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Pretrial hearing for cops that killed George Floyd, large protest demands justice

By Jess Sundin and Jae Yates |
September 16, 2020
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Crowd surrounding the media cage, where the Floyd family and attorneys holds press conference on the case. (FightBack!News/Staff)

Minneapolis, MN - Nearly 500 gathered outside the barricaded Family Justice Center on Friday, September 11, where the four former cops who murdered George Floyd had a pretrial hearing. Each of them has filed motions for dismissal of their charges and for a change of venue to move the trial out of the metro area. TCC4J organized what became a six-hour presence outside the courthouse, with speakers, chanting and music.

In addition to the concrete barricades blocking the street and a ten-foot high fence around the building, organizers had to deal with a handful of disruptors, one of whom was inexplicably riding a scooter around the space, heckling some of the speakers at the event. TCC4J largely ignored the disruption, instead focusing on justice for George Floyd and giving a platform for the families to speak.

Among those who spoke, Toshira Garraway of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence gave an impassioned speech calling for an end to infighting in the activist community and for people to recognize the manipulation of the facts by the defense in the George Floyd case. “How many were not filmed? How many did they get to edit? If they’re trying to dismiss the charges and they’re trying to pin George Floyd’s murder off on something else, and we watched it with our own eyes - we saw him get murdered on that ground! So imagine what they have done for what we did not see.”

Michael Toussaint, father of Myon Burrell, spoke about his son’s wrongful imprisonment 17 years ago. Burrell’s case has received a great deal of attention since Amy Klobuchar used it in her failed presidential campaign as an example of her positive work on behalf of the African American community. Current Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman also prosecuted the case, after the first conviction was thrown out. Burrell is still fighting for his freedom today, despite overwhelming evidence that he had no part in the murder of Tyesha Edwards. Toussaint called out Freeman’s role in the Burrell case, along with his failure to prosecute the cops who have killed dozens of civilians during his time as county attorney.

At one point, news reached the crowd outside that Judge Peter Cahill had ordered Mike Freeman off the case (the prosecution is led by state Attorney General Keith Ellison), in part for his sloppy work early on in this case. Despite this ruling being in favor of a defense motion, the crowd of protesters cheered the decision. Freeman is wildly unpopular.

In an official statement read at the event, TCC4J also reiterated the need for community control of the police. “If we had that, these killer cops would not even be on the force. New recruits would not be trained to kill, maim and brutalize as a first resort. Bystanders would have been empowered to step in and save Mr. Floyd’s life, without fear of being killed themselves.”

As it became clear that the crowd was committed to stay until the end of the hearing, emcees Jae Yates and Angel Smith El brought many other community leaders up to speak to the crowd and hold the space. These included Elizer Darris of ACLU-MN; Anika Bowie of NAACP-Mpls’ Mohamed Ibrahim from CAIR-MN; Trahern Crews of Black Lives Matter MN; Danielle Burns, Jamar Clark’s sister; Monique Cullars-Doty from TCC4J, a member whose nephew Marcus Golden was killed by SPPD in 2015; Michelle Gross of CUAPB; Yariah Myers representing TCC4J; Chauntyll Allen of Black Lives Matter-Twin Cities Metro; Marques Armstrong from Racial Justice Network, and Cortez Rice, George Floyd’s nephew.

Shortly after the hearing ended, the killer cops walked out of the building. As soon as they were spotted by protesters, the crowd erupted with angry chants and jeers. Thomas Lane and Aleander Keung were escorted through the crowd by police, and hundreds took off after them, following them down the block and around the corner. A smaller crowd of protesters spotted Derek Chauvin taking a different exit and shouted as he was placed in the police vehicle for his return trip to jail.

Once Chauvin was off the scene, protesters returned to the courthouse, where George Floyd’s family and their attorneys held a press conference and addressed the crowd of protesters, thanking them for their support. Rather than ignore the crowd, the family’s representation took a wireless mic from organizers so that the crowd could hear the address. Attorney Ben Crump spoke to the allegation that George Floyd’s death was caused by overdose. “They are trying to claim that the knee on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds had nothing to do with his death. The only overdose that killed George Floyd was an overdose of excessive force and racism.”

As part of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, TCC4J’s is organizing a march for the upcoming National Day of Protest on September 19. Nationally, they are demanding community control of the police, an end to the slaying of Black lives, and an end to police and military forces being deployed to suppress protests. In Minneapolis, TCC4J will also call for the re-opening of local cases of police murder that were never prosecuted. The march will begin at 1 p.m. at Plymouth and James Avenues North, at the site where Jamar Clark’s life was taken by the Minneapolis Police Department in 2015.

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