MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The future of the intersection where George Floyd died is still unclear on Thursday after attempts to reopen in the face of a pushback.
At 4:30 a.m., Minneapolis Public Works crews, working with a community group called The Agape Movement, began cleaning up the intersection of East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue. According to city spokeswoman Sarah McKenzie, Agape led the effort and the teams “took great care to preserve works of art and artefacts.” The now iconic statue of the raised fist will remain.
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Agape has been active in the area for some time and has been present in the area after Floyd’s death. They say their goal is to bridge the gap between the community and law enforcement. Steve Floyd, senior advisor to Agape, said they wanted to make sure these changes were made in a respectful manner and that community members wanted the reopening.
“We went around the community, we went door to door asking neighbors how they felt, and over 90% of them said they wanted to see it open, but they wanted to see it open safely, ”Floyd said. “And we’ve done it as safely as possible, and we’re going to stay here after the end because we’re going to build this community.”
Agape tells WCCO that this is only the first phase of the reopening. While the barriers were removed and the intersection was opened to traffic during the morning hours, some barriers were put back in place due to the pushback of protesters.
As the gates were all lowered and the intersections opened to #georgefloyd square this morning some barriers were put in place because of the pushback of the demonstrators @wcco will update pic.twitter.com/kU9fBcsDLl
– esme murphy (@esmemurphy) June 3, 2021
In a press conference Thursday afternoon, city officials and members of Agape gathered to explain the process behind the planned reopening.
“In my opinion, the majority of people have said that we have to start the healing process,” said Andrea Jenkins, board member. “Healing begins with reconnecting the intersection of 38th and Chicago with the city at large. “
“I know today is important,” said board member Alondra Cano. “We still have a lot of work to do. “
Steve Floyd said they expected resistance to reopen and the time in the morning was chosen to “avoid pushback”.
“We planned that if it was too crazy we would back off,” he said.
With a few barriers in place, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said there was no firm timeline for a full reopening.
“[The intersection] is not and will not revert to what it was before May 25, 2020, ”Frey said. “We recognize that there is still pain associated with this street and this intersection.”
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Steve Floyd said there is a larger three-year plan for the intersection that includes a permanent memorial, and Frey said the city will ensure that “the place where George Floyd was murdered is never run over again by tires”.
The intersection of 38th and Chicago – now known to many as George Floyd Square – was where Floyd was murdered by former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin, who has been convicted and awaits sentencing.
The intersection was a place of remembrance for Floyd, but also experienced crime issues. The reopening came as a surprise to many who live nearby, including those guarding the area.
Community reacts to reopening efforts: “I don’t want everything to go back to the status quo”
WCCO journalist Christiane Cordero spoke with a mother of three young children, Les Bowden, who lives two blocks from the intersection. She says she has seen some of the beauty of the intersection that isn’t as widely publicized. Bowden reflects the sentiments of many in the region’s community, who fear a return to the status quo without significant change.
“We don’t want to deal with gun violence, but to sit there and say that a closed street is the cause of gun violence is absolute ignorance at best,” she said. “Now that it’s gone, I don’t want everything to go back to the status quo, especially with the anniversary over, the first trial over. I don’t want my kids to feel like I do.
Eliza Wesley is a guard at the intersection.
“It can open up, but we’re not going anywhere,” she said. “We’re still there, south side, boots on the ground. When we started there were no barricades, we started with bodies and we started at 38th place with their cars. They volunteered to put the barricades here, so they took them. So we’re going to start over.
Cordero said Minneapolis Police were not involved in the intersection cleanup process.
Frey has previously stated that the city is committed to commemorating the legacy of George Floyd at this intersection. He released a full statement Thursday morning, working with Minneapolis City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins and City Council Member Alondra Cano:
“The city’s three guiding principles for reconnecting 38th and Chicago have been community safety, racial healing, and economic stability and development for Black, Indigenous, Latin, Asian and other communities.
The Agape movement brought community leaders together to begin facilitating the gradual reconnection this morning, with the city playing a supporting role. We are grateful for the partnership.
We collectively commit to establishing a permanent memorial at the intersection, preserving the artwork, and making the region a sustainable space for racial healing.
Alongside city leaders, we met regularly with community members to discuss both the short term path to reconnect this area and the long term plan for the neighborhood with sustained investments to help restore and to heal the community.
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Chauvin will be convicted of Floyd’s murder in a few weeks. The state is asking for 30 years in prison. Chauvin’s attorneys also filed a claim on behalf of the former Minneapolis officer. The defense is asking for probation – a prison sentence equal to what he has already served – and a new trial.