MIGIZI Set on Fire During Minneapolis Protests: ‘Despite Flames, We as a Community Burn Brighter’

Among the casualties of the escalating protests Thursday was the homebase of MIGIZI, by virtue of its location near the heart of the violence. (MIGIZI Facebook)

Protests broke out across Minneapolis (and nationwide) Thursday over the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man. On Monday, a cell phone video captured a white Minneapolis police officer pinning Floyd to the ground by pressing his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes, as Floyd gasped for air and pleaded “I can’t breathe,” until he went limp and unconscious. He later died. The police officer has been taken into custody and charged with third-degree murder.

Floyd’s unnecessary death enraged protestors who took to the streets. Outrage spun out of control Thursday, when protestors set a Minneapolis police station on fire, then destroyed and looted stores — including minority-owned businesses. 

Minnesota’s Native American lieutenant governor Peggy Flanagan, White Earth Ojibwe, commented: “The anger and grief of this moment is unbearable. People deserve to be seen. People deserve to be heard. People deserve to be safe. While many are taking extensive safety precautions while exercising their right to protest, the demonstration last night became incredibly unsafe.”

Among the casualties of the escalating protests Thursday was the homebase of MIGIZI, by virtue of its location near the heart of the violence. 

“MIGIZI Communications is gone,” Rosy Simas shared on Facebook. “My family and many others build this Native organization that has served the Native community for over 40 years. Archives are there. Yes, it is just a building. But to the Native community this is territory, a home we still had here. Our lands stolen. We built this place for all people and many communities were loved, educated and thrived at MIGIZI. I’m heartbroken. My sister has worked there for about 40 years. My mother is a founder. I worked there on and off for 13 years. Countless other Native and non Native people worked there. I’m just heartbroken.” 

The nonprofit organization was founded in Minneapolis in 1977 with the goal of countering the misrepresentations and inaccuracies about Native people in the media. The organization particularly honors Native youth as contributors and catalysts for change. MIGIZI’s pathways program offers internship and career exploration opportunities for Native youth in social media marketing and green energy.

“We were set to employ 50 youth this summer, I am devastated,” Binesikwe Means posted on Facebook. 

A fundraiser to raise money to rebuild MIGIZI is quickly nearing its $50,000 goal: Rhiana’s fundraiser for MIGIZI Communications Inc. MIGIZI is also accepting donations via GIVEMN.org

MIGIZI shared on Facebook: “Despite the flames, we as a community burn brighter. Thank you all for all the support we’ve been receiving. We look forward to showing our resilience once again.” 

American Indian Movement leaders sought to protect MIGIZI offices during escalating protests. (MIGIZI Facebook)

American Indian Movement, Founded to Curb Police Violence, Sought to Protect MIGIZI

Although American Indian Movement representatives guarded MIGIZI offices Thursday night, violence overtook, and MIGIZI went up in flames. 

MIGIZI’s offices contained recordings of interviews with leaders of the American Indian Movement, among other valuables.

Minneapolis was the birthplace of the American Indian Movement, founded in 1968 to curb police violence. 

“The MPD has a long history of violence against Indigenous people and people of color. The American Indian Movement was founded in Minneapolis … as a direct response to unchecked brutality being perpetrated by the Minneapolis Police Department upon our community members,” Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors (MUID) said in a joint statement.

Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors 

Thirty urban Indian organizations in the Twin Cities have expressed solidarity with the black community concerning the death of George Floyd. In a letter, the Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors (MIUD) condemned the ongoing and systemic racist ideologies that continue to run strongly through the police department. 

In a letter, dated May 27th, 2020, and addressed “To All Our Relations,” the Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors group states: 

“In no uncertain terms, the membership of this collaborative strongly condemns the murder of one of our fellow citizens, at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department. Furthermore, Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors Group condemns the ongoing and systemic racist ideologies that continue to run strongly through the department like a virulent and lethal pathogen. This disease of spirit is actively polluting the minds of some of the rank and file to the point where they are no longer able to perform their tax payer funded jobs with any degree of professionalism, or with any legitimate capacity to restrain themselves from brutalizing and murdering fellow human beings. To this we collectively and loudly proclaim NO MORE.” 

Minnesota Indigenous Business Alliance (MNIBA)

MNIBA: George Floyd’s Death Magnifies Discrimination Against Communities of Color 

The Minnesota Indigenous Business Alliance, an organization committed to connecting businesses to resources and transforming Native economies, released the following statement about George Floyd’s death and how it magnifies the ongoing discrimination against communities of color: 

The Minnesota Indigenous Business Alliance sends our deepest condolences to the family and friends of George Floyd. No matter the reason for him being taken in police custody, his cries for air were ignored, and the most basic human right and dignity were denied a fellow human being.

On a day where deaths from COVID 19 hit a terrible milestone, the world is watching as communities of color are protesting in Minnesota.

Unfortunately, many Minnesotans like to think of themselves as progressive, that these glaring disparities and inequities are not part of their Minnesota narrative. But according to data sourced from several government databases, this is less true if you happen to be Black, Indigenous, Asian, Latino, or a new American/immigrant.

During these protests we are seeing a strong presence and support from the Indigenous community as we have and continue to struggle under the same disparities.

Please read the numbers – Minnesota Ranks 45th in the country for the least Racial Integration and Racial Progress. As communities of color, we have been all too aware of these statistics for far too long.