BY ABĒ R. LEVINE
Carmen Means rallies the crowd at the “Peoples’ Press Conference” on Saturday, Aug. 15, at the George Floyd Memorial site in front of Cup Foods. Means, along with memorial caretakers, have submitted demands to Mayor Frey in response to George Floyd’s murder.
Five women organizers who’ve been coordinating care and safety at the George Floyd Memorial held a “People’s Press Conference” to announce demands they’ve submitted to Mayor Jacob Frey and the Minneapolis City Council in resistance to the reopening of the intersection of Chicago Avenue and 38th Street, initially planned to occur on Aug. 17. Carmen Means, a pastor and executive director of the Central Neighborhood Association (CANDO), implored the City Council and the mayor to take concrete steps to redress the systemic violence that led to George Floyd’s murder, stating, “You struck the match … that resulted in the flames we see in our community.”
Jaenelle Austin, who identified herself as the lead caretaker of offerings left at the memorial site and also of grieving visitors, explained that a community engagement effort had unearthed community input leading to healing and reparation. “We ran up and down the streets and said ‘baby what is your ask?’ What do you want? What do you need to thrive?’” Jaenelle recalled, drawing pause from the crowd. The effort led to 24 demands drafted into a Justice Resolution. Included in the resolution are demands for the establishment of a racial healing and justice center, a proposal 8th Ward Council Member Andrea Jenkins has also advocated for. Marcia Howard, a high school teacher, made clear that the twin intentions of this ongoing protest and memorial site are both to maintain safety and achieve justice, saying that one aim could not be sacrificed for the other.
When asked about the murder of Leneesha Columbus a block off the memorial site, Howard contextualized the incident as an instance of domestic violence, a problem that extends beyond the confines of the memorial site. She emphasized that 612 M*A*S*H, a self-organized emergency medic team, had responded to the homicide prior to EMS arrival. She added that the gunshots heard piercing through the night sky as a “nefarious campaign” were akin to the waves of white supremacist violence that arose during Reconstruction and the civil rights movement. The organizers hold community meetings daily at the nearby shuttered Speedway at 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. and will continue to meet with Mayor Frey. They have petitioned that the roads remain blocked until the trial of the four officers accused in the murder of Mr. Floyd. Howard prompted the crowd, “You’ve heard of the long goodbye, the ‘Minnesota goodbye.’ Aw, we might be here for a while yet, don’t ya know,” she said tongue-in-cheek.
Crowds gathered to listen in to the Peoples’ Press Conference. A billboard above a multi-use building juxtaposes the biblical passage John 8:46: “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?” with George Floyd’s pleas for relief, which endured for 8 minutes 46 seconds.
For information go to: bit.ly/georgefloydsquare-a