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A crowd gathers at the May 30 protest against the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. Photo by Richard Thomas.
After the May 25 death of George Floyd, protests have happened throughout the country, especially Minnesota. Duluth saw its biggest protest on Saturday, with at least a thousand people gathering to protest not only Floyd’s death, but systemic racism in the United States.
Duluth’s Saturday protest began at Memorial Park before heading downtown, with Black Lives Matter and similar phrases written on some vehicles. Protesters gathered at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial on First Street, where 100 years ago this month the three black circus workers were lynched.
Protesters rallied to remember George Floyd, the 46-year-old Minneapolis man who was killed in police custody on May 25. Photo by Felicity Bosk.
Standing on the higher slope of 2nd Avenue East, the event organizers talked to the crowd and introduced Kym Young, a local activist. She asked white people in the crowd to raise their hands, then asked “do black lives matter to you?” The crowd shouted back “Yes” to which she said “then you must tear down the racist system that perpetuates the racism and systemic oppression in this country.”
“I don’t want you to tear down buildings,” she said. “The foundation of this country is rotten. The house that sits upon this foundation is tinkering on the brink of collapse. One swift wind will tear it down and that’s what we are demanding. We are no longer asking; we are no longer begging.”
Joe Carter, along with Brayleigh Keliin, organized Saturday’s event because, he said, it needed to be done.
Activist Joe Carter speaks to protesters at the Duluth Civic Center on May 30. (Photo by Felicity Bosk.)
“I’m happy the way it turned out. There were hiccups, but everyone got their voice head and I’m happy about that.”
The crowd marched from the memorial to the Civic Center, where a nine-minute silence was held while nearly everyone in the crowd knelt. The nine minutes signified the nine minutes Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck.
Protesters were asked what brought them to the demonstration on Saturday and some said it was in solidarity with the protests happening in Minneapolis. Fires have ravaged the Twin Cities for the past week as peaceful protests have turned to riots at night.
Protestors take a knee, taking after Colin Kaepernick. (Photo by Felicity Bosk)
After the crowd dispersed at the Civic Center, some made their way to I-35, where they stopped highway traffic to bring attention to their cause. The Duluth Police Tactical Response Team helped move the protesters off the highway just before 7 p.m.
After sunset protesters moved around town. At one point, some were on Central Entrance. At another, they were at 4th St and 6th Avenue West. Before sunset, somebody spray painted “Fuck 12” on the ground at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial.
Carter said he doesn’t condone rioting but isn’t going to tell others what the right way to protest is, either.
“People are feeling frustrated and unheard so tensions are going to fly. They did what they felt like they needed to do.”
Photo by Felicity Bosk
The night came to a head at the 27th Avenue West Kwik Trip. The convenience store closed early after an employee was assaulted. Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken said “a critical mass” of people had gathered there. He also said an officer was assaulted.
The crowd was told to go home multiple times, as the city had imposed a 10 p.m. curfew. When many did not leave, tear gas was used.
Chief Tusken said 11 people were arrested Saturday night, with only one being from out of town. There were eight reports of damage to property. He also said that on a typical night, the Duluth Police might have 18-20 officers on duty, and that Saturday night they had a hundred.
Since Chauven’s arrest, Minnesota attorney general Keith Ellison has said he will take the lead in prosecuting the former officer.
A curfew was in place again on Sunday night in Duluth but there was no overnight protest.
Carter said he is working to organize a community meeting. Once a date and time are set, he wants people to gather and share thoughts and ideas on what their next step will be.
Protestors walk, drive and pedal up Central Entrance in the evening after the downtown rally. (Photos by Richard Thomas)
Fearing the same kind of rioting and destruction that has been taking place in other cities, many familiar Duluth businesses battened down the hatches before the May 30 gatherings. (Photos by Richard Thomas)