SEVERE WX : Freeze Warning View Alerts

'George Floyd Square' to reopen after Minneapolis murder trial

George Floyd Square is shown on Feb. 8, 2021, in Minneapolis. Ten months after police officers brushed off George Floyd's moans for help on the street outside a south Minneapolis grocery, the square remains a makeshift memorial for Floyd who died at the h
George Floyd Square is shown on Feb. 8, 2021, in Minneapolis. Ten months after police officers brushed off George Floyd's moans for help on the street outside a south Minneapolis grocery, the square remains a makeshift memorial for Floyd who died at the h

City leaders concerned about crime and impact on businesses.

Posted: Mar 6, 2021 9:47 AM

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — During a group's recent meeting at the now-vacant Speedway gas station near where George Floyd died, children roasted marshmallows on a fire pit while adults discussed topics ranging from activism to snow removal.

“Black joy is a form of protest,” said Marcia Howard, one of the group's organizers, referencing plans for celebrating Arctic explorer Matthew Henson as part of Black History month.

But the agenda on this chilly Thursday morning in February quickly segued to more immediate concerns: Who would pick up skis and broomball sticks for an event being planned at a nearby park? And what's to be done about the snow piling up at the site's greenhouse that preserves plants left in Floyd's memory?

Such is life at George Floyd Square, the place where the Black man died after former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee on Floyd's neck for about nine minutes. Although many in the community consider it a sacred space, it also has presented some headaches for the city.

The square sprang up organically in the days after Floyd’s death. As people gathered to express their grief and anger, including leaving offerings, community members set up barricades of refrigerators, trash cans and wooden pallets to block traffic. The city eventually replaced those with concrete barriers.

Amid concerns that the barricaded square was decimating businesses and making the neighborhood less safe at night, city leaders recently pledged to reopen it after Chauvin's murder trial. Jury selection starts Monday, and the trial is expected to stretch into April.

The residents and activists who serve as unofficial leaders and organizers of George Floyd Square say they won't step aside unless the city meets their list of 24 demands. Among them: recall the county prosecutor, fire the head of the state's criminal investigative agency, and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on programs to create jobs, combat racism and support affordable housing. They also are demanding that the square remain closed until the trials scheduled for August of the other four officers charged in Floyd's death.

Since the city asserted it would reopen the square after Chauvin's trial, the caretakers of the space have declined to talk in detail about negotiations to reopen it. Jeanelle Austin, a racial justice leadership coach and a lead caretaker of the memorial area, said the demands that fall within the city's control aren't unreasonable.

“The thing about it is that a lot of the different demands are asks from different people, and Black folks aren’t monolithic,” said Austin, who is Black. “So it’s really incumbent upon our city leadership to really look at the needs behind the asks, and really fulfilling those needs.”

A towering steel sculpture of a raised fist dominates the middle of the intersection, a replacement for the wooden sculpture that first went up. Murals memorializing Floyd or marking the struggle against discrimination have overtaken nearly every vertical surface. Warming houses are available at the barricades, and so is hand sanitizer in a nod to COVID-19 safety precautions. A small library, a community closet for clothing and food shelves are among various services available to visitors.

Howard, a 47-year-old retired Marine who lives around the corner from the square, was so affected by Floyd’s death that she took a leave from her job as a high school English teacher to more or less watch over the square. Howard said the neighborhood has been largely supportive of volunteers, with many residents cooking food for them.

A video on her TikTok account shows a resident’s child giving her a cupcake as the family left the square, bringing Howard to tears.

“I haven’t had to grocery shop in six months,” she said.

But the support isn't total.

Andrea Jenkins, one of two City Council members representing parts of of the neighborhood, said some of her constituents have complained about gunshots and the frequent sound of police helicopters overhead.

“The neighbors deserve to have a level of comfort that does not include gunshots every night, and muggings and carjackings, and all the violent crimes we have been witnessing in this community,” Jenkins said.

Violent crime at the intersection and the blocks immediately surrounding it rose dramatically in 2020, though crime also increased citywide. There were 19 nonfatal and fatal shootings in the area in 2020, including 14 shootings from May 1 through Aug. 31. That’s compared with three shootings in all of 2019 and none during the summer months.

Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo last month disputed frequent characterizations of the square as an “autonomous zone” but cited those perceptions as a major reason it must be reopened.

Jenkins said officers have been met with “protests, resistance, opposition” that have sometimes led them to avoid policing the area. Howard and other leaders dispute that anyone in the square has impeded officers.

A flashpoint of that argument was the fatal shooting of Dameon Chambers at the square when many people had gathered to celebrate the Juneteenth holiday.

A city document says emergency services workers were unable to get to Chambers and that police “ultimately had to pull Mr. Chambers to an area where the ambulance could access the area.” The Floyd Square caretakers say it was police who delayed emergency workers, and their demands include an investigation of his death.

