With the world's eyes once again on Minnesota as the trial for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin approaches, Toshira Garraway doesn't want officer-involved killings that never went to trial to be forgotten.
On Saturday afternoon, she helped organize a rally and march at the St. Paul residence of Gov. Tim Walz to put a spotlight on Minnesotans who died during encounters with police.
Chauvin's trial in the May 25 death of George Floyd is scheduled to begin Monday with jury selection. Saturday's protest kick-started what will likely be weeks of demonstrations around the Chauvin trial.
"We're watching this trial hoping and praying and wishing for justice to be served because we didn't receive it," Garraway said. "Maybe we can get it for somebody even if we couldn't get it for our loved ones."
Garraway and her coalition, Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, are pushing for other cases to be reopened and reevaluated, as well as for legislation aimed at addressing racial injustice and police reform.
Garraway's fiancé, Justin Teigen, was found dead at a recycling facility after a chase with St. Paul police in 2009. She believes officers were responsible for his death, but authorities say he climbed into a dumpster and suffocated when a truck picked up the dumpster's contents.
About 150 people attended the rally and the short march on Saturday, one of several such events held nationwide.
"There's no one of us that can do it by ourselves," said Amity Dimock, whose son Kobe Dimock-Heisler was fatally shot by Brooklyn Center police in 2019. "This a gargantuan community effort, at this point a nationwide effort. This is the one time in my lifetime … that I feel like change is possible."
One of the legislative priorities the group is pushing is a bill promoted by Rep. John Thompson, DFL-St. Paul, to appropriate $357 million for Black communities to invest in cultural heritage and preservation, business training, housing stabilization and culturally competent health services.
On the other side of the Twin Cities, the autonomous zone at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue also known as George Floyd Square was abuzz Saturday as a Facebook event created by the notorious no-show organizer "George Floyd Mpls Coalition" enlisted more than 1,000 would-be demonstrators to march from the square to the Hennepin County Government Center downtown. However, online chatter soon exposed the organizer as someone who has promoted dozens of protests and canceled them at the last minute without explanation.
Some people did show up and waited a while for a crowd to materialize. Meanwhile, George Floyd Square occupiers passed out yard signs they've designed in preparation for the trial, and roller-blading children sold Black Lives Matter bracelets.
Worldwide Outreach for Christ, the church kitty-corner from Cup Foods, next to which Floyd died, offered music, a cookout and a food giveaway. The Rev. Curtis Farrar announced that the church will offer a community healing circle every Saturday at 1 p.m. throughout the trial.
"I believe in my heart that God allowed this to happen here on 38th and Chicago because he knew … that if we're going to have the change that so many of us are looking for in our neighborhoods, if we're going to have the healing, the unity and the peace that so many of us are looking for, it is going to take the power of God," Farrar said
Farrar's great-nephew, P.J. Hill, who grew up in the neighborhood, said that while gang activity has declined over the decades, some gang members have exploited the protest zone as cover because police are not welcome there. Hill, who has the ear of Council Member Andrea Jenkins, blamed the barricades for stifling the growth of resident Black-owned businesses.
That's why the church intends to serve as neutral territory for people to express themselves during the trial, he said.
"After the uprising, there was a flux of support from all kinds of people," Hill said. "In light of a super horrible event, it was a lot of positivity that came in. Now in the months ensuing — this is my opinion and what we've experienced — the gates have made George Floyd's memory into almost a bad thing. ... So that's why we wanted to combat that with doing these healing circles and say, 'Look, we welcome people to come here. We don't want a gated community keeping people out.' "