Minnesota official sings ‘Amazing Grace,’ calls racism a ‘public health issue’ during emotional briefing

Minneapolis City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins sang “Amazing Grace” during remarks to reporters Thursday, calling racism a “public health issue” and urging peace amid ongoing protests over the death of George Floyd.

Jenkins offered her condolences to the Floyd family, adding that “I also stand here to grieve with my community today. With all the black people all throughout this country, all throughout America and right here in Minneapolis, we feel as if there was a knee on all of our collective necks.” 

“A knee that says black life does not matter to the institutions that dictate what happens in this culture and society. I am a part of this system to help to take that knee off of our necks, and that is the work that I will be doing,” Jenkins said.

“As we stand here grieving yet another loss of black life, a senseless, tragic loss of black life, I really don’t have many words, but I know that something’s got to change, and so I am asking my colleagues, the mayor and anyone else who is concerned about the state of affairs in our community to declare a state of emergency declaring racism as a public health issue,” she continued. 

Floyd died earlier this week after his arrest by city police. A video taken by a passerby shows Floyd lying on the street as an officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck. 

Jenkins said that “until we name this virus, this disease that has infected America for the past 400 years, we will never ever resolve this issue.”

Jenkins’s call came during an emotional press conference with city leaders. Mayor Jacob Frey also appeared choked up as he addressed reporters, saying that the outbreak of protests in Minneapolis “night is the result of so much built up anger and sadness.”  

“If you’re feeling that sadness, that anger, it’s not only understandable, it’s right. It’s a reflection of the truth that our black community has lived. While not from lived experience, that sadness must also be understood by our non-black communities. To ignore it, to toss it out would be to ignore the values that we all claim to have, that are all the more important during a time of crisis,” Frey said.

“I believe in Minneapolis,” Frey said, his voice breaking. “I love Minneapolis, and in believing in our city we must believe that we can be better than we have been.”

Frey, Jenkins and police chief Medaria Arradondo all called for peace in the streets of Minneapolis. Some violent protests erupted Wednesday night in the city, with photos and videos from the demonstration showing businesses burning and looters striking some stores.

Police officers in the city fired tear gas, rubber bullets and other nonlethal equipment. Thousands of protesters were seen across the city, with some chanting “I can’t breathe,” which Floyd can be heard saying in the video, and “no justice, no peace.”

Tags Andrea Jenkins George Floyd Jacob Frey Medaria Arradondo Minneapolis Minneapolis City Council Minnesota Police police brutality Protests
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