“George Floyd Square” is a small quadrangle of city streets in Minneapolis that was renamed following the controversial death of Floyd while in police custody. Since then, a memorial for Floyd has gone up opposite Cup Foods on 38th Street. The city placed barricades on some streets surrounding the memorial to prevent cars from hitting demonstrators. Naturally, this has made it next-to-impossible for local businesses to operate.
It got worse when gangs began a turf war. The barricades have morphed from barriers to keep protesters safe to weapons to prevent police from doing their jobs. The barriers are guarded and patrolled by activists who won’t allow the cops access — even when there are calls for help.
The mostly-black-owned businesses have had just about enough and are pleading with the city to remove the barricades and allow traffic to flow. Everyone from the mayor, to the chief of police, to local clergy has been asking for the same thing for months. And with the gangs taking shots at each other, you’re risking your life by walking the streets anywhere near the memorial.
“I get to hear from all the people no one wants to listen to,” City Council Member Alondra Cano told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “I get to hear from the Black elderly woman who has to sleep in her bathtub so she can avoid being shot at night. I get to hear from the other Black elderly woman who has chronic pain and can’t access the bus and therefore can’t go grocery shopping, and I get to hear from the residents who text me when there’s bullets zinging by their faces in the middle of the day as they’re gardening.”
“This was Bloods territory,” said Pastor Curtis Farrar of Worldwide Outreach for Christ, which sits across the intersection. “A lot of the gangs are right over there now. A lot of people that go to this church used to be in that gang, drug dealers and all of that.”
Police can and sometimes do access the square, but protesters there do not welcome them. Agape, a peacekeeping force whose staff includes ex-gang members from the neighborhood, is on contract with the city to keep watch over the area.
On March 6, two people were shot there, and 30-year-old Imez Wright, a mentor for Black youth in St. Paul, was killed.
“I am afraid. I am frustrated. I am mentally ill right now,” said Dwight Alexander through the takeout window of Smoke in the Pit, jabbing his temples with the tips of his index fingers for emphasis. “I have to set my mind every day to come up here and try and make a way for my family, and [the city] took away my rights, they took away my finances. How do you think I feel? Put yourself in my shoes or my family’s shoes.”
Sam Willis, Jr., another business owner, added, “We just need these streets to open, we need police in this area. This is like Mexico in the United States. Thirty-seventh Street is the United States. You come out here, it’s like Mexico. So a person can commit a crime on 37th Street, and if they run over here, the police are not going to come. They park stolen cars here.”
The protesters open the barriers for delivery drivers, but the businesses complain “the protesters don’t order enough, and some make unilateral decisions to jettison outsiders.” The protesters have a list of 24 “demands” they say must be met before they abandon the barricades, and among them is the city must establishing a fund for the minority-owned businesses. In other words, while forcing the closing of the businesses through their own choice, they want the city to pay for their illegal actions.
The businesses are looking forward to having the promise of the Floyd family fulfilled. The family said they will set up a $500,000 fund for the businesses affected by the tragedy. While that would be welcome, the businesses want their stores back and they need the memorial square reopened.
That’s not going to happen. The activists know they are safe, that authorities would never risk a crackdown which would lead to more rioting and mayhem. So the milquetoast Mayor Jacob Frey and other city leaders have acquiesced in having an occupying power in charge of part of their city.