Minneapolis protests and riots prove the need for change

Peaceful+daytime+protests+filled+the+streets+of+South+Minneapolis+in+the+wake+of+George+Floyd%27s+murder+by+police%2C+but+some+turned+destructive+at+night.

Photo by Cohen Rivard

Peaceful daytime protests filled the streets of South Minneapolis in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by police, but some turned destructive at night.

Riots have been happening for thousands of years now, from the assassination of Julius Caesar to the Boston Tea Party and still today. While most people see the destruction as horrible and unneeded, others see them as necessary to make people in higher positions finally listen. This past summer, Minneapolis citizens formed their own opinions based on their experiences with civil unrest in their neighborhoods.

Rioting has had an impactful effect on many Minneapolis communities, some of which have closed many small businesses for good. As the riots raged on following George Floyd’s murder, stores continued getting broken into and many small businesses like SuiteSpot Salon Spa could not keep up with all the damages being made. As a result, many small business owners started GoFundMe pages to try and cover some of the damages that insurance would not cover. Bigger companies such as Target responded to the destruction of one of their stores by planning for their stores to be rebuilt and by distributing first aid supplies to areas affected by the riots. 

While many civilians think the riots are harmful and upsetting, companies like Target and some small businesses like Indian restaurant The Gandhi Mahal, see and understand that these riots were formed from pent up rage from years of police brutality.  

“Let my building burn,” owner Ruhel Islam said. “Justice needs to be served and those officers need to be put in jail.” 

After seeing the effects of all of these riots, it raises the question of how many people are taking advantage of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement just to vandalize or exploit big company names. Since violence broke out in multiple instances, causing chaos and destruction, the military has been forced to step in and disperse crowds. This has caused a major controversy as the military has used aggressive tactics, such as rubber bullets and gas cans, to calm the raging crowds, causing injury to many bystanders. 

The violence after the military stepped in arguably just made the protests and the riots grow angrier and bigger as more and more people kept coming back to show the police and military they were not backing down. During this time, protesters and activists thought of many ways to fight back against the rubber bullets and tear gas being shot and thrown at them. Protesters brought traffic cones to place on top of the gas cans to quickly extinguish the spread of further gas, taking this and other ideas from Hong Kong’s protesters in 2019. The Hong Kong protests were triggered by the introduction of the Fugitive Offenders Amendment Bill by the Hong Kong government. 

While many people see riots as a waste of time and even harmful, they can serve as a visual representation to show people who are not affected by something just how much the unprivileged can put up with before finally revolting against the ruling class. Seeing how much the Black community has suffered at the hand of racism when victims like Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor or Ahmaud Arbery are doing something as innocent as going to the corner store to get candy, sleeping at home or going for a jog. 

Simply put, these peaceful demonstrations turned violent because of the violence of the state inflicted upon the Black population. As much as people say that these people might have provoked the officers, many Black Americans have been targeted by law enforcement or neighborhood watchmen while minding their own business and not breaking any laws.

A prime example of this is Elijah McClain. Elijah McClain was a therapist that loved to play the violin to stray cats to soothe them. After paying for his things at a corner store, McClain walked out and was dubbed suspicious after someone made a phone call to police. While trying to detain McClain, officers restrained him with a chokehold that is now banned, which rendered him unconscious. Once paramedics arrived, they sedated him with Ketamine, a powerful sedative. McClain went into cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital and died a few days later. All of this because he “looked sketchy,” according to the citizen that dialed 911.  

This brings up the conversation of defunding the police or redirecting government money on better programs and social services that can help nonviolent calls. This push to focus on helping rather than policing almost sounds like a dream, but it’s possible. There have been too many incidents that the police were called to de-escalate a situation that ended up with someone dead or terribly injured, and no one has ever been killed or maimed by a food shelf or nonprofit community outreach.

The status quo can’t continue, though, especially when there are so many situations in which police escalate rather than de-escalate. Having these types of conversations is hard, but it’s one that is needed because when a community suffers this much, it’s definitely time for a change.