MINNEAPOLIS | Memorial or lawless area? The crossroads where George Floyd died, in Minneapolis, presents, depending on the hour and the day, two facets that are increasingly difficult to reconcile.
• Read also: George Floyd’s family gets $ 27 million in restitution
On the tails: “George Floyd Square”, as its animators have renamed it, has become a place of meditation, heated debates and artistic creation, dedicated to the fight against police violence and racism.
Front side: shots, some fatal, sometimes tear its nights, its access is filtered by security guards and cars without license plate regularly prowl around.
In late May, crowds overwhelmed by the ordeal of George Floyd, a black forty-something filmed for long minutes choking under the knee of a white policeman, rushed to the sidewalk where he died. to place bouquets, candles and other scribbled messages.
In order to overcome her “trauma”, Jeanelle Austin, a 36-year-old black woman who grew up in the neighborhood, began to take care of the site, first by collecting the trash, then by trying to preserve the “offerings” of these. anonymous.
“People remember me because I held each flower like it was gold,” she told AFP. Increasingly involved, she now collaborates with volunteer curators and with the Floyd family in the idea of creating a lasting structure.
Relatives of the deceased promised Friday to devote to the development of the district 500,000 of the 27 million dollars in compensation that the town hall will pay them. “People will come here to celebrate black culture,” according to their lawyer Ben Crump.
In the meantime, Jeanelle Austin notes that the site is already teeming with initiatives: it is “at the same time a community, a motor of emancipation, a place to express one’s pain, to demonstrate or to come on pilgrimage”.
AFP, however, was unable to observe this proliferation, the square having been locked after the death of a young man, shot dead on the spot on March 6. The perpetrator, a member of a local gang like his victim, was charged with murder, the local prosecutor announced on Monday.
In the days following this homicide, almost no one was able to pass through the checkpoints erected at the four entrances to the crossroads to filter access to the “Independent State of George Floyd”.
In makeshift booths, security guards, sometimes armed with guns, assured onlookers and journalists that they “were not safe” before asking them to leave “to respect the mourning of the community”.
In this context, a day of “silent prayers” planned to mark the start of the trial of Derek Chauvin, the police officer accused of the murder of George Floyd, was even canceled.
This climate of tension is not new: gunshots resound almost every evening in the neighborhood since this summer, and they have left a dozen dead or injured, according to the police.
A private driver assured AFP that he had transported one of these victims, bleeding, who did not want to wait for help.
For the city’s Democratic mayor, Jacob Frey, there are “two truths” associated with the corner of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue: “At times it is a wonderful meeting space for the community. , which must be honored and respected, ”he said during a press briefing on Thursday. “At other times it’s very dangerous. “
“I hear more and more residents who feel hostage to the situation,” added the chief of police, Medaria Arradondo.
In fact, an elderly man, living for 45 years near this crossing, has confided to leave his house every afternoon for weeks to go to sleep with his sister. Speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, he deplored that the square serves “as a magnet for people without a home or job”, “zonards”.
To restore calm, the authorities have planned to reopen the intersection to traffic at the end of the trial of police officer Derek Chauvin, within a month and a half.
But the activists of the square do not hear it that way. Before clearing the space, they want firm commitments from the municipality on police reforms and the future of the memorial. “No justice, no street”, they proclaim.