During a San Francisco kneel-in for George Floyd, a striking visual popped into Patricia Line Diart's mind. And she knew it would bring her to Minneapolis.
"I had this vision of a cape — and it needed to be a humongous cape," said the performance artist/activist also known as Liney.
Twelve feet long, the black cape looks like it's straight out of a Harry Potter novel, but its message — hand-embroidered by Diart — speaks to abuse of power. It's a letter she wrote to her father, who was a white police officer in Baltimore and inflicted domestic violence upon his family.
A lover of dream spaces and the Surrealists, wanted the cape to "create a sort of disconcerting or surreal image." Since the project began last February, she has traveled with it to about 10 locations, predominantly focusing on police stations.
She arrived in Minneapolis April 11, to coincide with the conclusion of Derek Chauvin's trial. But while waiting for a Lyft at the airport, she learned that Daunte Wright had been shot and killed during a police stop.
Diart stopped by the downtown police station, climbing over barricades as it snowed, and knelt on the ground with her cape. The cops agreed to read her cape only if she stood up and placed it on the ground. After reading it, one took photos and said he would show them to others on the force.
She chronicled the experience on her blog, thecape.medium.com, noting that the conversation with police was "difficult and tense, but never did I feel like I might get shot for trespassing or any other minor offense. I believe this is because I am a white woman."
Acknowledging her white privilege, she pointed to the systemic racial injustice that her project addresses.
"Some people have been moved to tears," she said. "They put their arm around me. Some have talked about their own trauma. Some people don't read the cape and they give me the thumbs up. ... When I'm kneeling, there's an alliance. They don't even need to read the cape."
Another day, she kneeled at the Hennepin County Government Center, feeling the tense situation unfolding. She went to the police station at Brooklyn Center, where she kneeled in front of barricades, snipers and ground police, so that people could read the cape.
Before leaving April 17, she visited Walker Art Center, gathering her cape and relishing the performance artists who have come before her.
She believes the cape performance will continue for a long time.
"It's not about one cop, it's not about all cops. It's about systems of power."