I’m an adopted son of Minneapolis. I came here almost 20 years ago to attend the University of Minnesota, and I never left. During the past decades, I’ve learned a few things about this place: The summers here are glorious after long, harsh winters. The neighbors in my multicultural community are always willing to lend each other a hand, shoveling snow from walks and clearing off cars.

I’ve also learned that one of the most popular sayings here — “Minnesota nice” — really only applies if you’re white.

If you are Black, not so much. If you are Black in Minneapolis, you are struggling to get by in a place where a third of Black residents live in poverty.

If you are Black, a police officer like Derek Chauvin can crush your neck with his knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, kill you and walk around free for a few days.

If you are Black in Minneapolis, people look at you with suspicion. Police ask you if you paid your $1.50 fare for the light rail, as happened to me once when I was riding with my white roommate. They didn’t ask him.

And if you are Black, a police officer like Derek Chauvin can crush your neck with his knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, kill you and walk around free for a few days.

I and thousands of peaceful protesters like me have walked the streets of our city to call on Mayor Jacob Frey and Gov. Tim Walz to charge all of the former police officers involved in the heinous death of George Floyd. Fired officer Chauvin, who kneeled on Floyd’s neck until after the pleading man lost consciousness, not only violated the department’s regulations on restraints, he violated a moral code. It is a good first step that Chauvin has been arrested on a third-degree murder charge, but what about his colleagues, who stood by and watched?

Chauvin is only the latest example of a systemic, brutal problem in my city. In November 2015, two police officers were involved in the shooting death of Jamar Clark, 24, which sparked weeks of protests. Neither was charged.

That is why we’ve chanted and marched through the streets — at times through clouds of stinging tear gas. Police in riot gear with smoke bombs at the ready have positioned their military-style assault weapons at me for chanting, “Hands up; don’t shoot.” I watched a tear gas canister explode in the face of one Somali girl — and watched a young Black man and a young Latinx woman rush to her aid and carry her to medics.

I was outside the 3rd Precinct on Thursday night when some protesters rushed into the building and set off fireworks inside.

What I want Americans to realize when they watch those images on TV is that they represent far more than the sum of the flames.

What I want Americans to realize when they watch those images on TV is that they represent far more than the sum of the flames. Years — decades — of frustration with a society and a system that consistently devalues their lives released with this one act.

Outside the precinct, someone played Beyoncé and pockets of the crowd danced the Electric Slide.

Then the president tweeted. President Donald Trump called us “thugs” and repeated the racist words of a police chief in Miami bent on ending protests in the 1960s. Rumors circulated that armed white men were on their way to the protests. At that moment, there was no way to tell what was fact and what was rumor, because many of us could not access social media or make calls with our cell phones. I knew I had to go home, so that I could come back alive to protest another day.

As an organizer who works to mobilize voters — especially Black, brown, immigrant and young voters — I’m very familiar with Trump’s strategy. I saw it play out in Michigan over the last few weeks as Black people in Detroit and other cities died disproportionately of COVID-19. Instead of addressing the emergency this pandemic represents for communities of color, Trump threw a temper tantrum and called the governor names.

But these protests won’t end because of Trump’s racist, threatening Twitter tantrums. And they won’t end because Walz, a Democrat, rightly acknowledged on Friday the “generations of pain, of anguish” over racism in policing.

I am so tired of words, whether they are pablum or hateful rhetoric. What I and others who organize in communities of color, especially Black communities, that are struggling to make ends meet need are real changes and real action.

What I want Americans to realize when they watch those images on TV is that they represent far more than the sum of the flames.

We want deep investments in our neighborhoods. We urgently need to build a caring and inclusive economy. We want law enforcement to treat us with dignity, and we want local officials to show they value our lives by charging people — including police — when they wrongfully kill us.

“Minnesota nice” can be as noxious as the tear gas that has stung my eyes and burned my skin over the last few days. Amy Klobuchar, for example, the Democratic senator who personifies Minnesota nice, herself declined to charge police officers involved in shootings when she was a prosecutor. Everyone should scrutinize her record as her name is mentioned as a possible vice presidential running mate.

I am a 34-year-old man who knows that at any point I could be the next George Floyd. I could run out to the grocery store and run across the wrong police officer and find myself gasping for breath, calling for my mother.

That’s something I’ve learned after nearly two decades living in the “nice” Midwest. And that’s why I am a protester.

source: nbcnews.com

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