The ongoing protests following the in-custody death of George Floyd have some of the country’s biggest cities rallying around Minneapolis by sparking their own demonstrations against police violence. But the demand to hold police accountable, as well as the damage and destruction occurring in Prince’s hometown as a result, have gotten some people on social media to imagining how “The Purple One” would have reacted had he been alive to witness it.
Just days after the fourth anniversary of Prince’s death, Floyd appeared to be killed by now-fired Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, who was recorded on video steadily applying pressure with his knee to the neck of the handcuffed and face-down 46-year-old.
Protests began almost immediately following the widespread viewing of the video footage that showed Chauvin brazenly allowing himself to be filmed by bystanders repeatedly warning him he was killing Floyd, who said he couldn’t breathe. There were both peaceful protests as well as people who reacted to Floyd’s death by looting and burning, the latter of which happened to the precinct that Chauvin worked out of.
But police have responded with unabashed force by pepper-spraying protesters directly in their faces and shooting both tear gas canisters as well as rubber bullets — non-lethal weapons that can still have a very damaging effect.
That was the case for more than a dozen cities on Friday night, including Atlanta, Denver, las Vegas, Los Angeles, Louisville, New York, Oakland, Washington, D.C.
Footage out of those cities showed a similar rage to that expressed by protesters in Minneapolis, where Prince called home for his entire life. It was a rage that at times was expressed in his own music, which offered a glimpse into how Prince — who famously named his group “The Revolution” — would have reacted to the Minneapolis protests and the others across the country.
A Reddit user asked the question on Friday: “Could you imagine how Prince would’ve reacted to the Minneapolis riots?” One answer responded by saying, “I personally think he wouldn’t like the streets to be up in flames, he would want peace,” before adding, “But he’d also recognize why all this started.”
Probably the closest Prince got to addressing such a situation in his music was on the song “Baltimore,” which was named for the city in which Freddie Gray‘s controversial in-custody police death took place in 2015. That same year, Prince recorded the song with lyrics that include, “Peace is more than the absence of war.” Prince sings that “We’re tired of the cryin’ and people dyin’” and how “If there ain’t no justice then there ain’t no peace.”
At the time, Prince’s spokesperson said the song “addresses the unrest in Baltimore and the socio/political issues around the country in the wake of a slew of killings of young black men.”
Twenty years earlier, Prince addressed social justice activism when he was known as The Artist Formerly Known As Prince with the song, “We March.” He sang about “the same avenue my ancestors fought to liberate” before offering up a chorus with no uncertain terms: “Next time we march (Whoa) / We’re kickin’ down the door / Next time we march (Whoa) / All is what we’re marchin’ for.”
Prince had plenty of other so-called “woke” lyrics over the decades of his prolific musical brilliance, but the above two songs seem to encapsulate the uprisings the nation is witnessing in response to recent police killings not just in Minneapolis but also in Louisville and elsewhere.