SD African American History Museum director offers perspective on George Floyd death and protests in Minneapolis

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The death of George Floyd, and protests in Minneapolis — some peaceful, some violent — continue to shine a spotlight on the racial divide in America. Cell phone video shows Floyd, an unarmed black man, on the ground. A police officer had his knee on Floyd’s neck, even though Floyd said he couldn’t breathe. The Minneapolis Police Department fired that officer, Derek Chauvin, and three others involved.

Family and friends want justice for George Floyd.

“He stood up for people, he was there for people when they were down, he loved people that were thrown away,” Courteney Ross said. “We prayed over every meal, we prayed if we were having a hard time, we prayed if we were having a good time.”

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz has activated the National Guard after another night of violent clashes. Malls and public transportation shut down as some Minneapolis businesses boarded up windows, bracing for a third night. However, the director of the South Dakota African American History Museum says there is a bigger picture. Social media users quickly shared video of the incident, but Laura Renee Chandler still hasn’t watched it.

“I’ve seen it one too many times, and so have many other people of color. I want people to understand black and brown people are going through something very terrifying,” Chandler said.

Chandler has a Ph.D. in African American History. She says what happened in Minneapolis shows people of color can have a different perspective when it comes to experiences with law enforcement.

“That’s not to say everyone — (not) to paint everyone with a broad brush or to say all members of law enforcement are bad people. That’s not what we’re saying. We’re talking about how likely is it for individuals to have this experience,” Chandler said.

There are groups who are peacefully protesting Floyd’s death, but other groups have taken to violence and are destroying area businesses.

“This is not to justify anything, but to have perspective on where people are coming from. They riot because they feel unheard. They feel silenced. They feel powerless. They feel no other resource is available to them,” Chandler said.

Chandler hopes what’s happening here leads to a deeper conversation and more empathy about race relations in America.

“African Americans have said for years this is happening in our communities. This is part of our lived reality. I want people to understand that being an ally and being supportive means you can’t just be there when it’s on video,” Chandler said.

The Minneapolis mayor is calling for Derek Chauvin to face criminal charges. Minneapolis news reports show the 19-year department veteran has had at least a dozen police conduct complaints that resulted in no disciplinary action and one that led to a “letter of reprimand.” He was awarded the department’s Medal of Valor for his service in 2009.

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