Minneapolis crews remove barricades on George Floyd Square as city pledges to create permanent memorial
“The barricades have been removed so that ultimately (the intersection) is reconnected to the neighborhood and traffic can resume,” city spokeswoman Sarah McKenzie told CNN. “This intersection will never go back to ‘normal’. This city is really doing all it can with the community to preserve as much of the artwork as possible.”
McKenzie pointed out that this is a community effort carried out in coordination with the Agape Movement group. Some artifacts, like the iconic fist sculpture in the center of the intersection, will remain, she said.
The reopening of the 38th and Chicago was a “community-led effort,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said at a press conference Thursday.
“There are conversations going on in and around this area with a respect for the nature of where George Floyd died, but also with an understanding that public infrastructure needs to be reopened in a way that works,” Walz said.
Steve Floyd, co-founder of Agape Movement, an organization that worked with the city for the reopening, said the memorial had not changed, but the barricades were removed to allow movement.
Shortly after the kidnapping, some activists blocked the intersection again. In a press conference Thursday afternoon, Mayor Jacob Frey said the efforts of city workers were only the first step in a “gradual reconnection” of the intersection, and he acknowledged that ‘It will take some time before the intersection is definitively open to traffic.
“We recognize that a full reconnection will not happen right away,” he said. “I recognize that it will be a bit tricky and difficult over the next few days. The good news is that we have extraordinary leadership on the ground at Agape who will continue to do a great job along these corridors to ensure that, yes, we can move forward towards … reconnecting these neighborhoods. “
The intersection has been closed to traffic for over a year and has become a sanctuary and memorial for Floyd. In September, Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously to approve the name change of the intersection to George Floyd Square.
People felt trapped in their homes and businesses lost revenue as the intersection closed, said Andrea Jenkins, vice president of Minneapolis City Council.
“It is time for us to begin the process of rebuilding this community to create the kind of memorial worthy of the life of George Floyd and so many others who lost their lives in the hands of the State, a center of Racial Healing, a center for social justice, a center for addressing the deep and systemic challenges we face in this country and certainly in this city, ”Jenkins said.
Local activist says city has not informed them
In a statement Thursday, city officials said Minneapolis planned to create a lasting memorial at the intersection.
Mayor Frey released the joint statement with Minneapolis City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins and Council Member Alondra Cano.
“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, ”the statement read. mentionned.
Mayor Frey said the city decided to clean up the square early Thursday morning to avoid a confrontation with the activists who controlled the intersection.
Still, Jeanelle Austin, a resident who worked to preserve the artwork in George Floyd Square, said the city had not informed them despite having already told volunteers they would be notified before it happened. happen.
“We didn’t know today would be the day the streets would reopen,” Austin said tearfully at a community press conference Thursday. “The city told us they would let us know in advance. This does not happen.
“All we asked for was restorative justice for the trauma suffered by the community, for the damage to be repaired before the streets reopened. But instead we faced more trauma this morning.” , she added.
Austin said his group of volunteers had received “more hindsight than help” from the city. She said she didn’t know what was to come next, but knew that she and others in her town “would continue to fight for justice.”
“We will continue to defend our liberation and our community,” Austin said.
Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Minnesota, said the city’s actions are attempts to erase the pain from the community.
“They’re not trying to get cars through here. They’re trying to delete history. And we won’t let them delete history,” Hussein said. “We will not give up this space.”
CNN’s Kara Devlin and Hollie Silverman contributed to this report.