Crews began the process of reopening the intersection of 38th and Chicago — known as George Floyd Square — in Minneapolis on Thursday morning.
The area has served as a memorial and community space since Floyd's death. But there have also been complaints from local residents about crime and violence at the site, and city leaders said earlier this year that the intention was to reopen the square to traffic while maintaining a memorial to Floyd.
That work began early Thursday, with public works crews showing up to the intersection around 4:30 a.m. to begin removing barricades at the intersection, which has been closed to traffic since Floyd was killed on May 25, 2020.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said during a news conference Thursday the city began the "phased reconnection" of the intersection with the help of the community, including the Agape Movement, but stressed the area won't go back to what it was before Floyd was killed, it will "forever be changed."
Minneapolis City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins acknowledged the opposing viewpoints of what the future of the intersection should be, but said she's talked to a lot of people and the "majority" said they need to begin the healing process, which begins with the reconnection of the intersection to the rest of the city.
Jenkins added now is the time to begin the process of rebuilding the community and creating the type of memorial that Floyd deserves, noting the city's plan is to work with the community to determine what that memorial will be like.
City officials reiterated the message from the City of Minneapolis earlier Thursday, which said the work on Thursday morning was a "community-led reconnection of the intersection," calling it an "important next step in advancing a long-term vision for the area that supports the needs of businesses and residents while honoring its importance as a space for racial healing."
"In partnership with community, the city’s three guiding principles for reconnection have been community safety, racial healing, and economic stability and development for Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian and other communities of color," the city said. "Artwork, artifacts, and plantings memorializing George Floyd at the intersection have been preserved."
Steve Floyd, of Change Inc. and the Agape Movement, who also spoke during the city's news conference, said Agape approached Mayor Frey about reopening the square and the push to do so intensified following the recent fatal shootings of two children in north Minneapolis, adding "We knew we were going to get pushback."
"So basically we've just opened this up so we can be safer, which is what the design is. We let them know that nothing is being taken away from here. The fist is going to be permanent, everything you see out there is going to be permanent,” Floyd said earlier Thursday, according to MPR News. “The only thing we need to move is the dirt around the fist so that buses and fire trucks can get through, around. But everything else stays the same."
Not everyone is happy with the city's seemingly sudden decision to start reopening the intersection, and activists on Thursday began putting up new temporary barriers to once again block traffic at 38th and Chicago.
And the city's claim of a "community-led" operation has been met with skepticism given the involvement of public works teams and the situating of Minneapolis police at nearby Powderhorn Park.
CAIR-MN is among the organizations that are condemning the city's actions, which it says were taken without meeting the demands of the community.
"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," CAIR-MN said in a statement.
"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. "
No timeline for reopening
By Thursday afternoon, George Floyd Square looked much like it did before public works crews moved in.
“The full reconnection is not going to happen all at once,” Frey said Thursday, noting jersey barriers were removed and debris and trash were cleaned up. “I acknowledge that it will be a bit touch and go and difficult over the next several days.”
Frey noted Agape will be in the area over the next few days to help move toward a reconnection, but wouldn't give a timeline on when the intersection will actually reopen to traffic.
"Did we think we would get the whole thing done this morning? No," Frey said.
Frey said the reopening of the intersection, including the effort Thursday morning, is a partnership between Agape and the city, noting the timing of it all was decided as the plan was taking shape.