Minneapolis removes barricades to reopen George Floyd Square to traffic

Community members had turned the intersection where Floyd was murdered into a public mourning space

Parts of the memorial space constructed at the south Minneapolis intersection where George Floyd was murdered by a white police officer were removed by work crews on Thursday morning.

The city confirmed to the Guardian that barricades had been taken down to allow the intersection to be reopened to traffic, as reporters on the ground confirmed the presence of a large group of workers early in the morning. The deconstruction work appeared to have ceased within a few hours.

Floyd, 46, was killed by white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020. Shortly after the incident community members turned the intersection where Floyd took his last breaths into a public mourning space, named George Floyd Square. The space, which became a de facto autonomous zone in which city police stayed away, features community art, sculptures and often hosts performances and protests.

In an email, city spokeswoman Sarah McKenzie described the work as a “community-led reconnection process with city supporting efforts”. She added that more information on the work would be forthcoming, and that “artworks and memorials to George Floyd” would be preserved.

In April, former officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder over Floyd’s death, and city leaders renewed efforts to reopen the intersection, which had become a focal point throughout the murder trial. The city’s mayor, Jacob Frey, said in May that after the anniversary of Floyd’s death he would back a “phased reopening” of the intersection.

In September last year the city council voted unanimously to rename the intersection after George Floyd, but the space’s long-term future had become a source of local tension with some activists arguing it should remain an “autonomous zone” indefinitely, while others pointing to an increase in violent crime in the area.

People gather at George Floyd Square to mark the first anniversary of his murder in Minneapolis.
People gather at George Floyd Square to mark the first anniversary of his murder in Minneapolis. Photograph: Nicholas Pfosi/Reuters

Earlier this year the city announced plans to create a permanent memorial space at the intersection that would preserve the artworks and a community greenhouse and unveiled a number of interim design options.

The city stated in February that 81% of local residents and workers supported the design plans and added that the Floyd Family Foundation was involved in planning efforts.

In March, Minneapolis settled a record $27m civil lawsuit with the Floyd family, which included a $500,000 donation to the community around the intersection.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported on Thursday that the city would hold a media briefing later in the morning to explain how the decision was made to commence the clearing efforts.

Contributor

Oliver Laughland

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
George Floyd: Minneapolis holds rallies in build-up to anniversary of police killing
Program starts with march led by the Rev Al Sharpton and Benjamin Crump to mark the anniversary of black man’s murder

Oliver Laughland

24, May, 2021 @2:57 AM

Article image
Night of flames and fury as Minneapolis swells with outrage over George Floyd killing
The 3rd precinct station was not the only building that burned overnight, as furious protesters’ demand for justice intensified

Chris McGreal in Minneapolis

29, May, 2020 @5:09 PM

Article image
George Floyd killing: Minneapolis on edge again as historic trial set to begin
Black communities in Minneapolis and St Paul braced against the dread of justice not being served as trial begins Monday

Amudalat Ajasa and Jackie Renzetti in Minneapolis

08, Mar, 2021 @7:30 AM

Article image
Minneapolis on trial: how the year of George Floyd changed me and my city
A year to the day after the pandemic sent me back home from university, George Floyd’s killer goes on trial. It has been 12 months of upheaval, unrest and inspiration

Amudalat Ajasa in Minneapolis

06, Mar, 2021 @11:00 AM

Article image
George Floyd killing: fires erupt in Minneapolis as US rocked by third night of protests
Minnesota governor calls in national guard amid unrest as demonstrations broke out in New York, Colorado and California

Chris McGreal in Minneapolis, Peter Beaumont, Maanvi Singh, and Mario Koran

29, May, 2020 @10:36 AM

Article image
Minneapolis: journalists teargassed while covering George Floyd protests
Teargas fired ‘at point-blank range’ at group that identified themselves as journalists as police worked to impose curfew

Sam Levin in Los Angeles

31, May, 2020 @3:50 AM

Article image
George Floyd's family sues Minneapolis over police killing
Lawsuit also names four officers involved in death that sparked protests across US and beyond

Adam Gabbatt in New York

15, Jul, 2020 @6:27 PM

Article image
Derek Chauvin found guilty of murder of George Floyd
Jury finds ex-Minneapolis police officer, who knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, guilty on all counts

Chris McGreal, Lois Beckett, Oliver Laughland and Amudalat Ajasa in Minneapolis

21, Apr, 2021 @7:42 AM

Article image
‘It’s for the people’: how George Floyd Square became a symbol of resistance – and healing
The semi-autonomous area in Minneapolis has become a service to the community, but the city wants to see it reopened

Amudalat Ajasa in Minneapolis

28, Mar, 2021 @6:30 AM

Article image
Minneapolis hopes for new beginning after verdict: ‘George Floyd is a movement’
After weeks of anxiety, the city celebrated with a victory march. ‘Tomorrow we get back to work,’ one organizer said

Lois Beckett in Minneapolis

21, Apr, 2021 @5:00 AM