They came bearing flowers to consecrate the ground where George Floyd died last week under the knee of a police officer. But the crowd gathered around Cup Foods in south Minneapolis on Thursday wasn’t looking back.
Their gaze was on an uncertain future that holds no guarantee of change.
For Jayce Morgan-Pettiford of Minneapolis, what happened to Floyd could happen to anyone. She works in mental health services and thought of her clients, who are also at risk because of a lack of understanding between law enforcement and marginalized people.
She said what’s needed “is getting the government or the police department to realize that we’re not going to back down. More community outreach, us being open with one another, is what is getting us and the world to see that we’re not going to be silent anymore.”
Morgan-Pettiford and others talked about wanting better-educated, better-trained Minneapolis police.
“Once they get more information, we’ll have less deaths in our community,” she said. “Ask questions first before you just draw a gun. Ask questions before you just decide you want to put your knee on someone’s neck even though that’s not what you’re supposed to do. Know what’s going on around you before you decide you’re just going to end a life without any remorse.”
Rashaad Dinkins attended most of the protests over the past week. He said that after the four officers in custody are prosecuted, there should be reforms inside the department. “I would personally like to see the police just start over. Get new people and new training and new ideas of diversity and inclusion and what that means, and understanding your own biases,” he said. “That’s really important, for the people who are supposed to protect us to understand the difference between your mind and what’s actually happening.”
Many people committed themselves to doing whatever they could to help with the memorial, and for the days ahead. With wholesaler support, Lexington Floral in Shoreview donated $10,000 worth of flowers to the memorial outside of Cup Foods.
“There’s nowhere around here that’s open to buy flowers. It’s such an important part of grief,” said owner Allie Tempelis.
St. Paul Central High School baseball coach Kevin Pitman has mostly been helping folks in the Midway community by contributing food, cleaning and passing out masks. On Thursday, he came to Floyd’s memorial.
“I felt the need to come down here and see the beautiful things that are occurring, because I see them all over the place,” Pitman said.
Artist Annabel Huspeni was on the scene in the hope of creating something for the Floyd family.
“I got the idea from a friend to come out here and paint live. I thought it was a good idea for healing, supporting and trying to add some positivity for the community,” Huspeni said. She hoped to give the portrait of Floyd that she was working on to his family, or to Cup Foods to display.
There were tents with water and food to feed thirsty protesters and those unable to get fresh food as a result of the week’s store closures. They were organized by Ira Weatherspoon and his St. Paul martial arts studio Capoeira Minnesota.
“When it comes down to it, it was necessary,” Weatherspoon said. “People are in need, supply lines have been pretty cut off, so it’s hard to get things over to people, especially those who are older ... or have been out of work because of the pandemic. It’s our duty as a community to take care of each other. It’s what we should do, always.”
Eli Davis was compelled to drive from Milwaukee. When he heard about what was happening in Minneapolis, he said it just seemed unreal. Seeing the memorial in person, he was touched.
“I hope that people start to become aware of the little pieces of racism that grow into seeds from which people grow trees and hang bodies from,” Davis said.
Zoey Sazama had jumped into her car too, feeling useless in Duluth. She hopes that momentum for reform will continue and grow.
“The amount of love and community in this area is amazing, and it’s brought me to tears a couple of times today. I hope that this continues and spreads throughout the city and the state and the country,” Sazama said.
In the coming weeks, Weatherspoon wants people to continue to look out for one another, to make sure neighbors are fed, to check on their mental health. But he also wants accountability.
“[I want] complete accountability for those who are sworn to protect and serve us. And when they fail to do their job, they should be held accountable and if necessary punished to the fullest extent of the law,” Weatherspoon said. “We can’t tolerate any more injustice.”