Minneapolis Civil Unrest and Community Healing

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd died at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department when former officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. There were three other officers involved. The death of George Floyd, one of multiple incidents of unarmed black men and women killed by the police, sparked an uprising and civil unrest in Minneapolis and in many cities all over the world. People are putting pressure on police departments and politicians to listen to the diverse voices of community members and reconsider the ways in which we think about and practice public safety with racial justice and equity in view.

Why is Racial Agency Initiative responding in Minneapolis?

Jeanelle Austin, founder of RAI, was born and raised less than a quarter-mile away from the location where George Floyd died. Her mother still lives in the same house, and her brother bought the house right next-door for his family. On May 28th, as the civil unrest escalated, Jeanelle actively fed her family information on how to respond and help their neighbors navigate this moment well. She pulled from a wealth of resources including close friends, lessons learned from past uprisings, and personal protest experience. That day, here sister called and asked her to return home and help. Jeanelle was hesitant to show up in Minneapolis without being a local resident. However, her sister texted her a list of ways the work of Racial Agency Initiative and Jeanelle’s skill sets could be far more useful on the ground in Minneapolis then as remote support. Jeanelle bought a one-way ticket to Minneapolis, knowing that responding to and supporting justified civil unrest and rebuilding will take time.

Donations, Spending, and Volunteering

Before leaving Austin, Texas, Jeanelle’s friends began giving to support the work she was going to do on the ground. Knowing that the stores in her family’s neighborhood were closed due to the fires and looting, Jeanelle made initial purchases for protesting supplies in Texas, checking them on the plane. She purchased things like hardhats to protect against rubber bullets or tear cans flying in the air, gloves for people to protect themselves when picking up chemical cans, goggles for people to protect themselves against tear gas, umbrellas for people to protect themselves against airborne objects, milk of magnesia to treat those who have been teargas, a first aid kit for any injuries, extra face masks to distribute widely, and other things to support protesters. She was intentional to use funds to meet the needs of protesters in areas they might not have thought about prior to joining the protest.

On the night of May 30th, the George Floyd Memorial was raided by the police. On May 31st, a semi-truck drove into a crowd of protesters with whom she was marching. After these events, Jeanelle decided to tend to the memorial as part of her own self-care. She used portions of donated funds to care for what is now named George Floyd Square. She purchased recycling bins, garbage bags, broom and dust pan, trash cans for hot coals, and many other supplies for the community members showing up to be present for each other and the hundreds of visitors daily. A portion of the funds were used to purchase supplies for the George Floyd Community Medical Station and its volunteer doctors and nurses. The medical station not only serves the visitors to George Floyd Square, it also serves local community members who show up in need of immediate medical attention.

George Floyd Community Medical Station at early stages of growth.

Jeanelle volunteers 15-20 hours per week in effort to help the neighborhoods work toward racial justice. To support her work (and that of other protesters), Full Cycle Bike Shop donated a bike, which can be returned after she no longer needs it. In collaboration with other neighbors, community members, and volunteers, Jeanelle has facilitated the group of morning memorial community caretakers who volunteer to tend to the memorial. Their volunteer work includes taking plastic off of flowers laid at the memorial to prevent them from rotting and molding; tending to potted plants; identifying weather-damaged signs to be temporarily transferred to the Pillsbury House where space has been lended to the community efforts of sign preservation and memorial restoration (pictured below); cleaning the streets; composting dead flowers and plants; changing garbage bags; sweeping up broken glass; welcoming visitors; being present with people who are grieving; and being witnesses of the gifts that people from across the city, state, nation, and world have left in honor of George Floyd.

Morning Memorial Community Caretaker Guidelines:
1) Everything is somebody’s offering. Throw nothing away.
2) If you see a flower molded or rotten, please dispose of it for public health reasons. (Molded signs can be set aside for a preservation process.)
3) Get a second opinion. When in doubt, just ask.
4) Come when you can and stay for as long as you can. Your contribution, however long or short, is welcome.
5) Wear gloves. You can bring your own, or disposable gloves are available.
6) People are grieving, hold space for their grief.

Donation Spending CategoryAmount% of Donations
George Floyd Square/Memorial$955.1414%
George Floyd Community Medical Station$1,374.1919%
Community Trauma Healing$451.426%
Family/Personal Self-Care$265.674%
Transportation $252.984%
Allocation of donated funds, updated July 20, 2020.

Community trauma healing efforts are coming along nicely. On Saturday, July 25th, we will host our first Self-Care Fair by the Restorative Wellness Response Project. The project and subsequent fair has emerged out of the collaboration with Northwestern Health and Sciences University, Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association, and other practitioners to support the pursuit of racial justice with holistic health and wellbeing practices. The Restorative Wellness Response Project “is a body reclamation project that addresses embodied trauma and promotes self-care as a healthy form of resistance to injustice.” The Self-Care Fair is designed to be the first of a series of pop-up events to help community members and frontline protesters address the embodied trauma they experienced. The trauma may have occurred by watching the video of George Floyd or others being killed by police, engaging a militarized police force, experiencing their community on fire, the sound or witness of gunshots and emergency sirens, or any other experiences that were traumatic for them in this time of unrest. We want the community to develop a sustainable practice of self-care as resistance. We want the community to engage and continue both familiar and unfamiliar methods of coming to wholeness in their bodies.

In addition to the Self-Care Fair, Jeanelle compiled self-care packages for the medical tent and security volunteers and delivered them in early July.

Most Recent Updates (July 20, 2020)

The intersection of 38th and Chicago remains an autonomous zone cared for by local community members, supported by Minneapolis Public Works, Minneapolis Public Arts departments, various neighborhood organizations, Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins, and Commissioner Angela Conley. There are ongoing conversations happening between various stakeholders including but not limited to homeowners, business owners, renters, city officials, city employees, neighborhood associations, nonprofit organizations, religious leaders, and the unhoused. At this point, no decisions or conclusions have been made on nexts steps. There are differing opinions as to when the barricades should be lifted by the city. The city is committed to allowing the community voices speak into when that needs to happen. As a community, we are committed to the sacredness, safety, and sanitation of this space and the pursuit of justice. We are pouring in resources to honor the space, the people, and the public grief that both hold. People from all over the country and the world visit George Floyd Square to witness how Minneapolis is memorializing the death of George Floyd and the movement for justice that sparked as a result.

On Sunday, July 12th, Terry Willis completed his 1000 mile march for justice, equality, and change. Hundreds of people showed up at George Floyd Square to see this momentous occasion. Upon his arrival, it was announced that the mayor named July 12th as “Terry Willis Day.” While sitting at home resting from the 6.5 mile march, Jeanelle received a request to give Mr. Terry Willis a private family tour of the memorial. Below are pictures from that day and other moments tending to the memorial.


If you would like to donate your time or skill set, please contact Jeanelle at welcome@raiofjustice.com.

Jeanelle takes financial donations personally and redirects them to meet community needs on the ground. You may contribute to her efforts through any of the following platforms:
Venmo: @Jeanelle-Austin
CashApp: $JeanelleAustin
PayPal: www.paypal.me/JeanelleA







Racial Agency Initiative is not a nonprofit organization. Any donations to Jeanelle for her efforts in Minneapolis are not tax-deductible. If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to an organization in Minneapolis doing work on the ground, Racial Agency Initiative recommends the following options:

Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association
Corcoran Neighborhood
Lake Street Council
Urban Ventures

Thanks to our friends and partners that keep this work sustainable!

Dominique R.
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