Trade unionists with Minnesota Workers United demand justice for George Floyd
Minneapolis, MN – Around 500 rank-and-file union members and officials from dozens of unions came together at Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman’s house in Southwest Minneapolis, May 31, to demand justice for George Floyd and an end to racist policing. The protesters were resolved not to let racist tropes about outside agitators stop them from doing what is right.
The crowd was fiery and boisterous as 13 speakers gave moving testimony and calls to action to stand up for justice and stand up for George Floyd. Many speakers remarked on their experiences as Black people in America and what it is like to be routinely harassed and threatened by racist policing. Several mentioned that they are not outside agitators but instead are from the community where these events have occurred and have seen community members come out in huge numbers to fight for justice. Many calls were made for everyone there to stay out in the streets and do what it takes until justice is served. Demands were made to arrest all four cops who were part of murdering George Floyd.
Mahva Jones is an executive board member with AFSCME Local 3800, which represents clerical workers at the University of Minnesota, and she had this to say, “The system is not broken, it is working as designed. At no point in this country's origin were Black people meant to be anything other than slaves or dead.”
Hennepin County Attorney Mike freeman waited four days to file any charges against any of the officers who participated in the murder of George Floyd. When he did he only charged police officer Derek Chauvin, and only with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, despite his kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for eight and a half minutes as he begged for his life and slowly slipped into unconsciousness with a crowd surrounding him shouting that Chauvin was killing the man. Three other officers participated both directly and by standing watch and keeping people back so they could not help stop officer Chauvin and save Floyd’s life.
Harrison Bullard, executive board member with SEIU Local 26, said, “When Jamar Clark met with his unfortunate end, I said this on the steps of the government center, and I'll say it here today: When someone who is elected by you refuses to do the job they are there to do, so do what they do to you. Fire them.” He went on to talk about the need for the intense actions and protests that have occurred by members of the community over the last five days. He said, “You got to put fear in the police's hearts just like they put fear in the hearts of the Black people in our city. We got to live standing on our feet, not on our knees.”
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota executive board member Deb Howze said, “You want to talk about police brutality? It’s been going on since the beginning of time. It ain’t nothing new. But now we got a generation that’s standing up, speaking out, fighting back and saying hell no! We talk about boots on the ground? You’re damn right we got boots on the ground! We're going to turn this around. One is incarcerated. We don’t want no one. We want one, two, three, four incarcerated and all the rest of them that did wrong around here. We gotta stand up and keep fighting back.”
The protest was organized by Minnesota Workers United, which is rank-and-file union members united for solidarity, struggle and workers’ rights. One of the emcees at the event was AFSCME 3800 President Cherrene Horazuk who read a powerful quote from Dr Martin Luther King Jr reminding us of his calls to fight.
Here is the MLK quote that President Horazuk read: “We’re tired. We are tired of being at the bottom. We are tired of being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression. We are tired of our children having to attend overcrowded, inferior, quality less schools. We are tired of having to live in dilapidated substandard housing conditions where we don’t have wall to wall carpet, but so often end up with wall to wall rats and roaches. We are tired. Smothering in an airtight cage in the midst of an affluent society. We are tired of walking the streets in search of jobs that do not exist. We are tired of working our hands off every day and not even making a wage that is adequate for the basic necessities of life. We are tired.”
President Horazuk went on to further quote Dr King saying, “Now the other thing is that nothing is gained without pressure. Never forget that freedom is not something that is ever voluntarily given by the oppressor. It is something that must be demanded by the oppressed.” She went on to remind us that Dr. King said that “A riot is the language of the unheard.”
Minnesota Workers United will continue to stand together in the streets and in their unions to fight for justice until police are no longer able to kill Black and brown people in the streets.
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