SALT LAKE CITY — His bushy black beard resists a white mask, his dark eyes shaded by a N.Y. Yankees cap, as he walks through Minneapolis to the spot where George Floyd fell limp under a police officer’s knee. He’s not sure what to expect. Sadness, a decrepit chunk of asphalt. Instead he finds a monument of bouquets and balloons and portraits and signs that reminds him why he needs to be here.

Angelo Pinto came to protest. While America fights a virus that makes it hard to breathe, a 46-year-old black man was killed under the knee of a white police officer after saying repeatedly, “I can’t breathe” and “I’m about to die,” COVID-19 can’t change that.

The dead man’s words echo up and down the block. Women hand out water and food. Some locals give speeches. Others chant: “I can’t breathe.” But some cough or sneeze, or speak a little too passionately for Angelo’s comfort, so he keeps his distance. For now, that isn’t too hard. But things will look different by nightfall.

When the pandemic began, Angelo quarantined at home on Long Island. For two months, he emerged only for essentials like groceries. Sometimes he’d play basketball in the backyard with his 8-year-old daughter, or tend to the corn and tomatoes in their garden, pondering what crop to add next.

But that changed after images hit social media of New York police arresting and even striking people of color over social distancing violations, and handing out masks to white people. As a longtime organizer, he couldn’t stay home. So on May 11, he marched to NYPD headquarters wearing a mask and using caution tape to stay 6 feet from the nearest person.

He still had no symptoms two weeks later, when he heard about Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT who died after being shot by police officers executing a drug warrant on a different person in mid-March. Again, Angelo couldn’t stay home. He flew to Louisville, Kentucky, with three fellow activists and helped arrange a memorial outside Breonna’s apartment.

That’s where he heard about Floyd.

Floyd was being arrested Monday on suspicion of passing a fake $20 bill. Cellphone video captured him struggling for air, still handcuffed, as a white officer pressed Floyd’s neck to the pavement for nearly nine minutes, with observers begging him to stop. Floyd was pronounced dead at the hospital. The officer, Derek Chauvin, was later charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

So Angelo’s group rented a car and drove to Minnesota, arriving Wednesday morning.

The memorial feels sacred, so Angelo helps build a barrier of cones and wire to protect it. He’s encouraged by what he sees, “people treating each other gently and honoring each other.”

Throughout the day, the rallying cry — “I can’t breathe” — reminds him what he’s risking. The pandemic has disproportionately affected black communities in America, but so have police-involved shootings. Could solidarity over one danger create more risks for the other?

By nightfall, it doesn’t matter. Angelo is on the streets, in a crowd. The city is ready to ignite. “You have a tremendous amount of anger and aggression that needs a place to go,” Angelo says, and he doesn’t see a release valve.

Fires rage, incinerating a Wendy’s and an AutoZone. Police in riot gear exchange rubber bullets, flash grenades and tear gas with protesters tossing rocks and water bottles. “This all makes sense,” Angelo thinks, like the Boston Tea Party from his daughter’s history lessons. When the government doesn’t represent its citizens, he reasons, they let the government know. And they’ll keep going, each night bringing new escalations — including a police precinct set ablaze.

In a protest, the crowd becomes a singular organism, shouting and marching and breathing as one. Only about half of the people are wearing masks, and Angelo makes a note to round up more. But he says the point is to stand together, close enough to swap sweat. Staring into a crowd of black and “a lot of white folks, actually,” he can’t be afraid.

He’ll do what he can to stay safe, but he won’t stay silent.