Tuesday, 15 Jun 2021

Minneapolis Moves to Reopen George Floyd Square

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.

Sarah McKenzie, a spokeswoman for the city of Minneapolis, said that the city was working with a community group 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.”

Dozens of city workers and their vehicles were scattered through the area on Thursday morning, 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.

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.

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.

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. Some activists yelled at city officials on Thursday morning as they dismantled the barriers around the square. “No justice, no streets!” one said.

Ms. McKenzie said the city was committed to a long-term plans for a memorial at the site.

“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. She added that once the barriers had been removed, vehicle traffic would be able to drive through the intersection.

Danielle Fabunmi, who lives in the neighborhood, said it was painful to watch city workers dismantle the barriers around the square.

She said the city had bowed to pressure from local businesses and people concerned about escalating crime. “A lot of people are, you know, really hurt about the way that it’s being torn down,” said Ms. Fabunmi, 48. “There needs to be a reminder of what happened here.”

Deena Winter contributed reporting from Minneapolis.

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