From Stephi Tikalsky/Minneapolis, Minnesota
I never thought I’d live someplace where there was a curfew. Last Friday (June 5), it was on every overpass: CURFEW 9 p.m.-6 a. m. Every overpass. Even my south suburban community has had a curfew. Two local car lots moved every car off the lot as word came that there would be protests here. There were. They were peaceful. The cars came back.
My daughter Libby lives near where George was killed. Many boarded up businesses, most preemptively, but many many MANY more people paying respects, protesting, gathering together. Sadly, the greatest destruction is on a commercial corridor not far from there; sad because it leaves the community without drugstores, groceries, hardware stores, etc. Many were small and owned by people of color and immigrants.
Our community is numb and reeling. We want to believe that this time there really will be change. We wanted to believe that “our own people” would never have been so destructive. Yes, there were outsiders, but sadly, our own people were also to blame. Our local government officials, city and state, have shown remarkable leadership AND compassion. This was a no-win situation for them. Perhaps the National Guard should have been called in earlier but honestly, I don’t think so. Wrong message. But in waiting, more destruction, arson, et cetera. As with the virus, so much is being made up as we go along, as we’ve not been HERE before.
Above all, I would include “hopeful’ as one of my emotions. What we have seen from our youth continues to bring me hope. Two teenagers arranged an “I can’t breathe” sit-in on the capitol lawn. They hoped for a couple hundred people. They got 16,000-plus! Sitting socially distanced, with their signs, mostly silent, some chants. It was something to behold. I have long told my kids, “I am so sorry. We have made a mess of many things. Your generation will be the one to clean things up.” They understand, and I believe this generation will be one to do what’s necessary.
From Robert Osborne/Lincoln, Nebraska
Robert Osborne, 18, is studying to be an architect at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. He just finished his first year. The Insider asked him about his experience at a protest early in the morning on Saturday, May 30 and a second protest later that night.
“At 1 a.m., I started hearing a car honking and lots of cheering. My friend Ben in my fraternity and I went to check it out. That’s when we learned it was the protest. When we went out there, it was very peaceful, People were out in the street, in the intersection, blocking traffic and everything. But it was generally peaceful. There had to have been several hundred people. I’m sure there were some students, but a lot of people are gone right now. The crowd was at least 80% African-American. Ben and I are two white, Jewish kids. It was a good representation of everybody out there. A lot of young people.
At about 2 a.m., there was a hit and run by a truck. They hit a black woman and drove off. That caused a huge commotion. This was right on our street corner. Everybody was thinking that it was on purpose, because it was a hit and run. No one else got hit, and all of the other cars were going slow. She didn’t seem too bad. When she got into the ambulance everybody was cheering and waving to her. She was waving back to everybody. After that happened, it understandably really riled everyone up out there. Notably so, and understandably. All of that pent-up rage in the crowd. People went across to the street to the E-Z GO gas station and started busting up windows. There were fireworks like flashbangs going off and dirt bikers revving. There were maybe 10 minutes of that, and the cops all came. The riot police were coming out with shields and everything. They had a huge line in the parking lot next to the gas station, on foot. At first, it was pretty peaceful, There was a lot of tension, everybody busting up the gas station and looting. In my opinion, it’s definitely bad. It’s wrong. But I also feel that all of the pent-up energy and all of the anger that we’ve kind of given to so many, there are going to be those bad people in the crowd that will do things like this. I believe it’s kind of understandable. I don’t think at any moment I was frightened for my life per se, but looking back at it now, it definitely was a scary situation.
Once the police were lined up, they started moving forward, inching forward, to push the crowd back. Once they got under the awning of the gas station, that’s when things really started to get bad. They were crowding the gas station doors, not letting anybody in. Then, people across the street started shooting fireworks off. Ben and I were pretty much on the front lines, it just kind of happened that way. I told him, “This is a bad situation, The most we can do here is understand how everyone is feeling. let’s throw up some peace signs and show them to the cops. Be peaceful in this situation. A little sense of normalcy, I guess. He and I made peace signs with our hands. People were throwing water bottles and everything at the cops, and the fireworks. Then the cops started throwing tear gas out. I didn’t notice it right away, but when the crowd was still there, they started teargassing everybody, pepper spraying us. It kind of felt like being on fire. One second, I was okay, standing there, throwing up my peace signs, and the next second, my face is burning and I can’t breathe. I was choking, coughing, spitting up—really bad. It was from the pepper spray--it was directly in my face. But the compassion from the crowd was definitely felt. They were all saying…milk, water, wash this guy’s eyes out. They were trying to help everyone who was getting injured in this situation, whether someone gets trampled, whether someone gets pepper-sprayed or tear-gassed.
