MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — July 19 marks the 53-year anniversary of a historic event in north Minneapolis that echoes today’s unrest.
The Aquatennial Torchlight Parade, for many, conjures the happiest of memories. For Harry “Spike” Moss, however, it brings back the saddest of times.READ MORE: University of Minnesota Will Require Proof Of Vaccination For Employees
“Every year we would go see the parade and the next day we would see how many people got beat up trying to watch it,” Moss said.
It was July 19, 1967, which was the height of the civil rights movement. He says officers beat two young Black girls who stepped out of place at the parade.
Moss was a teenager himself.
“We started fighting with them, throwing rocks to get them to stop. That was the very first rebellion ever,” he said.
Moss and fellow marchers later marched from downtown through north Minneapolis, where fires roared and the National Guard was called in. It happened near where the Minneapolis Police Department’s 4th Precinct now stands.
“We don’t riot. Riot is something without cause or purpose. It’s madness. We rebel to the pain and the trauma. The trauma is over 400 years without a break,” Moss said.
The newspaper described him as an “angry” young man.READ MORE: Buffalo Man Charged With Sexually Assaulting 18-Month-Old
“I tell you, that’s what the media did to us, prolonged our freedom,” he said.
It was during that rebellion that Moss decided to become a lifelong freedom fighter. And more than 50 years later, he was still standing as Minneapolis became the epicenter of another civil rights movement.
“I knew this was gonna be different. Not just from here, but around the world because people watched someone die from the beginning to the middle to the end,” Moss said.
Moss knew George Floyd. He said he had started to mentor him, before he died with an officer’s knee on his neck.
“It was déjà vu for me all over again. I’ve always called in my speeches, ‘Minnesota is Mississippi up north’, and I always meant it,” he said.
Moss says one thing that has changed is cameras and technology, which he says brings more accountability. As for hope, he says, “For me, it would be that the number of white people who wake up to this reality soars. If that soars, there is a chance for real change. If they don’t change, we stay where we are at.”
Moss says 53 years later he’s back on the block where it started and he’ll fight for freedom until the end.
“I’d like to see my people be free just one day before I’m gone. I would like to see them be free men and women in this country,” he said.MORE NEWS: Minneapolis Residents Can Submit Proposals For City Redistricting With New Online Tool
During the 1967 unrest in Minneapolis, the National Guard was called in to help with the fires and destruction. They’ve only been called in for similar reasons twice since then: the 2008 Republican National Convention and the unrest that followed the death of George Floyd.