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All eyes are on Minneapolis after the murder of George Floyd by former police officer Derek Chauvin. Protests that started in the Twin Cities have since spread across the country, as citizens grieve and speak out against institutionalized brutality. The site of George Floyd’s murder has been memorialized by local artists with a mural, and a makeshift memorial has also appeared at the location (pictured above).
Minneapolis scholar and photographer Artyom Tonoyan attended the protests in Minnesota’s largest city on Thursday, May 28, and found the event incredibly emotional and overwhelming. As the night devolved, crowds grew and police brought out tear gas and rubber bullets to intimidate protesters.
“This is the second time I have tried to document protests in the wake of police killings of African Americans in Minneapolis, the first being the case of Philando Castile,” Tonoyan told Hyperallergic. “In both cases the emotions among the protestors were running high. But in this case the rawness of the anger and the emotional depth of the protests were on a qualitatively different scale. Being at the site of George Floyd’s killings was a really intense and somber experience. When you witness so much real grief, and by real grief I mean grief that is not in the abstract, it becomes hard to separate yourself from that atmosphere. At moments it felt like you are being enveloped and I had to constantly remind myself that I was there as an observer. It is such a sad situation. Just seeing young African American parents explaining to their barely-out-of-diapers children what has happened and why people are angry and crying was heartbreaking really. I couldn’t bear myself to push the shutter button, it was so painful to see their startled response.”
With the photographer’s permission, we have blurred the faces of all the protesters in the images, including distinctive markings or jewelry. This decision comes after reports last year that a disquieting number of people associated with the Michael Brown protests in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 have since died. With the pattern of those deaths of prominent Ferguson protesters there has been speculation that the circulation of images may have contributed to their targeting; the Chicago Tribune reported that, “Six deaths, all involving men with connections to protests in Ferguson, Missouri, drew attention on social media and speculation in the activist community that something sinister was at play.” This editorial decision has been made to protect the safety of participants in the protests.