By Nicole Neri and Jonathan Allen
MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) – Work crews in Minneapolis on Thursday took down barricades that had stopped most vehicles from driving through the intersection where George Floyd was murdered by a police officer just over a year ago, though activists quickly replaced them with makeshift barriers.
Some activists oppose the city’s effort to reopen the intersection at Chicago Avenue and 38th Street to vehicles. It has been closed off since the murder, a kind of autonomous zone in the middle of the city known as George Floyd Square.
Some were seen arguing with the men who arrived unannounced before dawn with forklift trucks to move the concrete barriers the city installed about a year ago after demonstrators first filled the intersection.
Some other people dragged tables and other makeshift barricades into the street, continuing to block traffic.
Mayor Jacob Frey previously said the city would reopen the intersection to vehicles some time after the trial of Derek Chauvin, the white policeman who was captured on video kneeling on the neck of Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man in handcuffs, for more than nine minutes during an arrest on May 25, 2020. Floyd’s death sparked protests against police brutality and racism around the world.
A jury found Chauvin, 45, guilty of murder 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.
Activists have vowed not to relinquish the surrounding streets until a list of 24 demands https://healingmnstories.files.wordpress.com/2020/08/floyd-square-resolution.pdf are met, including reopening investigations into other local Black men killed by police. Some local residents and businesses support the activists, while others want traffic flow to return to normal.
Early on Thursday morning, city workers joined members of the Agape Movement, a local community group that helps provide security in the neighborhood, to move barricades from the roadway, placing them around the signs, flowers and artwork that mark the spot where Floyd died.
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.
Activists held their own news conference at the intersection itself, 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.”
(Reporting by Nicole Neri in Minneapolis and Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Will Dunham and David Gregorio)