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Black activists worked to calm unrest

Activists say wounds are still fresh from George Floyd's death, and without their efforts, the damage to downtown could have been much worse.

MINNEAPOLIS — When rumors spread of another police shooting of a black man in downtown Minneapolis, activist Nekima Levy Armstrong said the Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo called her, told her what happened and said there was video to prove it.

That’s when Armstrong and other Black activists and community leaders decided to head downtown.

“I was able to watch the video and shared the video with other activist in my home,” said Armstrong. “And we began to show people the video and talk to people and try to tell people the true story of what happened in that situation.”

She said without their efforts the damage to downtown could have been much worse.

Along with Armstrong, Chauntyll Allen, one of the leaders of Black Lives Matter Minneapolis helped to spread the word of what really happened.

“We wanted to get downtown and try and see if we can give the community the truth, provide them with the video without it being public,” said Allen.

Allen said despite their efforts to stop the mayhem, police were disrespectful to her and other peaceful protesters in the crowd. 

“Individuals need to recognize how they treat other citizens. All of us are not criminals. I think that when they looked at me, I had this hat on and my regular clothes and [I’m] Black. This fits the description of being a criminal, and so they felt like they had the right to talk to me in any kind of way. I think step one is getting officers to recognize every citizen is a human being,” said Allen.

Peace activist KG Wilson was also downtown. He was one of the first to see the video. 

"I was one of the few people who actually knew the story of what actually happened and so I was trying to get them to hear me out; I was begging them to hear me out and just be patient and peaceful until the video comes out," Wilson recalled. "It's heartbreaking and it's frustrating because I do everything I can to try and promote peace and to help rebuild the community." 

Among other things, Wilson does outreach for the "A Mother's Love" initiative. 

"There is so much distrust in the community and in our city that it's only a small spark to get it started. Whether that spark is correct or whether it's wrong and in this instance it was wrong," said Donna Morris, program director for A Mother's Love. 

Founder/Director Lisa Clemons said they are focused on what happened before the looting, with people witnessing a man die by suicide. 

"How do we talk to people who witnessed that? How do we talk to people about the pain and trauma from that?" Clemons said.

Allen pointed out the dichotomy of the way police sometimes treat Black people and the way they treated a white, 17-year-old male in Kenosha, Wisconsin this week. According to investigators, the teen had just shot three people and in one video can be seen walking up to and then passed multiple police squads. The teen made it to his home in Illinois before being detained the following day and charged with homicide.

“You keep telling us that all lives matter. But we keep seeing the evidence that all lives don't matter, because Black lives do not matter,” said Pastor Brian Herron of Zion Baptist Church. “We are sitting on a tinder box. There's no doubt about that.”

During our interview with Armstrong, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey called her. We were unable to hear the conversation, but Armstrong said he called her to thank her and other community activists for their efforts to spread the truth Wednesday night.

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