FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MINNEAPOLIS—The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) is in active solidarity with the people of Minneapolis following the murder of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, by a Minneapolis Police Department officer on May 25. Thousands of people took to the streets in outrage and mourning in the first spontaneous, major protest in the US since the COVID-19 pandemic began. While the Minneapolis Police Department responded violently with chemical weapons, rubber bullets, and flash-bang grenades, the NLG Minnesota Chapter provided Legal Observers and other legal support to protesters. The NLG is committed to continuing this work as long as protests continue, and beyond.
On Tuesday, demonstrators in Minneapolis gathered at the intersection where Floyd died and marched to the 3rd Police Precinct. Protesters in face masks chanted, “I can’t breathe”—a familiar rallying cry from 2014 protests demanding justice for Eric Garner, after NYPD officers strangled him to death during an arrest. Floyd, like Garner, spent his last moments alive pleading with police for his life as a white officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on his neck and refused to stop even after Floyd was unconscious.
During the demonstrations, police in riot gear escalated tensions with protesters, firing tear gas, flash-bang grenades, and rubber bullets at the crowd. Several people, including a journalist, were hit by projectiles.
“The response by Minneapolis Police can best be characterized as a coordinated, militarized, guerilla-style effort. Police in riot gear confronted protesters, including positioning themselves along natural escape routes, and deployed flash-bang grenades, rubber bullets, and tear gas upon protesters,” said Legal Observer Matt DiTullio, a recent graduate from the University of Minnesota Law School.
George Floyd’s death is yet another example of how, even during a global pandemic, racialized police violence continues. Videos of NYPD officers without masks brutally arresting people of color for apparent social distancing violations—in contrast to photographs of officers handing out masks to predominantly white crowds in parks—went viral earlier this month. In April, armed right-wing protesters in Michigan occupied the state capitol with little to no interference from law enforcement to demand an end to social distancing and lockdown measures in the name of “freedom.” In Fresno, CA Councilmember Michael Arias called the police after armed activists protesting quarantine closures went to his home, banged on his door, and attempted to break in with his two young children, police ended up citing him, a Latinx man, for misdemeanor battery.
While the four officers at the scene were immediately fired, Floyd’s family and others are demanding an transparent and independent investigation into the killing. Support the Floyd family via their GoFundMe here and contribute to the Minnesota Freedom Fund working to post arrestees’ bails.
Anti-racist protesters arrested in Minneapolis seeking jail support can call the NLG Minnesota Chapter at 612-444-2654. To support the NLG’s ongoing legal support work, donate to our Mass Defense Program here.
Follow the NLG Minnesota Chapter at facebook.com/nlgminnesota.
The National Lawyers Guild, whose membership includes lawyers, legal workers, jailhouse lawyers, and law students, was formed in 1937 as the United States’ first racially-integrated bar association to advocate for the protection of constitutional, human and civil rights.