Unrest Erupts Across The U.S. Following George Floyd's Death

May 30, 2020
Originally published on May 30, 2020 6:30 pm
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Protests continued in cities across the country after the death of an unarmed black man while in police custody in Minneapolis. After unrest overnight, more officials are imposing curfews from Louisville, Ky., to Denver, Colo. NPR's Leila Fadel joins us now from Minneapolis. Leila, welcome. Thanks for joining us.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Thank you.

MARTIN: Tell us what's happening today after events across the country overnight.

FADEL: Well, we're seeing protests in dozens of cities from New York to Los Angeles. And people are out with the same message, that they want real change to a police system that they say does not treat everyone, equally. Here in Minneapolis, there were people out in droves with brooms and buckets, trying to clean up their communities, getting donations to rebuild as buildings smoldered. People sifted through the rubble of their businesses. And some believe what Governor Tim Walz said today, which is that he thinks outside agitators are sowing chaos and destroying local community-owned businesses and landmarks.

But it's really unclear what's happening overnight. Walz is referencing unconfirmed suspicions that maybe white supremacists or drug cartels are involved from outside the state. Meanwhile, you have Attorney General William Barr claiming it's anarchists from the left. Unclear what evidence there is for any of these claims, I've spoken to protesters with these suspicions but also protesters that are angry and desperate. And they don't feel protected by law enforcement.

MARTIN: But, obviously, there is still a lot of anger over George Floyd, who - once again, an African American man. There was a videotape of - or there was tape of a white officer holding his knee on his neck for many, many - now a former officer, of course - holding his knee on his neck for many, many minutes. So are what are people saying about that today?

FADEL: I was just at a protest in the south side of Minneapolis, where they were chanting, arrest all four. They don't want just that one former Officer Derek Chauvin, who was in that video, arrested. They want all four former officers arrested and convicted. And they don't want the focus of this moment to be on looting and fires but on injustice that has gone on for generations. I spoke to Kiesha Mitchell (ph). And she has diabetes, which puts her at more risk of getting really sick with COVID-19. But she was out, and this is what she said.

KIESHA MITCHELL: I made the choice to give up my life, knowing that this is so important. People are being harassed. We're dying. And we're afraid to be in our own communities, people with college educations. I have a degree. And when I am stopped, I am afraid, never done anything wrong to anyone.

FADEL: It's - you almost forget that there is a pandemic going on here. And it's a pandemic that has hit black communities hardest. And so they're taking huge risks.

MARTIN: Well, Governor Tim Walz said that he's fully mobilizing the National Guard. That's something that's never been done in the state's history. Could you just describe - what is his tone today and that of other officials who are speaking?

FADEL: You know, the tone is different today - desperation, some anger. They want the burning of their cities to stop. A lot of this destruction is happening to black-owned businesses, indigenous-owned businesses, other businesses owned by people of color. Walz is saying that what happened last night was not about justice but about chaos and the two mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul, echoing that sentiment. This is St. Paul's Mayor Melvin Carter, saying everyone has the right to be angry.

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MELVIN CARTER: Unfortunately, there are also those among us who would seek to use this moment, who would seek to use his death as an excuse, as a cover to agitate for the destruction of those same communities that have been most traumatized by George Floyd's death.

MARTIN: That is reporting by NPR's Leila Fadel in Minneapolis. Leila, thank you.

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