A makeshift memorial for George Floyd, the unarmed black man who died while in Minneapolis Police Department custody last May, has become a “police-free” “autonomous zone” similar to ones that cropped up around Seattle, Washington, last summer.
George Floyd Square was once a monument to the man whose death sparked a national anti-racism and anti-police brutality movement but is now a “volatile” area controlled by militant leftists, according to the New York Post.
“A militant-style group has taken over the blocks-long site, creating a hostile situation for authorities and protesters alike,” the outlet reported, citing NewsNation, which first broke the story.
“The situation at the memorial, from what I understand, is its kind of volatile,” one Minneapolis resident told NewsNation. “People that want to go and support doesn’t feel a sense of inclusion. There is more of a like militant-type atmosphere over there and a sense of fear.”
Protests calling attention to Floyd’s death and reiterating demands for racial justice have cropped up over the last several days in Minneapolis, as the city braces for the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who allegedly killed Floyd when he knelt on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes during Floyd’s arrest.
The “autonomous zone,” though, is off limits not just to protesters who are not affiliated with the militant leftist group in charge, but also to reporters looking to document the scenes, and to emergency services.
“Police were not allowed to get into that area; he was carried out outside of the zone of George Floyd Square,” one resident said of a young man she believes was shot and killed inside the autonomous zone. “It was made clear law enforcement was not welcome to penetrate that zone, which is an atrocity because his life was taken, and I mean who knows whether or not he would have survived had things been different.”
Police told NewsNation that they’ve faced “protests, resistance, opposition” from autonomous zone residents, and stressed that the neighborhood was already dangerous before it because off limits to law enforcement.
The NewsNation reporter who tried to document the situation in and near the autonomous zone was reportedly threatened with violence for simply being near the area, Fox News added.
“‘You’re going to be in a bad situation in a second,’ a masked protester told NewsNation’s Brian Entin on on Tuesday, as he reported from the other side of the zone’s poorly constructed barricade,” according to the network.
“You’re being called out for what you are, and you need to get out of here,” the protester told Entin on camera. “You need to get in your car and go.”
When Entin said he was “just media,” the threats got harsher.
“I don’t give a f*** who you are … You need to get in your car and go,” the protester said, as he was joined by other autonomous zone residents.
The New York Post reports that the Minneapolis police are likely to leave the autonomous zone intact for the next several weeks, during Chauvin’s trial.
The occupying protesters, though, say they plan to stay until all four offices involved with Floyd’s death are tried, a process that could take until August, or until their demands are met, demands which the Post says include “recalling the county prosecutor and dedicating hundreds of thousands of dollars into fighting racism, supporting affordable housing and creating jobs.”