The killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police has pulled thousands of people across the country out of quarantine and into the streets. Protests and rallies in Minneapolis have drawn those living just blocks from the intersection of 38th and Chicago, where Floyd was killed, as well as those who traveled hours to get here.
As the city approaches a third week of protests, young people in particular have turned out to voice their anger and mourn Floyd’s death. Some were inspired to attend their first-ever protests in recent days.
Many of these participants are currently out of work due to the coronavirus, or have yet to find their first post-graduation job. With so much time on their hands, some said there is nowhere else they’d rather be.
Desiree Falkowski, 22, and Shannyn Chesley, 22, of Minneapolis
As recent graduates from Winona State University, Desiree Falkowski and Shannyn Chesley finished their education just before Floyd’s death. On Wednesday, they were taking in artwork at the memorial outside of Cup Foods, where the incident began.
“I moved back here, got done with my degree and not even a week later George Floyd was murdered,” Falkowski said. “I didn’t want to just sit in the suburbs with my education and feel that guilt of not taking action. I’m here, it’s COVID, I don’t have a job, so I might as well go out there and show up for my community.”
It was Falkowski’s second visit to the memorial.
“In the beginning I felt more anger, just a lot of emotions,” she said. “Now when I come to this site it feels like more of a celebration.”
Falkowski said she has recently made connections with other young adults who are passionate about justice issues.
At Winona State, causes like women’s or LGBTQ rights were well represented, both Chesley and Falkowski noted, but there were few opportunities to uplift people of color.
“It was very quiet for the black community,” Chesley said.
Chesley studied social and political sciences. She said being silent right now was not an option.
“With an education, it’s your duty as a young individual to be out there, educating and helping where you can,” Chesley said.
Sadie Tollefson, 24, and Cody Rogala, 25, of Edina
Cody Rogala has black friends. But seeing how Floyd died and how the country has rallied around him opened his eyes to the reality of being black in America.
“I think that everyone needs to speak out and everyone needs to stand up, because if we don’t then it’s just going to be silenced,” Rogala said.
Neither Rogala nor Sadie Tollefson had ever participated in a protest before Floyd’s death. But they both felt it was necessary to do their part to better the nation.
“I just think it’s important to realize that we all have a part to take in this,” Tollefson said. “It’s time to open our eyes and realize what we need to do to help.”
The recent University of North Dakota graduates would normally be working on a June day. But without jobs due to the coronavirus, taking action felt natural.
“I’m currently laid off, so it’s kind of a good time to take the time that you would usually be working to try and help any way you can,” Rogala said.
They are both hopeful that other young people continue to show up in the Twin Cities and across the country.
“I think a lot of young voices are more progressive and actually want to make a change in the world,” Rogala said.
Patricia Rogers, 23, of Minneapolis
Patricia Rogers has protested before, notably after the fatal shooting of motorist Philando Castile by a St. Anthony police officer in 2016. But she’s never protested like this.
The 23-year-old said she has been out every day since Floyd was killed, with no plans to slow down.
“Out of all of them, this was the one that hit me the most,” Rogers said of Floyd’s death.
Other police killings, while no less horrifying, often involve a firearm. Watching the video of Floyd struggling to breathe with a Minneapolis officer’s knee on his neck was particularly chilling.
“My ancestors weren’t able to record, they weren’t able to speak up for themselves,” Rogers said. “They were lynched. They were killed for speaking up for themselves. I’m not going to stop coming out here until I see justice.”
She has seen people of all ages participate, but has been particularly encouraged by the young teenagers and people in their twenties who have made protesting a priority in recent weeks.
Rogers hopes that youth participation only increases, because black and brown people are tired, she said. Either way, she will keep showing up.
“I refuse to live in a world where I’m not equal,” she said.
Zoë Jackson covers young and new voters at the Star Tribune through the Report For America program, supported by The Minneapolis Foundation.