that the video of George Floyd's murder is all the evidence community needs, for sure.

But I also want to stress the fact that - what happens next; the ball is in the court of the county attorney, Mike Freeman. We have a lot of people that are reaching out to our office as county commissioners. But the ball really is in his court. It's his purview. The world is watching Mike Freeman right now to see how he charges, if he charges. And so we're calling for that. We're calling for those tangible next steps, and that is what community can do - is reach out to his office. He needs to hear from community right now.

CHANG: Your community is no stranger to this kind of stuff happening. The Twin Cities, of course, is where Philando Castile was shot and killed by a police officer during a traffic stop in 2016. Jamar Clark was shot and killed by a white officer in 2015. How do you think George Floyd fits into this history? - in the very short time we have left. We have about 30 seconds.

CONLEY: Absolutely. So there is a history of this fear of black men, this fear that black men are all suspects, whatever it may be, and our lives are disposable. So here we have, you know, the head of the police union, Bob Kroll - always exhibits this racist behavior when these types of incidents happen. It's anti-black. What I think that we need to start considering is that we need alternatives to police. We have a current system that isn't working anymore. So we need to...

CHANG: Right.

CONLEY: ...Reengage that conversation.

CHANG: Angela Conley is county commissioner for Hennepin County, which includes Minneapolis.

Thank you.

CONLEY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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