I was on the ground during the Minneapolis protests and hit with tear gas. This is what the disturbing scene looked like.by Hannah Lindstrom
- I participated in the Minneapolis protests over the last week that made national news.
- I was teargassed and saw the confrontation between protestors and police first hand.
- This was my experience on the front lines.
- Hannah Lindstrom is a student in Minneapolis.
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On Monday, George Floyd died after being pinned to the ground by Derek Chauvin, a white police officer on duty, for around eight minutes.
In Minneapolis, where the event occurred, the killing has set off a firestorm. The city, along with the rest of the country, has seen police continue to fatally interact with black individuals, despite strong resistance and calls for justice from the communities.
In the aftermath of Floyd's death, protests have made national news in their impact and scale. As a Minneapolis resident, I participated in some of these protests, and have seen firsthand how the encounters between police and citizens are unfolding and intensifying in violence and destruction.
The lived experience felt like history in the making.
On Tuesday morning, my partner called me distressed, saying that there had been a police altercation and someone died two blocks from their apartment.
The victim was Floyd, who was stopped by police in South Minneapolis. My partner lives three miles south of me. I live in an area of Minneapolis called Uptown, which is an area that serves mainly white middle- to upper-class residents of the city. My partner went to a protest Tuesday, which was peaceful, at the site of the shooting that day and night.
Wednesday I joined the protests.
My neighbor Missy* and I met on the front porch of our apartment stoop and looked at social media at what protesters needed in terms of supplies. Protests had begun at the Third Precinct Police Station of Minneapolis four miles from my home and two miles from the site of the incident. The Third Precinct is where the police officers involved worked.
We saw on Twitter that people were being tear-gassed and needed milk to soothe the burning effect.
I checked with an activist friend who informed me that water bottles that could be used as pressure eyewashes are more effective. We stocked up on supplies from a gas station and drove to the precinct, parking a mile away.
At the Third Precinct protest during the day, the protesters held their hands up in a submissive and peaceful way to the police officers, who were heavily armed and behind barricades.
The protesters shouted in unison "Don't shoot! Don't Shoot!" and "Say his name: George Floyd!"
Ten minutes after we showed up, the looting of Minnehaha Lake liquor store, across the street from the precinct, began.
A few people removed the plywood barriers to the store, then people began pouring in. The alarms of the store blared, and the police did nothing, holding down their fortress and ignoring the store.
There were supply stations of water, milk, snacks, alcohol, and first aid supplies that were spontaneously organized by a few individuals acting individually and in small associations.
There were also trained medics and professionals walking around as citizens offering medical care.
Police started shooting tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowd.
There was nothing discernibly different about how the crowd was behaving from the perspective from within the crowd, but police began firing. There were casings and objects shot or thrown. My first instinct was to pick up the objects until I realized I had no idea what would happen if they detonated.
Being there reminded of photos of the Kent State shootings. "I can't believe that the police would ever shoot at me or be my enemy," Missy told me. "I remember when I was in elementary school and learning about the Civil Rights movement in class and how they hosed people, and how that made me cry so hard my mom picked me up from school and those images made me want to be nice to all people."
The police aimed directly at people.
One man I saw was shot in the neck with a rubber bullet and lay on the ground, his eyes wide open, and people gathered around him frantically asking if there was a nurse or doctor around. I don't know what happened to him.
People around me ran, and I kept taking pictures. Then a tear gas canister exploded near me and I smelled it, held my breath, turned around, and ran as fast as I could to fresh air.
When I got to fresh air about 600 yards away I started to feel the burning of my face skin. I called my friend who I lost track of, screaming in pain to come find me and help me. I poured water on my face to flush the chemicals off, and it burned for maybe ten minutes after. My partner's friend had inhaled it and had needed Throat Coat tea because of the irritation, and Missy's partner also has symptoms of respiratory irritation.
Some individual protesters threw fireworks back at the police, and after I was tear-gassed I left.
After I got home, I heard that the AutoZone near the precinct was set on fire. More reports of looting in that precinct area and fires were passed by word of mouth through the night amongst my friends and neighbors.
Thursday morning, Missy and I met again on the stoop. We drove through Uptown to assess any damage or proximal danger and the threat level for the night ahead.
Calhoun Square, one of the city's well know malls, and many shops were being boarded up. Other than that, everyone was driving around as if everything was normal. Rumors of looting in Midway circulated. The chaos versus normality in different geographic regions was disconcerting.
Popular destinations like the Apple store were being boarded up.
On Thursday evening, protests escalated and the Third precinct was set on fire, with demonstrators calling for the arrest of the officer who knelt on Floyd.
On Friday, the extend of damage done to businesses revealed itself.
Many corporate businesses frequented by white middle-class clientele were looted, for example: Urban Outfitters and the Apple store.
The Walgreens down the block from me was looted.
The Walgreens' floor was flooded from the fire system, and the alarm was blaring. I had to cover my nose and mouth due to the stench of chemicals, like hair dyes scattered across the floor. A person was trying to see if anything was left in a broken open ATM.