"Many are angry": Minneapolis dismantles barricades in George Floyd Square; UPDATE: Reopened ... for now?

What did it — the residents’ complaints, or the shooting at the anniversary of George Floyd’s death? The city of Minneapolis surprised some residents and angered others by dismantling the traffic barriers at 38th Street and Chicago that set up the de facto autonomous zone known as George Floyd Square. The work began before dawn, and KSTP’s Ashley Zilka reports that no one’s quite sure the extent to which the city will dismantle the memorial:

A 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS crew at the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in south Minneapolis reports seeing city crews in the area, working to move items, such as barriers and signs.

Crews were in the area working to reopen the intersection to allow traffic to move through the area once more.

The intersection, informally known as George Floyd Square, has been the site of a memorial for Floyd since his death at that location more than a year ago. It had been closed to traffic since.

The activists might be unhappy, but those who own businesses and live in the area are likely sighing in relief. The lack of traffic through the intersection has all but ruined access to the shops, while residents have been demanding this action for months from the city council. The shooting last week nearby the event marking the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s death embarrassed the city in front of the world, as national news outlets captured on camera the sight of their reporters diving for cover.

The city doesn’t want to disturb the sidewalk memorials, the Star Tribune reports this morning, nor will it remove the fist sculpture. Instead, that will be placed in the intersection roundabout, but anything else blocking traffic will be removed:

Municipal workers began the process about 4:30 a.m.at 38th and Chicago — dubbed George Floyd Square — with community representatives playing a role in coordinating the removal of flowers, artwork and variously sized barriers and shacks, said city spokeswoman Sarah McKenzie. …

What will remain, she said, is the several-foot tall fist sculpture in the middle of the intersection that had been a major through-point for city buses and other traffic until the memorial swelled soon after Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020.

“The fist sculpture is going to remain in the roundabout,” she said, while the informal garden around it was being moved.

Why start this process at 4:30 in the morning? Clearly the city wanted to have the bulk of the removal started before anyone could organize an effort to block the process. They also didn’t want Minneapolis PD or other law enforcement around to amplify any resistance to the city’s work, as KSTP’s anchors noticed. The Strib’s Paul Walsh reports that the city outsourced security to a local group instead:

McKenzie said that playing a key role in the transition is Agape, a peacekeeping force whose staff includes ex-gang members from the neighborhood, is on contract with the city to keep watch over the area.

It’s interesting that the Agape group apparently didn’t warn the neighborhood of what was coming. They might find their standing a bit altered after this, at least with the activists who will protest later this morning and demand that the city return the barricades. That will come at 10:30 this morning, apparently.

Agape and Minneapolis insist this is a “community-led process,” and that this has been coming for months:

Leaders from Agape, the group leading the effort to reopen the intersection, say the process to reopen the intersection began months ago, but the decision wasn’t made until last night.

“There’s a chance and a time for this community to get back to a new normal. That’s what we’re trying to establish,” said Agape Senior Advisor Steve Floyd.

A spokesperson from the city said George Floyd Square is being reopened to traffic through a “community-led process,” and the City is only offering support.

From Zilka’s report, it looks like more than a few in the community got left in the dark about this operation — literally. This looks more like a city-led process, as it should be since the city is the legitimate sovereign government for this block. If the city is only “offering support,” that would be even worse, as it then creates a situation where control of this block will fall into whoever takes the initiative. Unfortunately in Minneapolis, that’s nothing new ever since the city council decided to abolish the police department and abandon its obligation to the city’s residents to govern responsibly and effectively.

Update: That didn’t take long to accomplish. Let’s see how long it lasts:

My prediction is that this intersection will get blocked by the end of this weekend. I certainly hope to be proven wrong, but this weak show by the city is almost designed to invite challenges.