MINNEAPOLIS — Blocks away from the shattered storefronts and clouds of chemical irritants was a different scene on Thursday, May 28: On the corner of the Powderhorn neighborhood's 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, where just three days prior George Floyd was choked by a Minneapolis Police officer, community members gathered to peacefully protest Floyd's death and honor his life.
On the sidewalk, a pile of signs, flowers, candles and balloons paid homage to Floyd. A clothing line hung from a telephone pole, offering free home-made masks to demonstrators amid the coronavirus pandemic. Artists painted a colorful mural of Floyd, surrounded by a sunflower and blue skies.
Bystander video captured the last moments of Floyd's life Monday, as a white officer knelt on his neck for several minutes and Floyd, who was black, repeated "I can't breathe" until he fell still. The scene mirrored that of Eric Garner, who cried the same words while in a New York police officer's chokehold in 2014 before he, too died.
Garner's mother Gwen Carr made an appearance at 38th and Chicago on Thursday, telling the crowd circled around her that watching Floyd perish "is just opening up our old wounds, and pouring salt in them." Six years after her son died, she said "the police officers keep coming into our neighborhoods."
"They brutalize. They terrorize. They murder our children," she said.
But she urged the community to resist violence. Instead, she encouraged onlookers to voice their frustration at the ballot box.
Civil rights activist Al Sharpton also made an appearance. He called for the prompt arrest and charging of officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd's neck Monday, as well as the three other officers present who did not intervene. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has also called for Chauvin's arrest, but the Hennepin County Attorney's Office says there is more investigating to be done first.
Though the scene in Powderhorn was peaceful, Sharpton said "we understand the outrage, and that the nearby looting and riots are "the unheard speaking." He said the city is reeling after seeing Floyd's death because "this is not the first time."
"When I got here, someone said to me, ‘Are you going to address the violence?’" Sharpton said. "The violence I’m addressing is how a man could hold a man down with a knee on his neck for nine minutes. That’s when the violence started. The violence started on this corner."
Pastor Curtis Farrar, who preaches at World Outreach for Christ Church, said the black community has a tumultuous relationship with the police, but that Chauvin's actions aren't representative of law enforcement as a whole. For example, he pointed to bicycles purchased for neighborhood youth by the city police last year.
But Farrar said that doesn't mean Chauvin is exonerated for what happened Monday. What the community would consider justice, Farrar said, would be for the legal system to not grant Chauvin any special privilege for his status as a police officer.
"They're supposed to be our example of what a good citizen really is," he said. "They are supposed to protect and serve."