After we got pepper sprayed and gassed, we hung around a bit longer, to see how it ended up. But soon after the worst happened, and a few started to break the Metro PCS windows next door, the protest dwindled. A few hung around on the intersection, but it ended with the gas.
That night (May 30) at 7 pm, protestors started marching past our house again. My friends and I went out and marched with them. There were seven of us. This was the Black Lives Matter protest march. There were two or three hundred people. We were marching—blocking the intersections, blocking the roads, chanting. This was in the city, outside of the campus, about two miles away from our house. Everyone on the road was honking their horns in support of everybody, heads out of the windows, cheering for the protest, showing their support for everything. I saw a lot more white people this night, as opposed to Friday night. It was earlier, and the sentiment also felt a lot more peaceful and calm during this march, than the rioting the night before. It had started at the capitol building and ended up back there at about 10 pm.
After that, we all marched to the police headquarters, about six blocks from the capitol building. There, they had the riot police waiting for us, on the top steps of the building to protect it. It was pretty peaceful at that point, we were chanting and showing our support. But once the water-bottle throwing at the police began, that’s when everything fell apart and the violence started. We stuck around for a little bit, to see what would happen, but then they started throwing tear gas, and that pretty much dispersed a lot of people. Everybody was busting up the windows of the headquarters, I didn’t feel unsafe at any point, but it definitely got energized. They were trying to make their mark. The most violent stuff I saw was from the cops themselves. There were definitely agitators among the crowds and the protestors, but I would say that some of the police measures were definitely not proportional. There’s a curfew tonight, but there wasn’t one yesterday.
There was a lot of support from the white people out there, Obviously, we’ll never understand the stress and everything that the whole African-American community feels. But I know that as a white person, I can at least give my support to them for the movement, which I feel is absolutely necessary. The George Floyd murder was absolutely sickening and the end goal of all of these protests is to get all of the cops indicted and in jail, and that’s absolutely what should happen. I do feel that people need to keep telling the government and telling everybody that’s what needs to happen and we’re not going to stop until it does. It was a very supportive atmosphere. From the inside, it was very close together and welcoming, I would say. The first night had more of a riotous feel to it. It was definitely a supportive feeling, but once the rioting happened, it got kind of hectic. But even during that, there was everyone on the sidelines just watching the people going to the gas station and taking their stuff out. But those people are just like anyone else. They feel the way that we do. I definitely believe there are people who are out there just to riot, but there are a lot of good people out there. I didn’t see anybody out there who was from out of state, as far as I knew. But so many have been pushed to such extremes that something like this is going to happen, and you just have to roll with it.
A lot of people were wearing masks, either to hide their identity or for the coronavirus, I would say that 30% of people had masks on. I was wearing a mask. It could have been higher—there were a lot of bandanas. There’s risk of getting sick, but I also feel that we can’t be silenced, that people can’t be silenced. They need to make their statement. Unfortunately, this is what’s happening. To me, the fact that it is happening in Lincoln already for three days is kind of a surprise. I was talking to the manager of Burger King, and he said, yeah, I’ve lived here my whole life, but not once have I ever experienced anything like this. He was about 35. It’s true—in the Midwest, things like this don’t happen. But this is happening here, and I definitely feel this will not stop until justice has been served.
From Charles Cole/Chicago, Illinois
Charles Cole, 20, just finished his junior year at Swarthmore College, where he is majoring in engineering. He attended several protest marches in his hometown of Chicago last week. This is a portion of what Charles told The Insider during a phone interview about his experience protesting on Saturday, May 30:
“The march started at Federal Plaza on Dearborn at 2 pm. I was with a good friend and his two roommates. It was very crowded, definitely in the thousands. There were speakers, but you couldn’t really see them or hear them that well. From there, people just started walking northeast, and disparate groups bumped into each other. All of the streets were lined with cars that were intentionally parked there, just sounding their horns to show solidarity and support. That went on all the way down State Street. Cars everywhere, honking, screaming, showing support. Pretty much everyone I saw was wearing a mask There were people distributing masks. The only people not wearing masks were police officers.
