‘This is a countrywide issue’: Hundreds gather in Minneapolis for Day of Resistance

On a weekend when Wisconsin and Minnesota came in first and second, respectively, in a ranking of the Worst States For Black Americans, approximately 500 people took part in the Million March MN rally in the People’s Park outside the Hennepin County Government Center Saturday afternoon. The protest was part of a nationwide Day of Resistance that inspired similar – if better-attended – gatherings across the country, including Boston, Houston, New York City and Washington, D.C.

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

“This is not a New York issue, this is not a Ferguson issue, this is a countrywide issue,” Michael McDowell, of the recently formed grassroots organization Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, told the crowd, a mix of all races and ages that marched up 5th Street from the Federal Reserve building to the government center. McDonald then led the crowd in a call-and-response verse: “It’s our duty to fight for freedom/It’s our duty to win/We must love each other and support each other/We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Much like the Trayvon Martin and Terrance Franklin protests at the government center in July of last year, an uneasy history repeated itself with Saturday’s rally, which came in the wake of the Eric Garner and Michael Brown grand jury verdicts, and on the heels of #pointergate and protests that shut down 35W earlier this month.  

Co-organized by Neighborhoods Organizing for Change and Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, the rally was infused with an artistic sensibility by another grassroots organization, the Million Artist Movement. One artist, Minneapolis-based singer/teacher Jayanthi Kyle, came dressed in an elegant red dress and the American flag; the Black Lady Liberty if you will. “When I was here over a year ago, [Bob] Collins from MPR said I was disrespecting the flag,” Kyle told the crowd. “And I have to say, the flag has disrespected me.” 

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

The crowd cheered in solidarity, Kyle led the throng in song and afterward commented to MinnPost, “What I thought was so wrong about it was that I was mourning a murder of a child, and that didn’t matter. It made me so upset; it made me not want to not respect the flag but now I have to override him because [screw] you, that flag is mine. This country is born and built on the backs of my people, being slaves, and brutalities and outlandish, disgusting, behavior. And that has to change. We can still rebuild and recover.” 

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

A faulty public-address system proved insufficient, so speakers took to getting the message out via bullhorn. Neighborhoods Organizing for Change’s Signe Harriday led the crowd in calls-and-responses of, “Speak what?”/”Truth to power!” and “We are the power!/We are the change!” and implored, “We have hope, we have inspiration. We want to end the militarization of our police system. We want an end to police brutality. Full employment for our people. Freedom from mass incarceration. Be with us today, communities, to build the movement together.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Homemade signs abounded, emblazoned with missives such as “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!”; “I Can’t Breathe”; “Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr. White Plains New York, November 2012”; “Demilitarize Our Police”; “The justice system isn’t broken, it was built this way”; “Stop Killing Unarmed Black People”; “Protect and Serve, Don’t Shoot”; “Stand Rise Build With Us”; and “ ‘In the end, what we will remember is not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends’ – Martin Luther King, Jr.” St. Louis Park resident Annie Clark came downtown with her family, Steve Grapentine and adopted children Hezkiel and Fikru “to support all black people having equal rights and justice. I’m here for these two, born in Ethiopia, and millions of others.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

The rally concluded with freshly penned protest songs and protesters lying down on the cold, damp concrete of People’s Park in a “die-in” show of solidarity with victims of police brutality. Many said they were looking forward to tentative plans for a Dec. 20 protest at the Mall of America, and tonight’s [Dec. 15] Communities United Against Police Brutality-organized panel discussion “Getting Away With Murder: How Police Kill With Impunity.”  

“I feel great about what’s happening,” Black Lives Matter Minneapolis’ Michael McDowell told MinnPost. “Today just shows that this is a movement that’s not going away.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Correction: This version corrects the spelling of Michael McDowell’s name.

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Ray J Wallin on 12/15/2014 - 01:42 pm.

    Another Directionless Movement…

    Another directionless movement. As someone who has worked with youth in black communities, this article stands for what I have to overcome when I am helping teens focus on going to college and beyond; a bunch of blacks yelling about how bad things are, and how someone else, not them, has to change to make things better.

    Yelling about how whites have to change is useless without black leadership. Yelling ad infinitum about Trayvon and Big Mike is the same as telling black kids they will not make it, they will never make it, so they might as well give up. That is not leadership, that is a death sentence for kids.

    When is black leadership going to organize a rally about successful blacks? How bout having a rally next election day? Why didn’t they have a rally last election day? I might have gone.

    Kids need to hear success stories. Role models need to be front and center. Kids need direction, they need to be pushed. Parents need to be positive and full of promise. Right now, black success stories are followed by stories of prejudice and inequality… a bucket of cold water. The negative events in the news are repeated over and over and over and over. Look around. The black youth to your left and right are looking up to you. They are listening to your words. They don’t need your negativity. They need direction. Positive direction.

    Please, next rally, have a point.

    • Submitted by Nicky Noel on 12/15/2014 - 04:09 pm.

      Not directionless at all?

      The rally included a few demands, such as an investigation into arrest disparities in Minneapolis (currently ongoing after the City Council also requested such an action), stricter guidelines in how and when police are allowed to use force, and a restructuring of the criminal justice system that emphasizes community building instead of incarceration.

      How can young black children dream of their future when all they see is their brothers getting locked up or shot by the police, and their sisters being disrespected, assaulted, and also locked up?? Celebrating the success of black folks is a necessary component of fixing the achievement gap, wealth gap, and every other gap between whites and people of color, but we also need to make sure they are ALIVE, otherwise these celebrations of black life are meaningless to all but the most privileged.

      And, most importantly, the biggest changes that need to happen right now must be done by whites. Whites hold almost all capital, political, and social power in our country. If we want to see change, it’s going to need to happen at the hands of whites (and it should also be centered around whites letting black people have the power here… maybe letting black districts be represented by black folks?) The history of the US is not one in which black people improved, it’s one in which white people stopped treating people like animals. Black people didn’t magically become better; white people stopped a small portion of their incredibly shitty behavior.

    • Submitted by Kurt Nelson on 12/15/2014 - 04:20 pm.

      Do you also teach

      to those same black youth that protests like this are a fundamental right for being a citizen? I would argue that these protests do have a very strong point; that your voice matters, and is one of the founding principles of our republic. To dismiss them out of hand is an admittance of a failure to understand why they are in the streets in the first place, Sure, strong voices among the young are important, but I believe you miss that some of these young people do have strong voices, and are successful in their lives.

  2. Submitted by Pavel Yankovic on 12/16/2014 - 08:04 am.

    I…

    an in agreement with Mr. Wallin. These black youth need to hear from other successful blacks (and there are plenty) instead of the instigators and race hustlers who profit from racism. And by successful I don’t mean rappers and athletes.

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