The intersection where George Floyd died in May of 2020 has become an ad hoc memorial and autonomous zone.
George Floyd Square, The Guardian reported in March, has purportedly become “a symbol of resistance – and healing.”
“The sign on a barricade on a once-unassuming street in Minneapolis reads: ‘You’re now entering the free state of George Floyd,'” Amudalat Ajasa wrote.
“A small rectangle of city blocks features murals, flowers, candles and tributes in the place where Floyd, a Black man, died under the knee of a white police officer last May, sparking the biggest US civil rights uprising since the 1960s.
“On maps, it’s the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue. To activists and community members, it’s George Floyd Square.”
To business owners in George Floyd Square, it’s been a nightmare.
Crime is up. Business owners say they’ve lost three-fourths of their business. Things have gotten so bad that community activist Alicia Smith has set up a GoFundMe page on behalf of an area business group known as the 38th Street Black Business Collective.
The sad irony is that most of these businesses are black-owned, according to the New York Post.
“The city left me in danger,” said the owner of Smoke In The Pit restaurant, whom the Post identified only as Alexander W. “They locked us up on here and left us behind.”
“They left me with no food, no water, nothing to eat,” he added. “The police, fire trucks, can’t come in here.”
As for the truth of that, well, the Post had difficulty talking to business owners or employees there, apparently because they were too frightened to go on record.
“Look around, things are empty,” Richard Roberts, a worker with the nearby Worldwide Outreach for Christ, told the Post. “What can we do about it?”
Five stores along one street are closed and the intersection, described in The Guardian as a hub for activist events, was nearly vacant on Thursday, according to the Post, save for tourists taking pictures at the store where Floyd allegedly passed the counterfeit bill that led to his arrest.
“Sometimes it’s good and sometimes bad,” Roberts said. “It’s not stopping violence.”
It’s stopping business, according to the GoFundMe page set up for businesses in George Floyd Square.
“The Black businesses along George Floyd Square have suffered greatly. Lack of traffic down this once busy street has led to an unintended economic downfall for these businesses,” the page reads. “As the community continues to hold space, it is imperative that decision makers consider the economic toll that has been paid.
“These once prospering Black businesses have seen great revenue loss, over 75% loss to date. To date there has been no financial reprieve from the city of Minneapolis or the local business association. These businesses feel they have been the sacrificial lamb of the movement and while everyone agrees that justice for George Floyd is the ultimate goal, it should not come at the cost of losing one’s livelihood especially for these Black families.”
The 38th Street Black Business Collective held a news conference on April 1 to ask that the city of Minneapolis support its members financially, according to the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.
“In the fight for justice we must not forget the fight of economic justice of once thriving community,” the GoFundMe page states. “We business owners know that the fight for justice doesn’t just include justice from the legal system we must also include justice for business impacted.”
And then there’s the crime problem at George Floyd Square. In March, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that “violence disturbing the once-peaceful memorial has frustrated residents and business owners inside the square and surrounding it.”
“We cannot allow groups of individuals to feel that they’re emboldened,” Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said at a March news conference, according to the Star Tribune. “They have to be held accountable. Period. … Yes, I’m putting them on notice. Enough’s enough.”
“Crime has increased since the intersection has been blocked off, that’s a fact … gang activity has grown over time” Minneapolis City Council Member Alondra Cano told The Guardian, adding it was robbing the “the sacred space people have tried to create there.”
According to The Guardian’s March report, “community members” were providing a bit of security. One protester said police had access, kinda.
“You can be a police officer but why do you have to come in here in uniform and traumatize the people that are here?” Mileesha Smith said. “It’s not that we don’t want them here, we don’t feel safe.”
However, those inside the zone likely don’t feel safe without police there. According to the GoFundMePage, area businesses have had “windows shot out from random gunfire, cars stolen, customers not patronizing businesses due to fear of violence in the neighborhood and throughout the city.”
“Business is bad,” an employee at Giant Express Laundromat told the New York Post.
“No one absolutely knows who runs this,” he said. “It’s like a union. One person is selected as a leader one week and if they’re not fit they get thrown out.
“The black and white community now made this a hangout place to come and grieve,” he continued. “There should be a memorial, but something has to be done.”
As of Sunday morning, the GoFundMe page had taken in just over $12,000 of its $400,000 goal, meaning that crowdfunding won’t be the answer to the problem posed by George Floyd Square.
And that might be the lasting memory left by the semi-autonomous zone. Long after the intersection is opened, long after the activists move on to something else, the shops will remained closed.
Yes, there were the other exigencies of 2020, but those couldn’t be avoided by any business in Minneapolis. In George Floyd Square, the misery was actively compounded for people who made a living there. For a lot of these black-owned businesses, that’s all in the past tense now — or likely soon will be.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.