Police say ‘autonomous zone’ blocked emergency response to brutal assault; citizens’ group disagrees

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5 EYEWITNESS NEWS obtained surveillance video that captures the owner of a small business on Chicago Avenue being assaulted in the heart of a four-block area often referred to as an “autonomous zone” near George Floyd Square.

The barricaded zone is a one-block radius from the intersection of Chicago Avenue South and East 38th Street, flanked on the north and south by 37th and 39th streets and on the east and west by Elliot and Columbus avenues.

The owner of Mill City Auto Body, who asked to only be identified by his first name, Dan, was knocked unconscious during an assault and robbery at his business on Aug. 5.

“I had a broken cheekbone, teeth missing, stitches in my head and I was knocked out,” Dan said. “It took police and the ambulance a very long time to get here because they had a hard time getting inside the barricades.”

Minneapolis police said it took 14 minutes to reach the victim with an EMS crew.

An internal Minneapolis Police Department report obtained by KSTP said, “The crowd from the George Floyd Memorial began moving toward us and people were hollering that they were going to kick our asses and that we would have to kill them.”

Marcia Howard, who works with a citizens’ group to help keep order in the autonomous zone, told KSTP the internal police reports are misleading at best and false at worst.

“They came in unimpeded, unfettered with EMS,” Howard said. “They are not being met with violence or hostile crowds and any suggestion otherwise is a blatant lie.”

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and City Coordinator Mark Ruff declined interview requests, and Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender didn’t return a message seeking comment.

A city spokesperson did issue a statement that said, in part, “There is no autonomous zone in the area of 38th and Chicago Avenue, or anywhere else in the City of Minneapolis. Laws and enforcement responsibilities have not changed for any part of the city.”

The statement also said the city is in negotiations with people occupying the zone and is working toward a phased reopening of the area sometime “before winter.”