FARGO — Rallying behind what they consider year-long broken promises from police and elected officials, protesters gathered in front of the 13th Avenue Fargo Police Department during the Justice for George Floyd Solidarity Rally on Sunday, March 7 to say their fight is far from over.
About 40 people attended the rally, which was part of a national call to action to raise awareness for Floyd, who died during a May 25, 2020 arrest while being pinned by a knee on his neck by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. The rally was also a reminder to the public about families of those affected by police brutality.
Fargo’s rally, which was organized by the newly-formed Red River People Over Profits Initiative, preceded Chauvin's trial with jury selection slated to start on Monday, March 8, in downtown Minneapolis. The jury selection is expected to take a few weeks, with the trial's opening statements scheduled to begin March 29.
“George Floyd was murdered by the police state,” said Jamaal Abegaz, formerly with Black Lives Matter, but now a coordinator with the African People’s Socialist Party. “They kill us to keep us in line, to keep us isolated and to keep us afraid.”
“Just because the Fargo Police Department isn’t blatantly killing people in the streets, that doesn’t mean that racism isn’t an issue in our community,” said Avalon Fyreheart, an organizer with the Red River People Over Profits Initiative.
Many speakers during the rally wanted to remind protesters and the public that issues raised during months of activism in Fargo during 2020 are still not solved.
“I just want to make sure that we do not forget that injustice is happening here too,” said Henry Gipp, an activist from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. “We have to remember what happened to the police department here. We have to remember former deputy chief Todd Osmundson. He was there. He was out there inciting a riot. He admitted in his administrative role that there was racism in the police force. What more do you need?”
Osmundson’s actions during the May 30, 2020 protest march and subsequent riot prompted an investigation by the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office. Media reports revealed Osmundson went undercover during the protest without authorization and was yelling obscenities about the police.
On Jan. 7, the Cass County state’s attorney said there was not enough evidence to support charges against Osmundson, who resigned from the police force in June.
Halfway through Gipp’s speech, a nearby car revved its engine.
“Yeah, there it is, that racist rev. You all remember that from last summer, right?” Gipp said.
“We stand in solidarity with George Floyd and we offer ourselves and we sacrifice. This isn’t just about him, it’s about all of the lives lost here and around the nation. Police are getting away with murder,” Gipp said.
Abegaz said police are putting property before people’s lives.
“It’s state-backed terror, to protect only private property and police are the shock troops to take from the working class and give to the wealthy,” he said.
Vanessa Clark, an organizer with the Red River People Over Profits Initiative, doesn’t have high hopes that Floyd’s family will see justice after Chauvin’s trial, which is set to begin this week.
“We’re here for the families and to let them know we are paying attention,” Clark said. “The system wants subservience. The system wants silence. But we will keep fighting together until the system works for our needs.”
Needs she described that include health, food and a roof over people’s heads, Clark said. “It may seem like a lot of our efforts are futile, but we can choose to sit on the sidelines, or we can choose to shine a light where it needs to be."