The area where George Floyd died has become known as George Floyd square. It’s a police no-go zone with barricades in the street that are manned by people who are specifically there prevent police from entering. Like the other autonomous zones that have popped up in Seattle and Atlanta, things at the square have gotten out of control. On Saturday a man was shot and killed inside the area.
Police received reports about 5:45 p.m. Saturday that two people had been shot and were being brought to the barricades at the entrance to the area. The victim was gone by the time officers arrived, police spokesman John Elder said.
Police later learned that the victim had been taken to a hospital, where he died.
A Slate staff writer named Aymann Ismail was in the area when the shooting happened. He heard more than a dozen shots fired, then saw a truck speeding down an alley chased by an angry mob. This is the new normal in George Floyd square.
When the gunshots rang out, people at the barbecue acted out of muscle memory. Violent crime has gone up since the intersection closed. In 2019, there was a total of three fatal and nonfatal shootings in the area. In 2020, there were 19. One person I spoke to told me that sometimes, people simply shoot guns in the air, not at anything in particular.
Eventually, I walked toward the street. One woman was in tears; she witnessed the shooting. “I saw blood. It looked like red jelly was spilled,” she said. “I think I saw guts.” One of her friends gave her a hug. An older man, shuffling as he tried to walk as quickly as he could, mumbled under his breath, “two people just got shot over there.”
One local activist told Ismail, “It’s basically the Thunderdome right now.” A community organizer who lives in the area admitted things have gotten worse lately. In fact, both she and Ismail were laying on the floor to avoid being shot as they had this discussion over the phone:
While I spoke to Smith on the phone on Sunday, I suddenly heard at least 20 rounds fired. I could hear her talking to her sons, calmly instructing them to get down. I was nearby, too, closer to Smith than I had realized and could hear the gunfire coming from a block away. I got on the ground too and laid flat on my belly, and we continued the interview…
Smith has struggled with whether George Floyd Square has contributed to the violence. “No one in that square wants to see anyone hurt or go without. But you have people on both sides saying, ‘Open it yesterday,’ and you have folks saying, ‘Don’t open it until we get justice. Without justice you don’t get no street.’ It’s a fine line to walk, and we’re all challenged with that question: ‘Are we doing the right thing?’ We’re doing something we’ve never done before.”
I think it was after the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy (or maybe it was more recent than that), that some idiot wrote a piece speculating that maybe Mary Jo Kopechne would have considered her own death a worthwhile sacrifice if she’d been able to see all the wonderful progressive policy Kennedy had created in the remainder of his life. You read stuff like that and you just sort of shake your head at people’s capacity for self-delusion.
This is the same thing. A man was just murdered in the street, literally a few paces from where George Floyd died. The piece describes the victim as having a radiant smile. Isn’t his death is just as much a tragedy? So how can this community organizer be wondering if the increased violence created by the no-police autonomous zone is somehow justifiable? The answer is no. It’s not justifiable if it leads to this.
You can’t decide it’s the crime of the decade when cops kill George Floyd but then act as if it’s just another Sunday when someone who isn’t a cop murders another black man on the very same spot. Politically it might make sense because one death is an international cause célèbre, but as a matter of basic humanity it’s terrible.
The city has said it will reopen the area to traffic after the trial of Derek Chauvin. That’s a mistake. The area should have been opened months ago. We can’t have police no-go zones in major cities. It always ends the same way, with more dead bodies and people wondering why we ever let these experiments in lawlessness exist in the first place.