A memorial honoring George Floyd will remain at the Minneapolis intersection where he was pinned to the ground by a police officer in the moments before he died last May, but the streets will reopen to two-way traffic at the conclusion of the officer’s murder trial, city leaders said Friday.
The intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue – now known as George Floyd Square – has been closed since late May, as the corner became a makeshift memorial to Floyd and a space for community healing. Mayor Jacob Frey said that while the intersection had been forever changed, the current situation at one of the city’s busiest corridors was not sustainable.
"We will be moving forward in a substantial way to memorialize George Floyd, to memorialize his life and to make this space an ongoing space for racial justice and healing,” Frey said.
He also said the barricades that were once used to protect people and art were now being used to hide illicit activity, and he stressed that the area could not be an autonomous zone where police are prevented from entering.
Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said neighbors were suffering, adding, “I cannot allow that to happen. ... Our men and women will continue to show up and respond and be the guardians of that community when they call us for help.”
Under the city’s plan, a memorial to Floyd and public art will remain at the intersection, and area residents and businesses will get a chance in coming weeks to give feedback on options for a new intersection design. The intersection will see improvements, such as new lighting, and public transportation will be restored.
Frey said the city had heard from many in the community, including Floyd's fiancee, who said she never again wanted tires to run over the spot where Floyd was pinned to the ground before he died.
Floyd, a Black man who was handcuffed, died May 25 after former Police Officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck as Floyd said he couldn’t breathe. Floyd’s death sparked protests in Minneapolis and beyond, leading to a nationwide reckoning on race. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter and is scheduled for trial March 8.
Three other former officers, charged with aiding and abetting, are scheduled to face trial in August.
Frey said he recognized Chauvin's trial would be a difficult time, and that the intersection would be an important gathering place. He said the city would increase services to the intersection during the trial and would reopen it to traffic after the trial was over.