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Minneapolis NAACP President On Why A City Ablaze Is 'A Long Time Coming'

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Also yesterday in Minneapolis, a rally was held to demand justice and accountability for George Floyd. Here's what Leslie Redmond, president of the NAACP in Minneapolis, said at that rally.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

LESLIE REDMOND: What you're witnessing in Minnesota is something that's been a long time coming. I can't tell you how many governors I've sat down with, how many mayors we've sat down with, and we've warned them that if you keep murdering black people, this city will burn. We have stopped this city from burning numerous times, and we are not responsible for it burning now.

MARTIN: And Leslie Redmond is with us now from Minneapolis.

Ms. Redmond, thank you so much for joining us.

REDMOND: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: We just heard you say that what's happening in Minnesota has been a long time coming. Could you say a bit more about what you mean by that?

REDMOND: Yes. So five years ago, we were in a similar situation that didn't get this explosive. Jamar Clark was killed in North Minneapolis, and we took over the 4th Precinct for 18-day occupation. And that was the fall before Philando Castile was murdered in St. Paul, right? We've seen several different murders since then. And what a lot of people don't see is that black women a lot of time are not being killed by the police, but we are being brutalized, right? It's, like, at some point, the patience is going to run out.

MARTIN: I hope you don't mind if I point this out. You're very - you're in your - you're only in your 20s.

REDMOND: (Laughter) Yes. I'm 28, to be exact.

MARTIN: You know, often when situations like this occur, some people say they're shocked, and other people say they're not. Is this something that you felt you've seen your whole life?

REDMOND: It's been a combination. When I've been on the ground and seeing these things, I'm in disbelief. You know, it's like something that you see on a TV screen. You - I never thought I would see it up close and personal. But then, on the other side, I'm not shocked because we've been warning them. Like, seriously, we've been putting in the groundwork and fighting and working for years, and it's been falling on deaf ears.

And so when I say yesterday at the press conference that black Minnesota is done dying, and white Minnesota is done hiding - because this has been a white Wakanda. I mean that. And a lot of people didn't realize what I was saying because Minnesota has been a great place - like, almost the best place in the United States for white people - but at the expense of black bodies, right? And so it's now time for a shift. And I think and I'm hopeful that we'll be able to figure out that shift and move forward from here.

MARTIN: What I think I hear you saying is that while, you know, maybe outside of the area, Minneapolis, Minn., more broadly, has this reputation as this - you know, Minnesota nice - this place that is kind of both thriving and congenial and inclusive. You're saying the reality for a lot of the people of color is just very different, and people are frustrated by the difference...

REDMOND: Yes.

MARTIN: ...Of seeing other people thrive while they continue to suffer.

REDMOND: Well, Ms. Martin, let's dive into it, right? In modern history, we hadn't seen a police conviction in the state of Minnesota. The first officer to be convicted was Officer Noor, who was a black Somali Muslim man who shot and killed Justine Damond in a dark alley, right? That speaks volumes - that the first victim to get justice was a white woman and the first police officer to be held accountable was a black man. I just feel like that speaks volumes. And we didn't even see the videotape from that.

And on one end, her family was awarded $20 million, where they were able to give away $1 million to the Minneapolis Foundation when black families haven't even gotten the $1 million that she was able to give away, right? Like, this is the dynamic that we are dealing with. This is the paradox of Minnesota.

MARTIN: And you mentioned Philando Castile, which is a name that I think a lot of people certainly outside of Minneapolis will know. This was an African American man who had a legal registered weapon and was shot by - shot to death at close range in front of his girlfriend and her child while reaching for his driver's license to comply with the officer's demand.

REDMOND: Exactly. And actually, his mother, Ms. Valerie Castile - she spoke at the rally yesterday, and her words brought almost everyone into tears. And she said this similar thing to what we've been saying. I've been trying to work with them. I've been trying to tell them, you have to change this. You can't keep murdering black bodies. And she said, this is the day of reckoning. This is an uprising. So...

MARTIN: Derek Chauvin, the officer who pinned George Floyd to the ground with his knee on Mr. Floyd's neck, was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter yesterday. And, you know, unusually, as you noted, all four officers there were fired almost immediately. From what you've seen, do those steps do anything to reassure people that the justice system is working as it should to address this?

REDMOND: Well, one of the things that got overlooked was Chief Arradondo, who I have been mentioning every time I speak. He's the first African American police chief that we've ever had in Minneapolis. And that was a big deal because not only does he have relationship with the community, he's from the community. And so that morning - after everything happened on Tuesday morning, I'm referring to - black leadership was meeting with him. And an hour later, he was having a press conference, saying that these officers were being fired.

And so he has been the most tremendous leader that I've seen out of all of this, right? So I wanted to say first, that was a great step. Mike Freeman making this arrest and charging this one officer is one step.

But we need all four officers not just fired by Chief Arradondo but charged because they were heavily involved in this murder. Two of them actually had their knees on Mr. Floyd's back, and the other one was holding off bystanders and not allowing them to interfere when one of them could have potentially saved Mr. George Floyd's life. And so all of them are in this.

MARTIN: Well, before we let you go - and obviously, this has a deep stem, as you've been telling us - Minnesota Governor Tim Walz said today that he is, quote-unquote, "fully mobilizing the state's National Guard for the first time in the state's history." And he said that it's nothing short of a blessing than an innocent bystander has not yet been killed in the unrest. I mean, how do you respond to that?

REDMOND: Governor Walz has done nothing to protect the black community, but he will put us at even greater risk. That is alarming to me. Many of you witnessed a Black CNN reporter be arrested for doing nothing - literally. He identified himself, and the officers tell him that they were just following procedure. And that is going to get a lot of innocent people arrested and potentially charged with god knows what they're charging people with.

Now, these individuals that are being brought into Minnesota - to do what, I don't know, but what I know they're not doing is protecting a black community and keeping it from burning down. The community is the one who are saving buildings from burning down. All I see the National Guard and officers doing is tear gassing people that I've been on the receiving end up.

It's super-counterproductive, and Governor Walz hasn't spent a dime on de-escalating the situation, pouring into community organizations or helping us to move forward in an effective way. And this is just going to add fuel to the fire and build bad relationships with the community.

MARTIN: Leslie Redmond is the president of the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP.

Ms. Redmond, thank you so much for speaking with us. I hope we'll speak again.

REDMOND: Yes. Thank you so much, Ms. Martin, for all you do.

(SOUNDBITE OF ELAQUENT'S "MY APOLOGIES")

MARTIN: Later this hour, we'll get two perspectives on why incidents like the one in Minneapolis continue to happen despite the fact that we've known about excessive use of force for some time.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Chiefs don't really have the mechanisms to hold officers accountable for repeat violations of abuse.

MARTIN: That's coming up later in the program.

(SOUNDBITE OF ELAQUENT'S "MY APOLOGIES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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