Hours after crews work to reopen streets, makeshift barriers placed around George Floyd Square | KSTP.com

Hours after crews work to reopen streets, makeshift barriers placed around George Floyd Square

Alex Jokich
Updated: June 03, 2021 08:08 PM
Created: June 03, 2021 06:52 PM

People put up makeshift barriers around the area known as George Floyd Square just a few hours after city crews came in to start reopening the streets.

The intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in south Minneapolis has been closed to traffic since George Floyd was killed last May, with a group of citizens manning the barricades.

How to proceed has become a sensitive and contentious issue.

The removal of the barricades around 4:30 a.m. Thursday came as a surprise to many, including some members of the Minneapolis City Council, who said they did not get any advance notice of the plan.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said it was the first step of a phased approach to reopen the intersection. 

The Agape Movement, a community group, led the action to reopen the intersection in partnership with the city.

But the decision sparked backlash from organizers of the citizen group overseeing George Floyd Square.

"The city told us that they would let us know in advance before the reopening of the streets. That didn't happen," said Janelle Austin, who is known as the caretaker of the memorial.

The group held a news conference at the center of the square Thursday, as community members quickly worked to block the roads again.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS was there as people used whatever items they could find to form new barriers: wooden pallets, barrels, road signs and large appliances, such as stoves and refrigerators. 

"Reopening the streets does not help our community to heal," Austin said. 

Jay Webb, the architect of the memorial garden surrounding the famous fist at the center of the square, added, "This is the only place like this on earth, and they try to sweep it under the rug."

A large crowd chanted Floyd's name as organizers criticized elected officials for the decision to reopen the intersection. 

"We've been here a year,and my fingernails are still dirty. The people who sat at that table, their hands are still manicured," Webb said. 

Leaders from the Council on American-Islamic Relations also spoke out, saying they stand in solidarity with the citizen group at George Floyd Square.

"This aggression is an attack on all of us. It is an attack on the legacy of George Floyd. It is an attack on everything we have done the last year to build a stronger, more just society," CAIR-MN Executive Director Jaylani Hussein said.

Hussein said reopening the intersection desecrates the memorial space.

"They're not trying to drive cars through here, they're trying to delete history. But we will not let them delete this history," Hussein said. 

The mayor said reconnecting the intersection will be a process but noted the plan is already set in motion and will continue.

It is not clear how the community group overseeing George Floyd Square will react if the city makes another attempt to dismantle the barricades.

"People are asking me what's next. We have not had the time to process and we need that," Austin said.

As of Thursday night, the citizen blockades were still up and the roads remain closed.

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