Upon arriving at the Minnesota State Capitol, two dozen bikers, who participated in a ride against police brutality on Tuesday, June 2, were met with apprehension by the protestors. But as they revved their engines and raised their fists in a sign of support, the crowd met them with cheers and celebration.
Black. White. Native American. Latino. Somalian. Harley. Chopper. Crotch rocket.
The roughly two dozen motorcycle enthusiasts who joined a new Facebook movement, Bikers Riding Against Police Brutality, last week could not have been more diverse. They spanned various ethnic backgrounds, rode different bikes, and included both blue and white collar workers.While their backgrounds may be different, two things tied them together: their love for motorcycles and desire to see an end to police brutality.
Joshua Nelson, who moved to Henderson in 2009, joined the Bikers Riding Against Police Brutality Facebook group the day it was formed, Monday, June 1. The very next day, he was one of about two dozen riders who met to ride down to the State Capitol, and from there, to Cup Foods and the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office.
The Capitol was filled with thousands of people protesting the police killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Nelson and the other bikers revved their motorcycle engines and raised their fists in the air in a sign of solidarity with the protestors.
Nelson could feel the change in the atmosphere. Protestors who at first appeared apprehensive and alarmed when the bikers showed up quickly turned to celebration when they realized their group was actually there to support them. “The joy we brought to those mourning at the memorial at Cup Foods still overwhelms me days later,” Nelson said. “It seems like such a simple thing to do, but I feel like I was able to contribute in a small way to making a difference.”
By Friday, June 5, the group had conducted two more rides to the Capitol, although Nelson did not make it to either of those. Nelson said he really enjoyed riding with people of various backgrounds. “We could all connect over the motorcycle and there was a shared humanity in it,” Nelson said. “If we find things we have in common, that really connects.”
At its core, Nelson said the B.R.A.P.B. community stands for solidarity and inclusion for all motorcycle riders, regardless of skin color or bike model.
Nelson said it has been hard for him to find a bike community that does not conflict with some of his personal beliefs, but he found a home with B.R.A.P.B. “It was really profound for me to get to ride with a diverse group of people for a positive cause in not just standing up to police brutality and racial inequality, but to also change the perspective of what a biker can be,” Nelson said.
B.R.A.P.B. was formed by Josh Dysthe of Minneapolis and has a mission of “advancing social justice within the Minneapolis and surrounding Minnesota communities.”
Dysthe said the inaugural ride last Tuesday, June 2, went better than he could have imagined. “Raising our fists and revving our engines at the State Capitol and Cup Foods was something I’ll always remember, but our outreach can’t stop there,” Dysthe said. “I am hoping this group can make a difference in Minneapolis as well as the whole state of Minnesota.”
While right now they are riding to protest police brutality, group leader Dax Johnson, a St. Paul resident, said B.R.A.P.B. intends to focus on social injustice and discrimination in their own backyard and will “serve as an outlet to all of those who believe in a unified future to make a unified future.”
“We ride to support any cause in the community that needs our help,” Johnson said.
While the group was there to protest police brutality, Nelson said the group is not anti-police by any means. In some cases, police are asked to handle situations they may not be well trained for, like responding to people with mental health issues. In those cases, Nelson said he would rather see a trained mental health professional respond instead of a police officer.
He also wants to see the system that has at times protected bad cops and punished good cops undergo a change. “I think this thing has really exposed what is going on in the minority communities that we have not heard about,” Nelson said. “For there to be such a culture of protection and things like that — how could there be officers out there who think anything like that is OK?”