Local Current Blog

Nur-D on the Justice Frontline Aid Crew: ‘You can put me in jail 1,000 times’

Nur-D in The Current studio, 2019. (Nate Ryan/MPR)

Throughout the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd, Morning Show host Jill Riley has been checking in with community members who have been actively participating in the events that have since unfolded. Riley connected with local hip-hop artist Nur-D after he had recently been arrested to discuss his work with the Justice Frontline Aid Crew, and inform people how they can help, and what they should do in the event that they are arrested as well.

Jill Riley:Nur-D, how are you doing this morning?

Nur-D: You know, I am doing a heck of a lot better than I was doing on Monday.

Tell us what happened on Monday. 

On Monday, my and my team, Justice Frontline Aid Crew, a group of like-minded individuals that sort of just fell into this very interesting position of seeing these peaceful protests that are going on across the Twin Cities, and realizing that they’re getting hurt in various ways, mostly by police action, and that there is nobody there to provide them with aid, first aid, even just water. It’s getting hotter out there, you know. There’s other factors involved in this whole thing that are also causing harm. There was nobody there. Ambulances aren’t coming, and people were just needing some support, so I formed a team with a really awesome group of people who are trained to help in that area, to go around to these protests and make sure that people are okay.

On Monday, we went to the Capitol building because we knew of a protest that was going to be there. We kind of figured, because it’s such a prominent building, that there would be a heavy police presence, and that there was a chance that our services might be needed. When we got to the peaceful protest, and it was 100% peaceful and a wonderful display of our democracy and freedom of speech at work, it was shut down by the police in a heavy show of police force. While the police were not violent, everybody involved was arrested, including me and my team. That’s what happened. That’s how my week started.

You live-streamed your arrest on Facebook. This happened on Monday night at the State Capitol, and so this was during the time of one of the curfew nights, where they weren’t really messing around with the curfew, and I could see it in your video, where I could hear people in the background singing “Lean on Me.” I mean, you were joining in and singing along, and suddenly, from the looks of the video, you found yourself surrounded by police.

Yup. When we stepped onto the steps of the Capitol, we knew. I think people need to hear this, because a lot of the time when people see the story, their first instinct is to say, “Well they were out after curfew, so they should know better.” I want everyone to hear this: we are aware. We were aware that we are out after curfew. We understand that we were breaking the law in that instance. However, as Martin Luther King says, sometimes the highest respect for the law is to receive the consequences for breaking a law that you feel is unjust. In our instance, we knew that as long as the protesters were going to be there, protesting what they believe is right, then my team, whose commitment is to making sure that those people are safe, and are not harmed in any conceivable, crazy way, that we had to be there. We felt obligated to be there. If the protests weren’t happening, we’d be home.

The reality of the situation was that because most of the violence on peaceful protesters happens after curfew, my team, that provides first aid for those attacks, has to be there after curfew. There’s not much we can do about it, so we marched down the steps of the Capitol knowing that the chances of us being arrested or worse was going to happen. I’m so proud of my team for being able to do that, and having that strength of conviction to be like, “if that’s going to happen, it’s going to happen.”

We livestreamed, and me and DJ Hayes, who was there with me, my partner in crime, we looked around and saw more police than I’ve ever seen in my entire life all surrounding us, and we knew we weren’t getting out of this without being arrested. It was one of those times where you’re like, “Okay. This is what it is, and we’ll accept the consequences for that.”

What was the arrest process like? You guys seemed pretty calm. 

First and foremost, the reason you hear [we acted] so calmly, so non-aggressive, and [without] any sort of agitation, is, first of all, protection of myself and my team. Throughout these last couple of days, one of the things that I’ve seen most readily is that a lot of the police officers involved in these particular incidents are not yet ready to equip the emotional stability, so the most you can make them feel safe in these instances, the less likely they are to hurt you. Staying calm and making sure they feel safe is, unfortunately, something that you have to do, as someone being arrested, so that’s what we did. We made sure that everyone knew that we were fine, and that they were fine, and that they could arrest us without fear, which is kind of it’s own thing, a whole other conversation.

The arrest process…honestly, there’s a lot of people, I’m sure, listening, who have maybe, unfortunately, been arrested. I can tell you that it’s not fun, for those of you who have never been arrested before. Zip-ties and handcuffs are not pleasant. They definitely hurt. The entire process, this particular process outside on the steps of the Capitol building, was handled very nicely, when we were out in the open, when the cameras were on us. We got into the vans very respectfully. The aftermath, after we left the eye of the public, outside of the steps of the Capitol, was a different story. I can say that if you are arrested, or something like, that while peacefully protesting, the best thing you can do for yourself is to be calm, to be clear about your intentions, and make sure that the officer or officers arresting you have no reason to feel afraid.

Being arrested on Monday night, this isn’t going to stop you. 

Not even. I mean, jail is not fun or anything, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a lot less fun being a black, brown, or Native person on the streets of our city, when we will like we’re unsafe from the people we’ve asked to be protective of us. That happens 24/7. These protesters, they’ll continue to fight for what they believe is right. My team will continue to be there to help them in any way that we can.

You can put me in jail 1,000 times. The reality is that these people need someone to patch them up. They’re human beings, and unfortunately, they’re not always treated like that by the people who don’t necessarily agree with their sense of justice. Not everybody on my team thinks the same way, or believes all the same things, but one thing that we do believe is that it doesn’t matter what happens to us, as long as we are there to help the people that need help.

Nur-D, can you give me the name of  your team of volunteers that have come together to provide medical support?

Yeah. It’s called Justice Frontline Aid Crew. We kind of came up with it all at once, when people kept asking us who we were, and what we were doing. It all started on Wednesday night, the night right after that first, initial march and police action. Me and a friend had gone down to the protest to help our friends who were already there. We dropped off some milk and some water, and we were shown to a big old stash of medical supplies and water that was abandoned by medics once the fire had started, and we realized nobody was out there helping these people, should they get hurt. I realized then that I had this moral call to be there and help, even though I didn’t know everything, and it was scary that first night trying to figure out running through a flaming Target parking lot, patching people up by cellphone light.

It became something more as we’ve continued, and now our aid has changed to not just patching people up on the lines of protest, but also providing food for communities who have lost their food sources, diapers for people who have lost that ability to buy diapers, baby stuff, and hygiene products. We take in all these donations from all over, and we’re able to distribute them to these communities that have been affected, and long before this happened, they’ve been affected. They’ve been needing these supplies from before, and now are finally getting the press to let their voice be heard.

What can people do to help the work that you are doing?

Obviously, financial donations are always great, because it helps us buy specific items, and we don’t have to wait for them to be donated. [Our] Paypal [is] justicefrontlineaidcrew@gmail.com. Paypal is super helpful always. Donating, as well. Baby stuff is always huge, but if you have non-perishable foods…we’re trying to work on a refrigerated truck so we can take perishable foods, as well. Hygiene products, of all types. That stuff we can take, in our times that we’re open. We’re currently working with Modist Brewing, which stands as a drop off point for those things.

The next time we’re going to be open is on Friday, so if people can come on Friday to donate all those things, that’d be great. Lastly, and I think most importantly, the way people can help our group is to be calling your representatives, calling your legislators, all the people who are in authority, and tell them that the arrest of the other three officers is something that is needed. We can’t leave until the protesters leave, and the protesters are going to continue to protest until change starts happening in a really tangible way. The fastest way to help our people, is to help the protesters.