It became clear that people were heading towards Trump Tower. In general, I noticed that at moments when there were more police there, tensions rose, things got a little more angry, with pushing and shoving. When you were just marching on a street, it was very positive, with cheering. Then, all of a sudden, it would become clear that there was a line of cops ahead, or a line of cops along the side. I think people got very nervous and very anxious then, and that’s when you saw scuffles going down. People were throwing water bottles at cops and what not. I saw one fist fight between two cops and some people. Then, at Trump Tower, there was a very, very long line of cops blocking the entrance. A lot of protestors went right in front of them; a couple graffitied cop cars; some got their tires popped and their windows smashed. We wanted to be a little safer at that moment, so we walked away.
My friend and I went down to Chinatown to get dinner, always with the idea of coming back in at night. Things had really started the night before, so we understood that the nighttime is really when these major protest movements are going to be made. While we were down in Chinatown eating dinner, we were on Twitter. They announced that all of the bridges over the river in Chicago were going to be put up. After we walked up from Chinatown to go into the city again, it was CRAZY! I saw things I never thought I would see. Very apocalyptic. In the middle of State Street, for probably three straight blocks, there were cop cars the whole way, all with their popped tires, completely graffitied. A lot of them had smashed windows. A couple of them were burnt out. A lot of smashed businesses, broken into. It really, really felt a little apocalyptic. You could see cops doing absolutely nothing. Wherever there are lines of cops, there is going to be animosity between them and protestors. I saw some smashing of windows, going into businesses, taking things at Footlocker and at jewelry stores and at Macy’s, but I definitely didn’t see violence towards other people.
At about 8:30 pm, we made it up a more north to Wacker, which is right next to the river, and we saw all the bridges up. That’s where we found more of a traditional, conventional protest going on. People chanting: “Hands up, don’t shoot,” “No justice, no peace.” There was a line of not just police officers, but an additional line of what looked to be a riot team, with tear gas and either rubber bullet guns or bean bag guns. I don’t think they were about to shoot any of that—those protestors were the most peaceful, least likely to require tear gas or anything.
From Tobye Stein/Northville, Michigan
I'm ANGRY! George Floyd was murdered. The murderer has been arrested, yet his accomplices went free for far too long. I was certain that we wouldn’t see peace if these men weren’t charged. While the officials dawdled in Minneapolis failing to arrest these men, the country was ablaze. People of color, men and women, white people young and old are horrified and angry. Many of us have seen our cities burn before during the 1967 riots and again in 1968 after Dr. King was assassinated. As a teenager, I'll admit I was afraid and distraught. My original childhood neighborhood was on fire, and I cried.
Now, I'm angry not afraid. I'm not Black and the likelihood of my being arrested and assaulted by the police is slim, but I can still empathize with the Black community and understand that Black lives matters. I'm angry because so many people are blaming the Black communities for the destruction.
While our nation burns, our president remains silent except for insulting and incendiary tweets! Donny must be vewwy, vewwy afwaid, wunning to his undergwound bunker, but where do the residents go when their homes and businesses are set on fire? And still he tweets telling the governors to crack down on the protesters. Let him come out of hiding and address the nation, demand some. But if he does, will his statements reiterate what he said after Charlottesville? Presidents are supposed to calm the country. Donald Trump adds fuel to the fire. In the meantime, when protesters armed with assault rifles came to Lansing, my state capitol, did Trump tell them to go home and obey the governor's shelter-in-place order. NO! He sided with his gun-toting supporters and chastised our governor for not negotiating with these good people. His good people are nothing more than terrorists. Now, while most protestors are peaceful law-abiding citizens, the president wants to quell the protests.
The nation has been on edge for months because of the mishandled coronavirus response, but the virus is nothing compared to the ongoing disease of hatred and racism that has been untreated in our country for centuries. The president and the GOP make the infection worse with lies about mail-in voting resulting in more votes for Democrats and rampant fraud. These lies only make the fires worse. It adds fuel to the fire of the privileged white people in their hate of Black Americans and all people of color. Until we as a country recognize and admit the transgressions against minorities and especially the Black community, there will be no peace. Until there is justice there will be no peace.
I'm angry because the people who suffer the most during and after the violence are the same innocent people whose homes and businesses are being destroyed. I'm angry because the coronavirus is killing these same people at a higher rate than other Americans. I'm angry because these same innocent people are having their voting rights eroded again and again. And I'm angry because we allow our police departments the latitude to mistreat and kill people without weapons who are not resisting arrest, all because their skin is dark.
I can speak up here, and I can speak up with my ballot. But what if enough people don't speak up? I'm angry because I believe Americans in November will make the same stupid mistake that was made in 2016. Many friends reassured me that our country would never elect Donald Trump as I predicted then, but it's just what Americans did. I could lie and say now that I've vented and no longer angry, but I won't. I'm ANGRY.