The NY Times reports that the area in Minneapolis where George Floyd was killed has become a memorial of sorts for people from all over the country who come to pay their respects. Because of the obvious tension with police, it has also become a no-go zone for the cops. And that has been fine during the day when things remain peaceful, but at night it becomes a different story:
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…
“What people aren’t recognizing is that people who live there are having a very, very challenging time from the unlawfulness that is occurring after the sun goes down,” said Andrea Jenkins, a member of the City Council whose district includes the memorial space. “There are constant gunshots every night. Emergency vehicles can’t get in. Disabled people are not able to access their medications, their appointments, their food deliveries, et cetera. It’s a very challenging situation.”
A woman named Ms. Dawkins who lives in the neighborhood agreed that things are fine during the day but at night, she’s afraid of the violence and is aware that calling the police is no longer an option:
“But when the other crowd comes at night, I can’t call the police, and that scares the hell out of me,” she said. Ms. Dawkins pointed to a gunshot in the windshield of her car, a gold sedan.
“We have kids in this home, so I do want police to protect families,” she said. “It’s a hard balance. I’m happy this incident brought change, but I want to feel safe.”
This story reminded me of what happened at the site where Rayshard Brooks was killed by police in Atlanta. After Brooks death, people responded by burning down the Wendys and then a group of protesters took up residence in the parking lot and demanded the site become a “peace center.”
At the same time, another group of armed people began blocking off the street near the Wendy’s and deciding who could enter and who could not. They even stopped an Atlanta City Councilwoman. The area became a police no-go zone after an officer was assaulted.
But plenty of other people were showing up in the area and over two consecutive nights there were two shootings. Those shootings, on top of complaints from people in the neighborhood, should have prompted police to clear the area and end the roadblocks but it didn’t. And that’s when an 8-year-old girl named Secoriea Turner was killed. She and her mother had gone out for soda and were stopped at one of the barricades. Turner’s mother apparently attempted to get away by driving into a parking lot and two people opened fire on the car, killing the innocent little girl.
After this tragedy, the protesters at the “peace center” claimed they didn’t know anything about the people blocking the streets and said it was unfair to blame them for what had happened. But the city, including the mayor, were outraged and police were finally sent in to clear the area and restore order.
Police free zones don’t work. In Seattle, we wound up with two dead teenagers. In Atlanta we had two people shot and one girl killed. The area where George Floyd died cannot become a no go zone for police because eventually someone will die. In fact someone already has. Earlier this month a pregnant woman was killed. At the time, it was reported her baby had been delivered and survived. Still, that won’t be the last death if police fail to do their jobs. But it’s not hard to understand why they would be wary of going into the area at night.
Update: Ed reminded me that City Council member Andrea Jenkins, quoted above, is one of people pushing hard to disband the police. Jenkins is also one of three council members who hired private security for themselves last month at a cost of $4,500 a day.