Before the sun rose on Thursday, June 3, 2021, city public works staff, along with contracted members of Agape Movement, worked to dismantle portions of the George Floyd Memorial at 38th and Chicago, where George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis Police Officer.
Police were stationed several blocks away and available to intervene, according to a city email from Public Works Manager Mike Colestock.
After removing some blockade, setting up other blockades, lane dividers and signs, and removing flowers from the memorial in the middle of the street, the effort was halted. Community members have continued to occupy the space and have blocked the roads again.
People at the Square are calling for a permanent memorial at the space to mark this historic location, rather than reopening the street to traffic.
“I was traumatized by the reopening of the street at George Floyd Square. I just cried because it was traumatizing to see what has happened. No one told me or the community. But one thing I will not do even though they opened the street: I will never drive my car down the street where my nephew was killed, knowing that he had cried out for his mama,” said Angela Harrelson, aunt of George Floyd and co-chair of the board of the George Floyd Global Memorial.
From the Racial Justice Network and CAIR-MN:
At around 5AM today, the city of Minneapolis sent dozens of city workers, bulldozers, and other equipment to George Floyd Square to remove mementos, signs, and other precious items left by visitors, as well as barricades surrounding the square. The actions of city officials to disrupt and dismantle a sacred memorial site to get back to business-as-usual is highly disturbing, traumatizing, and inhumane.
“I was traumatized by the reopening of the street at George Floyd Square. I just cried because it was traumatizing to see what has happened. No one told me or the community. But one thing I will not do even though they opened the street: I will never drive my car down the street where my nephew was killed, knowing that he had cried out for his mama,” said Angela Harrelson, Aunt of George Floyd and Co-chair of the board of the George Floyd Global Memorial.
George Floyd Square has become a local, national, and international place for healing, memorialization of the life of George Floyd and many others who have been killed by police, and a place of resistance against oppression, racism, and white supremacy. There is literally no other place like it in the world.
“For the last 12 months, I have served as one of many volunteer caretakers of George Floyd Square. All I could do was weep when I saw how the city worked to tear down the one sacred space we have to memorialize those who have been killed by police. There are no words for the pain I feel. The fight for justice continues, said Jeanelle Austin, South Minneapolis resident and volunteer.
Jaylani Hussein executive of CAIR-MN said, "George Floyd square should be respected and the demands by the community for police accountability has yet to be met. The case for the remaining officers is pending and GFS is and will always be a national memorial for victims of police violence."
Last August, activists and community members presented a list of 24 demands to city leaders in order to address the short and long term concerns of community members, including the lack of economic opportunity in the community surrounding George Floyd Square. The city has not met those demands or responded in good faith to community concerns.
From activist Nekima Levy Armstrong:
Friends, I think it’s disgusting and despicable to see how the city of Minneapolis has taken a divide and conquer approach to reopen the streets near 38th and Chicago at George Floyd Square. City leaders secretly met with members of Agape to plan the reopening of the streets, but failed to speak with the family of George Floyd or the Black women and men who have been *volunteer* caretakers and gardeners at George Floyd Square for over a year. The city’s actions undermine Black women’s leadership, divides the Black community by using Black faces to represent the narrative of the oppressor, and places more urgency on getting back to business-as-usual than addressing the longstanding concerns and impacts of racial injustice, white supremacy, and poverty that have plagued the community. SMDH.
Attached is an email that was sent out yesterday to the individuals working for the city who were tasked with reopening the streets and removing the mementos and love offerings from George Floyd Square. The fact that Agape, an organization that seemed initially to be embedded in the community, but is under contract with the city, is named in the email as a safety net for the city is extremely troubling. This is one of the groups that has been contracted through the Office of Violence Prevention by city officials. When groups like these are used by the city to do its dirty work, this undermines public trust and the credibility of these groups. They are not independent community voices. They are acting as an extension of the city of Minneapolis— the city that failed to hold Derek Chauvin accountable for extreme violence against civilians long before he killed George Floyd. This is the same city that routinely fails to address the economic, employment, educational and housing gaps that Black people and other people of color experience. And this is the same city that has not protected Black people from police violence or community violence. Enough is enough. How much trauma, neglect, abuse, and erasure should one community be forced to endure?
From Hennepin County Commissioner Angela Conley:
From my time in George Floyd Square today, I can tell you that the somberness and pain is palpable. The barricades that marked this sacred space were taken down by the City of Minneapolis before the sun rose today. How are we going to continue to work in partnership with the surrounding community when actions are taken before the community is awake to even participate?
The energy at George Floyd Square is resilient but resiliency is exhausting.
I will not uphold the narrative that reopening the intersection is community led when I've just come from listening to community members who don't feel like they led on anything around the actions taken this morning.
To many of my neighbors, the disruption of GFS felt like a band-aid was ripped off of a wound that hasn't healed yet.