Minneapolis City Hall was designed in 1888, and construction was completed in 1909. The most amazing feature is the six-story rotunda and atrium, now home to numerous wedding receptions and other celebrations.
The rotunda served a far different purpose at noon Friday.
Pillsbury United Communities brought together important people in the social justice movement, nationally and locally, to address the death of George Floyd at the knee of a cop and surrounded by three others.
Actor Jamie Foxx was at the media session and spoke briefly. The Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns and Josh Okogie were there, but did not speak.
Nekima Levy Armstrong, civil rights lawyer and former president of the Minnesota chapter of the NAACP, was the second to speak. She reminded supporters and the media of black people killed by Twin Cities law enforcement dating to Tycel Nelson, a 17-year-old who was shot at a “loud party” in 1990.
Levy Armstrong was in the process of blasting Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman when someone interrupted her at 12:18 p.m. She was miffed at first, and then was told that Derek Chauvin, the police officer who held his knee to Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, “had been taken into custody.”
A cheer of approval came from a portion of the supporters. That faded quickly, as Levy Armstrong pointed out that there were three cops who did nothing to intervene as Floyd became unresponsive.
Fifty minutes later, as a public rally with the same group was about to start across the street, in front of the Hennepin County Government Center, a new chant had joined the familiar “No justice, no peace,” and “I can’t breathe,” Floyd’s words while pinned to the asphalt.
This chant was “All four’s gotta go,” a reminder that initially charging Chauvin with third-degree murder and manslaughter was only a first step for activists and protesters in a black civilian’s death that has created the No. 1 story in international news.
Truly. BBC news on the radio early Friday afternoon: First, Chauvin’s arrest, after a night of destruction in Minneapolis and St. Paul; then, what’s up with the coronavirus pandemic?
One of Friday’s speakers was Tamika Mallory, organizer of the Women’s March in 2017 and a leader in Black Lives Matter. Mallory is short in stature, and easy to mistake as an extra in a crowd … until she starts speaking.
Truth: Mallory can shake up your comfortable Minnesota whiteness in a flash with her articulate, composed rage:
“White Nationalist ideology is running wild.”
“I don’t give a damn if they burn down Target,” because Target should have been out front with the movement.
And the main theme: “Enough is enough.”
Mallory was looking at white media members, and talking to white Minnesota and white America, when she said: “Change all cops. Change them everywhere. Don’t talk to us about lootings. You are the looters.
“You want us to do better. Then, you do better.”
Stephen Jackson, a 14-year NBA player, grew up in Houston with Floyd — so close, Jackson referred to him as “my twin.” He had flown in to see Floyd’s family and speak at the news conference and rally.
“You can’t tell me, when that man has his knee on my brother’s neck — taking his life away — that the smirk on his face didn’t say, ‘I’m protected,’ ” Jackson said. “You can’t tell me that he didn’t feel that it was his duty to murder my brother, and that he knew he was gonna get away with it.”
Jackson was popular with NBA reporters and most fan bases as a player with a big personality. Few would argue his claim to be a “man of love for all,” but he said Friday:
“We can’t love forever and the hate is coming out, and I’m afraid. I’m honestly afraid because I know what comes from hate, from us, and I know why you all are scared. Because you all are scared that we’re going to pull a you on you.
“You all have been doing us wrong for so long, you all think karma’s going to hit you right back.”
Jackson said the simple need in seeking justice for his boyhood friend’s death was “common sense,” based on a viewing of the infamous, city-changing 10-minute video.
“He was murdered in broad daylight for the world to see,” Jackson said. “Where do we go from here? We’re going to the front line and anything you see, so be it. I want you to see it because this is real pain.”
Ten minutes later, as the crowd gathered for the rally, there was some of the common sense sought by Jackson.
A man in a worn, off-blue Toyota, with a taped front left fender and beat-up right rear, shouted racial slurs from an open window as he drove past on Third Avenue. He was stuck in traffic, and a black man on the sidewalk took it personally and started across the street.
Four Hennepin County Sheriff officers hustled over, grabbed the man with the racist mouth out of the front seat and took him away with a firm grip, leaving the small, sad-looking Toyota at the curb.
And with that, 100-150 people watching from that side of the plaza let out a cheer for the actions of these four white folks, three men and a woman, from law enforcement.