“The narrative will be, to this day, that the people blocked the EMS,” Howard said. “Show me the bodycam footage of people blocking emergency services vehicles for a dying Black man. You won’t have it, because it doesn’t exist.”

Jenkins and others also argue that businesses in the area are being hurt by the street closure. She said business occupancy in the area has fallen from more than 90% last March to “probably less than 50%” nearly a year later, although it's difficult to discern the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on those numbers.

The Speedway is now closed, with a sign that once displayed gas prices now showing a countdown to Chauvin's trial, and other storefronts lay vacant. Several businesses do remain open, including a couple of restaurants, a salon and a laundromat.

Members of Howard's group say that while they're hoping Chauvin gets convicted, the occupation of the square is about far more than the case against him.

“Injustice closed these streets, and only justice can open them back up," Howard said.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 768112

Reported Deaths: 8639
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1533481923
Ramsey63323978
Dakota56954525
Anoka53854520
Washington33598331
Stearns28397253
St. Louis23627358
Scott21603160
Wright21301171
Olmsted18125120
Sherburne15480115
Carver1361255
Clay1023599
Rice9966131
Blue Earth964559
Crow Wing9467109
Kandiyohi834397
Chisago833563
Otter Tail8020105
Benton7472111
Beltrami652879
Mower645440
Douglas627590
Goodhue619485
Itasca615382
Winona611254
McLeod593770
Steele585225
Isanti569274
Morrison556066
Becker532762
Polk510778
Freeborn487642
Nobles480852
Lyon454856
Carlton445566
Nicollet433352
Pine427031
Cass423144
Mille Lacs415367
Brown409947
Todd398836
Le Sueur385332
Meeker356253
Waseca327231
Martin326236
Wabasha29516
Hubbard289944
Dodge273310
Roseau263827
Fillmore243212
Redwood239643
Wadena236629
Houston231017
Renville227349
Faribault220230
Pennington216527
Sibley210612
Cottonwood196628
Kanabec191330
Chippewa190240
Aitkin182543
Watonwan170811
Pope16128
Yellow Medicine156620
Rock155019
Jackson146514
Koochiching138319
Clearwater136018
Swift134519
Marshall134320
Murray134311
Pipestone133327
Stevens124511
Lake109121
Wilkin102214
Lac qui Parle98324
Mahnomen89312
Norman8729
Big Stone7974
Lincoln7825
Grant7819
Kittson60822
Red Lake5899
Unassigned529124
Traverse5125
Lake of the Woods4714
Cook2460

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 474151

Reported Deaths: 6785
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk74657729
Linn29194394
Scott24733274
Black Hawk20335358
Woodbury19207244
Johnson17988100
Dubuque15834229
Pottawattamie14276200
Dallas14109108
Story1288551
Warren774296
Cerro Gordo6951110
Webster6950111
Clinton6929101
Des Moines667594
Marshall641885
Muscatine6352113
Wapello5936137
Jasper578279
Lee565689
Sioux565676
Marion508191
Buena Vista491746
Plymouth463487
Henry389847
Jones370861
Washington366856
Benton359257
Bremer357168
Boone350937
Carroll346353
Crawford339347
Mahaska322856
Dickinson301052
Clay279133
Buchanan279039
Jackson273546
Kossuth271873
Hardin270249
Tama264976
Fayette260649
Delaware258546
Cedar249526
Page249328
Wright243645
Hamilton233954
Winneshiek233338
Floyd221845
Harrison217777
Madison216925
Clayton214558
Poweshiek211741
Iowa208029
Butler206638
Cass201557
Jefferson201040
Mills199929
Allamakee194753
Cherokee193844
Lyon192941
Hancock187639
Winnebago186633
Calhoun186116
Appanoose180850
Shelby178439
Louisa171052
Grundy168537
Humboldt167727
Emmet167146
Franklin164628
Mitchell164043
Union162637
Chickasaw159318
Sac157924
Guthrie155434
Montgomery142342
Palo Alto142032
Clarke141328
Keokuk139635
Monroe134335
Howard128222
Ida118641
Greene116315
Davis115225
Lucas113724
Pocahontas111423
Monona108738
Worth10818
Adair105335
Osceola94017
Fremont86111
Van Buren84221
Decatur82612
Taylor79713
Wayne74824
Ringgold67727
Audubon66814
Adams5095
Unassigned380
Rochester
Mostly Cloudy
47° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 47°
Mason City
Mostly Cloudy
45° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 43°
Albert Lea
Cloudy
46° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 46°
Austin
Cloudy
46° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 46°
Charles City
Partly Cloudy
45° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 45°
Much cooler air arrives to end the week
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events