“Momma! Momma! Momma!”
The anguished cries rang out at the Minneapolis intersection where George Floyd died.
Those were among Floyd’s final words as he was dying, gasping for breath, with the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed into his neck.
But more than a week later, they were repeated by NFL Super Bowl champion Tyrone Carter. He was yelling the very same words as he walked among the piles of flowers left by the grief-stricken who have come to the site by the thousands.
Carter’s loud and tormented voice pierced the early morning quiet, grabbing the attention of the crowds gathering Tuesday to pray, meditate and pay respects.
The retired football player is an athletic hero in Minneapolis and is using that influence to fight for justice for George Floyd.
“Are you a momma?” Carter asked a sobbing woman who was watching him. She nodded. “My baby is gone, too, my son is gone.”
Her son had been killed in a car wreck as the result of a police chase a month ago, she said.
“We had to pull the plug.”
Walking off in grief
Carter handed her an MVP trophy from his college football days at the University of Minnesota that he had intended to leave at Floyd’s memorial.
The two embraced before the woman wandered off, looking lost, grieving not one, but two men.
Minneapolis is raw — raw with anger, raw with grief and raw with exhaustion.
Retired health-care worker Fay Bell is one of the tired.
“It really hurts. I was in California in the ’60s when the Watts riots were going on.”
Fifty-five years later, the racism in the U.S. has been, once again, laid bare and she wonders if anything has changed at all.
“You have to see the hurt and what people have gone through for so many years.”
‘In the history books’
Even as a young black man, 17-year-old Dominic Valladares didn’t feel a close personal connection to the racial divide.
“I always read about this in the history books,” he said.
“The fact that this is happening about 20 minutes from my home is just heartbreaking,” Valladares said.
He decided to watch Floyd’s brother, Terrence, lay a wreath at the spot where he died. Inspired by what he saw and heard, Valladares left feeling the need for action.
“I thought this is something I’ve got to be a part of now, something I’ve got to help the cause to support. We really need to come together and have peace.”
Looking for peace
Lola Wucherpfennig wants peace, too. But as she videotapes burned-out and gutted buildings, she is not convinced marches and rallies will achieve that on their own.
“There’s a point when peaceful protests just don’t get the point across anymore,” she said.
She seems to speak with the maturity of someone far beyond her teenaged years about systemic racism in her city.
WATCH | A Minneapolis teen questions whether peaceful protest can overcome deep-rooted racism in the city:
“We’ve had enough. We’re not going to just sit back and watch this keep happening anymore. It’s the start of change.”
Minneapolis is a multicultural city. The majority of its 430,000 people are white, but there are significant black, Hispanic and Asian populations.
Image of equality shattered
But there is disparity that shatters any image of equality in Minneapolis.
The median black family earns about half of the median white household, according to the 2018 U.S. census. The unemployment rate among its black residents is triple that of white Minneapolis residents, the state government says.
WATCH | Protests after the death of George Floyd devastate a Minneapolis business:
Those protesting Floyd’s death say that disparity is ubiquitous, including how black neighbourhoods and black people are treated by police.
Minnesota’s Department of Human Rights will probe 10 years of the Minneapolis Police Department’s record of policing to determine if it has engaged in systemic discrimination of people of colour.
Bell, who lived through the Watts riots decades ago, said she will put her trust in her faith.
“I can’t lean on my understanding. I have no clue and don’t understand when this ends.”
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