A spark in Minneapolis: From grief to activism

This story is part of a special On the Ground series examining the impact of the summer’s nationwide protests – from the police killing of George Floyd to Election Day. Explore the series here.

MINNEAPOLIS – On May 25th, 2020, outside of Cup Foods on the corner of Chicago and 38th Avenue, George Floyd died under the knee of officer Derek Chauvin while Officers Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao stood by. Darnella Fraser, a 17-year-old, filmed the incident. Her video quickly went viral and sparked widespread outrage and protests across the world. Fraser was recently awarded the PEN/Benenson Courage Award for her bravery in bearing witness, cited with changing the course of American history. 

After George Floyd was killed on that spring day in Minneapolis, the city erupted in protests, rallies and marches, which were followed by unrest, looting, police violence, strict curfews and the deployment of the National Guard. Several instances of unrest and destruction were later found to be the result of actions carried out by white supremacists and opportunists looking to further the racial divide and discredit the movement for equality. In a country that was already deeply politically divided, a pandemic and resulting economic crisis intersected in a monumental moment that is likely to have an indelible impact on American society for generations. The response to this moment inspired a massive reckoning and demand for accountability throughout the world. 

I found myself at the converging point of our collective history in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, where with my camera I witnessed many diverse communities unify and demand justice for those lost at the hands of police brutality and systemic racism. From grief, anger and mourning came unity, reconciliation and action. These images are just a handful of the moments that shaped the summer of 2020; there are countless others. 

Art, flowers, and offerings adorn the outside of Cup Foods on 38th and Chicago Ave, the memorial site for George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Jaida Grey Eagle/Sahan Journal)
Graffiti reading “Justice for Floyd” alongside Minnehaha Liquors, a building that caught fire during the civil unrest in Minneapolis, MN on Lake Street June 3, 2020. (Photo by Jaida Grey Eagle/Sahan Journal)
National Guard were deployed on Aug. 26, 2020 after a group of about 500 people looted and shattered windows of 40 some businesses downtown Minneapolis after rumors spread that Minneapolis Police killed another Black man downtown Minneapolis, which was later dispelled by the release of security footage that showed the man had shot himself. (Photo by Jaida Grey Eagle/Sahan Journal)
A few hundred protesters marched in Downtown Minneapolis on Aug 24, 2020 in Solidarity with Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot in the back by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jaida Grey Eagle/Sahan Journal)
A young man stands amidst two hundred protesters from Minnesota’s Oromo community gathered at the State Capitol Tuesday, June 30, 2020, to protest the killing of musician and activist Hachalu Hundessa in Ethiopia. (Photo by Jaida Grey Eagle/Sahan Journal)
Fanta Diallo, a 2020 University of Minnesota graduate, speaks at a sit-in held at University of Minnesota’s President Joan Gabel’s lawn, demanding the university defund the university police department on June 25, 2020. (Photo by Jaida Grey Eagle/Sahan Journal)
Hundreds of people from Minnesota’s Oromo community took over I-94W in St. Paul Wednesday evening on July 1, 2020. (Photo by Jaida Grey Eagle/Sahan Journal)
Many of the protesters were among the Oromo diaspora’s youth. (Photo by Jaida Grey Eagle/Sahan Journal)
They protested against the killing of prominent singer and activist Hachalu Hundessa who was shot and killed in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa on June 29, 2020. (Photo by Jaida Grey Eagle/Sahan Journal)
Several hundred protesters in St. Paul, Minnesota gathered at the State Capitol and eventually led a march that shut down the I-94 on the evening of Sept. 23 to protest the grand jury’s decision not to criminally charge the officers involved with Breonna Taylor’s death in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Jaida Grey Eagle/Sahan Journal)