Activists ‘hold space’ as Minneapolis reopens George Floyd Square

Minneapolis work crews clear fateful intersection, but activists raise makeshift barriers and pledged to keep square open.

Community members gather after city employees began to reopen George Floyd Square, where Floyd was killed by Derek Chauvin, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on, June 3, 2021 [Nicole Neri/Reuters]

Activists are calling for people to “hold space” at the intersection where George Floyd was murdered more than a year ago after Minneapolis work crews took down barricades that had stopped most vehicles on Thursday.

City crews took less than four hours to clear the barriers, artwork, flowers and other items early Thursday morning from the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue where Floyd was killed, informally known as George Floyd Square.

Activists quickly replaced them with makeshift barriers. They have put out calls for people to come to the intersection with art supplies.

Many activists oppose the city’s effort to reopen the intersection at Chicago Avenue and 38th Street to vehicles. It has been closed off since Floyd’s death, a kind of autonomous zone in the middle of the city.

The killing of Floyd, who was Black, by former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, sparked protests against police brutality and racism around the world.

Chauvin held Floyd in a prone position with his knee on the man’s back for more than nine minutes on May 25, 2020.

A jury found Chauvin, 45, guilty of murder and manslaughter in April, leading to impromptu street parties at the intersection, which is marked by a towering sculpture of a raised Black fist in the middle of the road, surrounded by a small garden planted with flowers.

The guilty verdicts were seen as a step towards meaningful police reform by Minneapolis activists, though they pledged to continue pressuring authorities to make changes.

Chauvin is scheduled to be sentenced June 25.

A woman who calls herself E paints the newly moved barricades after city employees began to reopen George Floyd Square, Floyd was killed in Minneapolis police custody in 2020, on June 3, 2021 [Nicole Neri/Reuters]

Activists have pledged not to relinquish the surrounding streets until a list of 24 demands (PDF) are met, including reopening investigations into other local Black men killed by police.

Activists held a news conference at the intersection on Thursday, decrying the city and chanting: “No justice, no streets.”

Jaylani Hussein, director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Minnesota chapter, said the city was attacking the memory of Floyd.

“They’re not trying to drive cars through there, they’re trying to delete history,” he said. “But we will not let them delete history.”

Mayor Jacob Frey previously said the city would reopen the intersection to vehicles after Chauvin’s trial. Frey joined other city officials at City Hall on Thursday to discuss what he called a “phased reconnection” of George Floyd Square with the rest of the city.

“This intersection will forever be changed and we need to be investing in that transformation,” Frey told reporters, repeating his promise to preserve a permanent memorial to Floyd.

When reporters asked about the new impromptu barricades the activists had installed on Thursday, Frey said the reopening process will be “touch and go and difficult over the coming days,” and that he never thought it would reopen in a single day.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies