ON Wednesday night, 25 year-old Michael Oiseoghade was visiting his fiancee in South Minneapolis, US, when he first saw the video of the death of George Floyd. The 46-year-old Floyd died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck while three other officers looked on. Later that night, Oiseoghade would witness the riot that followed the killing, and buildings being vandalised, looted and burned to the ground.
Oiseoghade told Newsday during an interview that he was very angry after watching the video.
"It was very disheartening that the police officer could just rest his feet on (Floyd’s) neck until he died."
The four officers were fired after the incident but have not been charged.
Oiseoghade has lived in the US for the past five years and it was there he experienced racism for the first time. He was born in Nigeria but moved to Trinidad at age eight, growing up in Point Fortin. He migrated to the US in 2015 to study music at North Central University in Minneapolis, a city in the midwestern state of Minnesota. It was at the predominantly white, Christian institution that he was a target of racism.
"It was just so confusing to me coming from Trinidad, an all-black country. And it struck me that I was experiencing that from Christians."
Oiseoghade got a job and decided to stay in the US. He is a teacher at Agape Child Development Centre in Minneapolis and also technical director at his church. He lives at Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, which is 17 minutes away from where Floyd was killed. His fiancee, however, lives about four blocks away and, when he saw video footage of nearby department store Target being broken into, it was a two-minute drive for him and his fiancee's cousin to go and check it out.
And why did they go? Oiseoghade explained that he and his future cousin-in-law both do photography and wanted to shoot what was happening. At 7.50 pm they drove to Lake Street South where there is a strip mall with grocery stores, a gym and other stores.
"I am seeing people breaking the windows of Target, going inside and grabbing all kinds of stuff. People were angry and upset. They went to the other grocery store and broke into it."
The rioters were also breaking down barricades on the building.
"After a while I was like, 'It's getting crazy out here.'"
He and his cousin-in-law left and returned to the apartment. Later that night he was hearing flash bangs going off and he decided to return and photograph what was happening.
"I have never seen anything like it."
When he returned he saw an auto parts shop on fire, people breaking into gyms and looting dumbbells and weights, a Wendy's restaurant was burnt down and the tall framework of an apartment building being constructed was also burnt down. Also during the riot, liquor stores were broken into, an ATM machine was stolen, and a large bag of money was also stolen.
"Small businesses around the area, if they were not black-owned, they got raided."
Asked if he was concerned about his safety while photographing the rioting, Oiseoghade said he was "watching (his) back" but he was not greatly concerned.
"Nobody there to hurt anybody, but just to make a statement about police brutality. There were no fights. All the energy was directed to the police officers."
He explained that the police station where the officer who killed Floyd works was close to the targeted area and this is why it was chosen. While he was there he saw police shoot one person with a rubber bullet.
In response to the riot, a SWAT team and the National Guard were called in. The protesters painted graffiti on walls. Their messages included: “2020 the year we fight back; pigs; oink oink; this is for you George; and this was murder.”
Oiseoghade said people are outraged over the incident, but he does not condone the destruction of properties. On Thursday, businesses were putting up barriers and he noted that the situation has not calmed down. He believes if the four police officers are eventually acquitted, the situation will get much worse.