Minneapolis Moves to Reopen George Floyd Square
Category: News & PoliticsVia: just-jim-nc-ttth • 2 weeks ago • 5 comments
By: Jenny Gross and Matt Furber (MSN)
Good for the folks in that area.........and, if you ask the business owners, overdue.
MINNEAPOLIS — Crews in Minneapolis dismantled barriers around George Floyd Square early Thursday morning, in a move to reopen the intersection where George Floyd was killed beneath the knee of a police officer just over a year ago.
© Caroline Yang for The New York Times George Floyd Square last week on the anniversary of his death. The four-block area of South Minneapolis where he was killed has become a memorial to Mr. Floyd.
Sarah McKenzie, a spokeswoman for the city of Minneapolis, said that the city was working with a community group, the Agape Movement, and that crew members were taking care to preserve the artwork, artifacts and other memorials at the square, including the sculpture of a raised fist. "There is a reopening process underway," she said.
After Mr. Floyd's death, the four-block area of South Minneapolis where he was killed has become a memorial where people gathered to mourn his death, but also to protest against police brutality. In the months that followed, it turned into something of an autonomous zone, with the police staying away to avoid stoking tensions. Signs around the square, with has been blocked off by concrete barriers, call the area "the free state of George Floyd."
Early Thursday morning, people gathered to watch city workers move the barricades blocking the intersection near Cup Foods, the convenience store in South Minneapolis where a teenage clerk called 911 to report that Mr. Floyd had bought cigarettes using a fake $20 bill.
Dozens of city workers and their vehicles were scattered through the area, and caution tape lined the sidewalks. Security booths, built by activists to check for masks, give out hand sanitizer and provide protesters a refuge from the rain and cold, were taken away on a truck.
What to do with the memorial site where Mr. Floyd was killed has become its own controversy, with some community activists saying it has become a haven for criminal activity. The area around the intersection suffered a spike in gun violence in the months after Mr. Floyd's death, and shooting victims have been dragged to ambulances because barriers have kept police and emergency vehicles at a distance from the square.
Some activists yelled at city officials on Thursday morning as they dismantled the barriers around the square. "No justice, no streets!" one said.
D.J. Hooker, a community activist, said he arrived at the square at about 6:30 a.m. on Thursday after hearing that some 100 city workers had arrived in the autonomous zone before sunrise.
"I think it's wrong," Mr. Hooker said. "I think this is not what they should be doing while people are trying to still heal from Floyd."
But by 8 a.m., tensions had settled, and an activist was handing out coffee and doughnuts to onlookers. No uniformed police officers appeared to be at the scene.
Ms. McKenzie said the changes would allow vehicle traffic to resume at the intersection.
"We certainly acknowledge this intersection will never return to normal, but we've heard from residents and businesses that really need to reconnect their neighborhood," she said.
Steve Floyd, an adviser to the Agape Movement, the community activist group that worked with the city on plans to reopen the square and to establish a long-term memorial at the site, said the changes were important for moving forward. "We can focus on other things," he said. "We got to keep moving."
Some businesses hailed the reopening. Cup Foods was locked, but a spokesman for the store, Jamar Nelson, said the area's reopening was a positive step forward. "Businesses can once again thrive," he said. "Now hopefully a memorial can be put in place, to respect the Floyd family and the community."
Danielle Fabunmi, who lives in the neighborhood, said she understood George Floyd Square would not always remain the way it had been over the last year, but that it was still painful to watch city workers dismantle the barriers. She said the city had bowed to pressure from local businesses and residents concerned about escalating crime.
"A lot of people are, you know, really hurt about the way that it's being torn down," she said. "There needs to be a reminder of what happened here."
Matt Furber and Deena Winter reported from Minneapolis. Christine Hauser also contributed reporting.