In the nearly three years since George Floyd was murdered by police a block from her home, hardly a day has gone by when Marcia Howard hasn't met up with fellow activists at what is now called George Floyd Square. The site of his killing has become both a memorial and a clarion call.
So Howard has paid close attention to what's been happening in Memphis since the Jan. 7 police beating of Tyre Nichols, his death three days later, then the firing of the five police officers involved and their arrests on murder charges.
"I need to know we're not accepting of what's been the status quo: the ability to do summary executions of African Americans with impunity," Howard said Friday afternoon, hours before video of the encounter was publicly released. "Policing as we know it is dangerous to Black lives, and that's not a bug — that's a feature. I don't have to watch a Black man being brutally beaten and calling for his mother to be outraged."
As the country prepared for the video's release, and as Nichols' family called for protests but not violent unrest, what happened at the corner of 38th and Chicago nearly three years ago informed the thinking of Minnesotans, especially Black Minnesotans, about the events in Tennessee.
Some registered outrage at the American police system, while others directed their anger at the individual Memphis officers, all of whom are Black. Some pointed to the rapid murder charges and release of video as evidence of progress, while others voiced the conviction that policing cannot be reformed.
"We have to make sure people know those are five individuals, and they do not represent this profession," said Dawanna Witt, Hennepin County's first Black sheriff. "We know there are people in the Black community who don't trust law enforcement. I was one of those people. They believe (cops) see those things all the time and we look away. No — we do not. But this is going to take us back, not just with the Black community but with all communities."
Rose McGee, who founded Sweet Potato Comfort Pie after the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., looked at Nichols' death less in terms of institutional racism and more in terms of the rot in some souls.
"Something's definitely off with our humanity when we can't respond in a different way when it comes to lives of people," said McGee, whose Golden Valley nonprofit focuses on healing damage caused by race-based trauma. "What's happening in the moral consciousness of people? What escalates you to that point?"
For Tracy Wesley, who runs the Estes Funeral Chapel in north Minneapolis, the main emotion was anger at the five Black officers.
"You'd think they'd have some type of empathy, a button to say, 'Let me handle this in a different manner,' " said Wesley, who handled George Floyd's memorial services in 2020. "We're used to having this happen, but usually with officers of another color. Now you got these guys doing the same thing. You'd think they'd deal with it differently."
After the video was released, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter responded with a statement on social media calling the actions by the Memphis officers a betrayal.
"Yes, every murder is terrible. And yes, it is worse when police officers are the predators. The officers down in today's video — & far too many before them — haven't only betrayed trust in Memphis, they've undermined the credibility & work of every law enforcement agency," posted Carter, who is St. Paul's first Black mayor.
For one local activist deeply involved in the failed 2021 ballot measure to replace Minneapolis police with a public health-oriented Department of Public Safety, the most important color in this situation isn't black or white. It's blue.
"White supremacy is an ideology that supersedes race; a lot of times, it's just blue against Black," said Trahern Crews, a lead organizer with Black Lives Matter Minnesota and a reparations activist. "Some of the slave catchers were Black. You can use Black people to do things that are harmful to the community."
Across Minnesota, people were coming to terms with the horrific video.
It was an emotional atmosphere at Sabathani Community Center in Minneapolis. Before a group discussion, the center played the Memphis video on the auditorium screen. Some chose to not watch.
More than 20 Black residents then shared their reactions. Therapists were on hand for those who needed them.
Scott Redd, the center's president and CEO, said he cried and felt hurt.
"It's like nothing has been changed or done to address the accountability of Black life, to show we have a value in this world," Redd said. "It's crazy, I just got back from Costa Rica, and I'm treated better in a different country than I am treated here."
The video reminded Redd of George Floyd's killing when he saw Nichols calling out for his mother as police hit him.
A moment of silence preceded the game at Target Center where the Timberwolves hosted the Memphis Grizzlies.
That the NBA game was between two teams representing cities marred by police-instigated deaths was not lost on Memphis Coach Taylor Jenkins. "Sadly, we're here again, right? Being here in Minneapolis evokes a lot of emotions, for sure," he said.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz called the Memphis video "horrifying" and "all too familiar" for many Minnesotans.
Around the nation, local governments girded for potential protests.
Bloomington Police Chief Booker Hodges did not anticipate any trouble locally.
"This place as a state is still healing, people are still rebuilding," said Hodges, the city's first Black police chief. "For people that want to come and mess up that rebuilding, I don't think our community here is going to tolerate that."
Sheriff Witt spoke of the goal of ensuring citizens' First Amendment rights while keeping protests peaceful.
Activists spoke of the necessity to go deeper than protests — from raw emotion to concrete political change.
"If people are going to get elected off the BLM movement, or by saying they have empathy for those killed by police brutality, we expect legislation to follow up quickly," Crews said. "We don't want to be the last in line for justice when we're the first in line to vote."
Witt watched the video with her command staff Friday evening. Then she sent a letter to her entire staff saying these officers' heinous actions shouldn't reflect on the good work her staff does.
"There's no excuse for what happened to that man — none," she said. "It's anger that's so hard to put into words. It was inexcusable. I can't even fathom what were they thinking. What in the world made you think what you were doing was OK?"
"We're talking about a profession where we're supposed to serve and protect," she continued. "That was anything but that."
Staff writers Kyeland Jackson, Louis Krauss, Paul Walsh, Kim Hyatt, Liz Sawyer and Stephen Montemayor contributed to this report.