Neighbors of “George Floyd Square” — the makeshift memorial that sprung up where George Floyd died while in Minneapolis police custody — is now an “autonomous zone,” and the memorial’s neighbors, who ended up in the zone by having an unlucky address, are begging the city to intervene after a series of violent events.
CNN reported earlier this week that racial justice activists had cordoned off George Floyd Square with barricades and traffic pylons, cutting themselves off from city services and, particularly, Minneapolis law enforcement. In place of the police, the George Floyd Autonomous Zone is patrolled by “guardians,” whom neighbors say have turned a place of peaceful protest into a war zone.
“Locals wanted it to be a place of peace, justice, mourning, and healing. There is a greenhouse growing plants for the memorial to Floyd and caretakers who make sure the area they now call George Floyd Square is clean,” CNN noted.
In just the last ten days, the area has devolved into a “war zone” according to residents of the low-income, largely minority neighborhood that surrounds the George Floyd memorial-turned-eternal protests, who submitted their own op-ed to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune Tuesday begging for help.
“As neighbors of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, also known as George Floyd Square or the autonomous zone, we are witnessing a revolution by day and a devolution by night,” they said. “Prayer gatherings canceled. Rallies canceled. Visitors arriving with flowers in hand, only to retreat to their cars when greeted by the sound of gunshots. Neighbors ducking for cover behind our houses, children in tow.”
“The spiritual health of our community, the feeling of being connected to something larger than ourselves, is collapsing,” the group of neighbors added.
They followed their plea with a list of incidents that took place just in the last ten days, beginning with the murder of a volunteer worker at the memorial on March 6th, and ending with a high-speed police chase that ended in an armed standoff with police.
Some members of the community are helping, and Minneapolis is giving “$500,000 to the business owners” “who are being impacted by the loss of business in the zone.” But neighbors say that there are other issues, specifically, that the “autonomous zone” is anti-police and they are still in need of both law enforcement and emergency services, even if the “guardians” believe themselves to be the law.
“We also will continue to call 911 as the devolution continues,” they wrote. “We are unsure when help is coming.”
“People don’t feel safe, they are selling their homes, they hear gunshots, they know the police are not coming into the neighborhood,” one neighbor told a local news affiliate.
“I’m hearing overwhelmingly from community members who, quite frankly, are feeling hostage over there at the situation. And we cannot allow for the violence to continue to happen,” the Minneapolis Police Chief told a press conference on the issue last week.
The “guardians” say they will not budge on the issue and that police are not needed.
“The police need to work on themselves. There is a distrust they have not corrected themselves. The police work for some people and not for others,” one told CNN.
Instead, “activists, residents, and caretakers of the square say they have sent 24 demands to the city they believe would create a pathway to restorative justice and healing if and when the blockade goes,” including money for youth services and health care. “They say not one has been met yet.”
Minneapolis police say they will clear the autonomous zone, at least where it blocks city roads, but much of it will be left alone while Derek Chauvin, the cop charged with killing George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for nine minutes during an arrest because it allows some of the activism to be predictable.