There’s a sign set up in the street in Minneapolis that reads “You are now entering the free state of George Floyd.” Four square blocks were blocked off from traffic by the city to protect those visiting the George Floyd memorial but over time this has apparently been turned into an autonomous zone similar to the CHAZ/CHOP that existed in Seattle over the summer.
9.11.2020 / Minneapolis, MN
The Free State of George Floyd is a autonomous zone run by the locals, hosting George Floyd’s memorial, community gardens, medic stations neighbours, memorial cemetery, hygienic stations, and vibrant local art. organisations. pic.twitter.com/ESY282AHaL
— niyen ⚡️ (@niyenk_) September 13, 2020
And just like at CHAZ/CHOP there have been serious problems. Last month the owner of an auto body shop was seriously injured in a robbery attempt but police and EMS were unable to get to him for nearly 15 minutes because of the barricades and the people guarding them.
The owner of Mill City Auto Body, who asked to only be identified by his first name, Dan, was knocked unconscious during an assault and robbery at his business on Aug. 5.
“I had a broken cheekbone, teeth missing, stitches in my head and I was knocked out,” Dan said. “It took police and the ambulance a very long time to get here because they had a hard time getting inside the barricades.”
Minneapolis police said it took 14 minutes to reach the victim with an EMS crew.
An internal Minneapolis Police Department report obtained by KSTP said, “The crowd from the George Floyd Memorial began moving toward us and people were hollering that they were going to kick our asses and that we would have to kill them.”
A spokesman for a “citizens group” attempting to maintain order inside the zone without police claims the police are lying about what happened and that no one made threats or impeded their entry to the area. As you’ll see in the clip below, there is cell phone video showing Dan getting help from EMS, but it’s not clear what happened before those moments.
Even after Dan was released from the hospital the threat wasn’t over. The same man who assaulted him returned to his business with a gun. When Dan called police they told him to drive to meet them outside the zone where they would meet him.
Two weeks later the same man returned to Dan’s shop again, this time with a baseball bat. By this point, police had identified the suspect and were planning to arrest him, but it didn’t happen. When the cops arrived they were stopped at the barricade and unable to enter the zone to make the arrest. A police report of the incident states, “We were immediately met with hostility and a refusal of any type of assistance from them and a clear refusal to allow us to enter and do our job.” It goes on to say, “This is not a safe area for officers and several officers are needed because the group has been known to surround officers and not let them leave and instigate altercations and even attempt to grab officer’s guns…”
Once again, the citizens group claims all of this is a lie but even the NY Times reported back in July that the area around the Floyd memorial had become a no-go zone for police at night. This report was published about a week before the assault that put Dan in the hospital:
Two months after the police killing of George Floyd, the four-block area of South Minneapolis where he gasped his last breaths remains a sacred space, a no-go zone for officers. There is a neatly trimmed garden, anchored by a sculpture of a raised fist. There are colorful murals and the words “I can’t breathe” painted across the pavement, as well as the names of dozens of other Black people killed by the police.
At night, though, the space is increasingly a battleground, with shootings and drug overdoses. The area has had an uptick in gun violence similar to what other cities have seen in the wake of protests…
The city claims this area is not an autonomous zone and that it will reopen to traffic this winter, but mass retirements and cuts by the city council have already reduced the police force by about a third. And as Jazz pointed out over the weekend, the police chief says there is really no plan to improve the situation in the next year. So for the forseeable future, residents will be left living in a war zone. Meanwhile, the same city council that was eager to disband the police entirely is complaining to the police chief about a lack of officers on the street. In short, this is all going exactly as anyone with half a brain could have predicted it would.
These autonomous zones have been extremely dangerous everywhere they have popped up. Five people were shot (two killed) at the one in Seattle. A similar autonomous zone with checkpoints manned by armed citizens in Atlanta led to three separate shootings one of which caused the death of an 8-year-old girl riding in a car with her mom. These efforts should be shut down immediately, but in Minneapolis the lack of resources and the hostility of the crowd inside the zone makes that a challenge.
Here’s the report from KSTP: