Minneapolis officials are facing renewed pressure to reopen the intersection where George Floyd was killed after two people were shot there last month, and police raised concerns that the crime scene had been compromised.
But city leaders are struggling to come to agreement on how they should reopen it. Council President Lisa Bender declined to sign on to a letter that Mayor Jacob Frey and the two council members who represent the area hoped would show unified support for reopening 38th Street and Chicago Avenue.
On Dec. 27, Minneapolis police received a report that a man and a woman had been shot near the intersection, often referred to as George Floyd Square.
When officers arrived, police said they couldn't tell where the shooting happened or find shell casings or other evidence.
"Evidence was removed, and no one would give us the evidence," said John Elder, a spokesman for the department.
"I can tell you that the chief is concerned about this remaining closed and any public safety impacts," he said.
Since Floyd died in May, the intersection has become a gathering place for people seeking to pay tribute to him, as well as a flash point for concern over rising crime in Minneapolis.
City Council Members Andrea Jenkins and Alondra Cano, who represent the area, say they hope the city will reopen the space soon, and in a way that honors Floyd and acknowledges the impact of racism on Minneapolis.
Jenkins said she believes it's time for the city to begin healing from the "tragic wound that is in the psyche of almost every person in the world."
"The longer we leave that wound open, the pain, the division, they continue to persist," she said.
Cano said she hears regularly from residents and business owners who fear for their safety as crime has risen after Floyd's death and the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. Some residents have reported finding bullet holes in their homes for the first time or being so concerned for their safety that they now require medication to sleep. Police say they haven't been able to pinpoint who is behind the overall increase in violence.
An online survey posted by the city — and open to anyone — drew more than 900 responses, and 65% of the people said they supported reopening the space in some form. About 19% said they believed the area should remain closed indefinitely. That sentiment has been shared by some people who live near the intersection and who credit demonstrators with holding peaceful events, such as movie nights and block parties that foster a sense of community.
Demonstrators have occupied the intersection since Floyd's death and some have said they don't intend to leave until the city meets a long list of demands, including requests to provide funding for anti-racism training, temporarily suspending property taxes in the area, and providing funding for businesses operated by people of color. Marcia Howard, who has helped lead some of the work at the intersection, declined to comment for this story.
City officials have met with demonstrators repeatedly over the past several months. They note that the city has designated about $10.5 million for programs in and around the intersection and is researching ways it can promote racial reconciliation. Some of the requests, though, would require changes at other levels of government.
The city announced plans to begin opening the intersection in August but postponed the effort, avoiding a confrontation. In the months since, Cano, Jenkins and Mayor Frey have sent two letters to demonstrators, outlining their thoughts on their demands.
Late last year, around the same time they were consumed in intense budget negotiations, the city drafted a letter outlining its intent to remove barricades and reconnect roads in a matter of weeks. It expressed a hope that the demonstrators would support their efforts.
Cano said they hoped to get the entire council and mayor to put their names on the letter but "we sort of hit a wall with that, because we couldn't get all 13 council members to sign on to the letter."
The city didn't send the letter. Bender, who didn't sign it, said this week that she believes decisions about the intersection should go through a formal council process, if they want all of the elected leaders to weigh in.
"I agree with the goal of reaching a mutually agreed upon timeline for any reopening and am concerned that trying to forcefully remove people from the intersection would backfire and create more conflict and difficulty for the neighbors and the City," she said in an e-mail.
City leaders are now trying to figure out the best path forward. Frey said he will support Jenkins, Cano and efforts to reopen the intersection. "Clearly, we need a decision," he said.
Some in City Hall have questioned whether they need elected officials to sign off on plans for the intersection at all.
"Honestly, Public Works probably does have the authority to move forward on their own," Jenkins said. "However, we recognize this is much more than an infrastructure situation. This is very much a situation that is created by and must respond to the social justice issues of our time."