George Floyd memorial organized in St. Louis Park

Community gathers to remember resident

Seniors+Victoria+Caraballo+and+Selena+Nejib+lead+a+group+of+Park+students+and+alumni+from+the+St.+Louis+Park+City+Hall+building+back+to+the+overpass+May+28.+The+memorial+began+5%3A30+p.m.+and+continued+into+the+evening.

Emily Ziessman

Seniors Victoria Caraballo and Selena Nejib lead a group of Park students and alumni from the St. Louis Park City Hall building back to the overpass May 28. The memorial began 5:30 p.m. and continued into the evening.

By Talia Lissauer and Marta Hill

Hundreds of community members joined together at the intersection of Minnetonka and Highway 100 May 28 to remember George Floyd. The most active participants were current Park students and recent graduates, according to senior Gabriella Thomas. And for her, attending this memorial was important because Floyd died in Minneapolis and lived in St. Louis Park. 

“We’re living through history right now, and especially because it’s in our city, I think that everyone who has an opportunity to go should participate in these protests and these memorials,” Thomas said. “And that’s besides the fact of the purpose behind them and how important it is to fight for justice and how badly we need change.” 

After attending several protests over the last few days, senior Selena Nejib said the memorial in St. Louis Park was calmer than other events. 

“I have been trying to go to as many protests as I can, specifically this one because it is a lot closer. I am hitting up others, but this one is really close and I thought it was convenient,” Nejib said.

Marta Hill & Maggie Klaers

The Honoring George Floyd – Peaceful/Socially Distanced Gathering was organized with the goal of remembering George Floyd, according to Kirsten Brekke Albright, who was involved in organizing the memorial. People gathered at an empty parking lot on Minnetonka Boulevard and Highway 100 and moved across various bridges over Highway 100.

“Let’s simply gather in a peaceful safe space and try to have the gathering be a place for healing, a place for appropriate rage and grief,” Brekke Albright said. “It was really a communal effort and I do think that the momentum was there, people were ready … given that it was such a last minute thing I think sometimes the stars align and the community really needs that opportunity.

After three days of protests, looting and vandalism, the former police officer caught on video kneeling on George Floyd’s neck has been charged with 3rd degree murder and manslaughter May 29, according to The New York Times.  

As junior Claire Diamond-Wheeler joined other peaceful protesters in St. Louis Park to honor George Floyd, she said she feels she need to do her part in creating change. 

“Seeing things like that happening in our community, in the city that we come from, is really heartbreaking. It feels wrong to do nothing in situations like this. We need to come together as a community no matter what race you are and just support everyone and love everyone,” Diamond-Wheeler said. 

The memorial started off quieter than other events, according to Diamond-Wheeler, but people slowly became more comfortable. 

“A bunch of high schoolers came in the middle and we started doing chants and waving at people in the cars. A lot of cars would start honking and waving and smiling at us and it was really empowering and it made a lot of us happy to see the effects just us being there was having on them so it was a really positive feeling,” Diamond-Wheeler said. 

Throughout the memorial, Thomas held a sign that read “condolences do not equal change” because she said she wanted to impart that message onto the crowd and anyone driving by. 

“Minneapolis has shown that it’s a huge deal to us, and that we’re not just going to send thoughts and prayers to this horrible action and that we’re going to take it into our own hands and create change because just sitting back and observing what decisions politicians and others may make will not enact change,” Thomas said.

While posts circulating through social media raise awareness, Thomas said she believes people need to attend in-person events to truly understand the movement.

“It was great for me to see the variety of people that showed up and cared. I think it’s so important for people from all different backgrounds and all different places to fight for this and to experience these protests in their own way because the power of the movement can’t really be done justice through viewing it on a video,” Thomas said. 

Sophomore Mona Reagan said the memorial was rife with emotion and for her it was good to see people united.

“It’s all over with emotions I think. It makes me happy to see people come out and support, but it also makes me frustrated because we shouldn’t have to do this. It shouldn’t be a thing we’re fighting for,” Reagan said. 

Nejib said she thought the impact of the protests and gatherings has been larger than expected. 

“It’s scary how much it has affected the people around me in the community. I knew it would affect people, but just to see how long people are staying out there and what they are willing to do, it’s really something different,” Nejib said. 

Seniors Victoria Caraballo and Selena Nejib lead a group of Park students and alumni from the St. Louis Park City Hall building back to the overpass May 28. The memorial began 5:30 p.m. and continued into the evening. (Emily Ziessman)

Brekke Albright said she was grateful to see the number of white people coming together to fight long standing systemic problems alongside the people of color that attended. 

“When we gathered there was a lot of youthful representation of people of color. And that was beautiful and honestly we stepped back, we step back and we let those voices lead because they chose to do that and that was beautiful,” Brekke Albright said. 

Thomas said communities need to be educated and willing to participate in a movement larger than themselves.

“I think that at this point staying quiet and not being a part of the movement has shown me that some people don’t realize how deep this problem runs and how big of an injustice it is,” Thomas said. “I believe that if people are able to go, they should very well participate and at least experience the activism that is happening because it is so important.”

The memorial was a way for people to show their support for the cause and to honor Floyd, according to Diamond-Wheeler. 

“I really want people to see that we are all in this together and we should be loving, caring for each other in our community no matter who you are. If you don’t do anything you are a bystander and you aren’t helping the cause,” Diamond-Wheeler said. “You can’t just sit around and do nothing while you see other people in your community suffering.”

This story was originally published on The Echo on May 29, 2020.