Barriers removed, new ones go up, at George Floyd Square


Barriers removed, new ones go up, at George Floyd Square

Crews on Thursday removed the concrete barriers that blocked traffic at a Minneapolis intersection where a memorial to George Floyd was assembled after his death last year, but community activists quickly put up makeshift barriers and resumed chanting the name of the Black man whose killing galvanized the racial justice movement.

It took the crews but four hours to clear the barriers, artwork, flowers and other items from 38th Street and Chicago Avenue where Floyd was killed, informally referred to as George Floyd Square. City spokeswoman Sarah McKenzie said a fist sculpture, which stands several feet tall, will remain. the town said the trouble was led by a community group referred to as Agape and a number of other city departments were involved.

The intersection had been closed to traffic since Floyd's death in police custody on May 25, 2020, but some residents and businesses expressed frustration that it had been closed for therefore long.

Traffic briefly flowed through the intersection Thursday morning after the concrete barriers were removed, but community members quickly erected new makeshift barriers. Dozens of individuals gathered near the intersection, singing, chanting Floyd’s name and giving speeches expressing frustration and urging people to continue organizing.

Police weren't seen at the intersection on Thursday morning and there was no visible police presence later within the day. Mayor Jacob Frey said avoiding clashes between activists and police was of utmost concern, and going forward, the police will patrol the world a bit like the other neighborhood within the city.

Frey said a phased reopening of the intersection was necessary to market healing, restore area businesses, and supply social and city services that are lacking for a year. He said artwork from the memorial are going to be preserved, which the town wants to make sure the situation where Floyd died “never has tires run over it again.”

“This intersection will forever be changed and that we got to be investing therein transformation,” Frey said at a press conference . “This are often a critical location of gathering, not only for our city but the whole world.”

City Council vice chairman Andrea Jenkins said she has talked with residents and business owners who have struggled with the loss of revenue and sleep, and a few who feel trapped in their homes. “It’s time for us to start a process of rebuilding this community,” she said.

Frey acknowledged the reopening wouldn't happen all directly and declined to mention when the intersection would fully reopen to traffic.

The square sprang up organically within the days after Floyd’s death. As people gathered to precise their grief and anger, community members found out makeshift barricades to dam traffic, which the town eventually replaced with concrete ones.

Frey and other city leaders pledged to reopen the intersection, but activist leaders said they wouldn’t step aside unless the town met their 24 demands. Among them: recall the county prosecutor, fire the top of the state’s criminal investigative agency, and spend many thousands of dollars on programs to make jobs, combat racism and support affordable housing.

Jaylani Hussein, executive of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the removal of the memorial was an attack on Floyd's legacy.

“This space may be a space that has now become a national memorial, a national memorial for victims of police violence everywhere this world,” Hussein said during a press conference .

“We won't hand over this space," he said. "We will reserve it for George Floyd.”

Violent crime at the intersection and therefore the blocks immediately surrounding it rose dramatically in 2020, though crime also increased citywide. there have been 19 nonfatal and fatal shootings within the area in 2020, including 14 from May Day through Aug. 31. That’s compared with three shootings altogether of 2019 and none during the summer months.

Shots were fired within the area last week, just hours before an occasion to mark the anniversary of Floyd’s death. One person was injured.


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