The crossroads ofMinneapolis

The intersection of 38th St. and Chicago Ave. has become a continually evolving memorial to George Floyd.


Storied 38th Street and Chicago Avenue rests in the heart of south Minneapolis, where a middle-class Black community planted businesses, community centers, and one of the city’s oldest newspapers in the 1930s, and where resident families, once ravaged by the crack epidemic and war on drugs, continue to fight against the forces of gentrification and displacement.

On May 25, 2020, George Perry Floyd Jr. was murdered by the Minneapolis police. His death in the street, beneath an officer’s knee, was recorded by agitated bystanders including local teen Darnella Frazier, whose cellphone video swept the world.

A makeshift George Floyd Av. street sign was posted near the George Floyd memorial at 38th and Chicago Ave. S. in Minneapolis on Saturday, June 13, 2020.

In the volatile days following, Minneapolis residents poured into the streets in a series of mass demonstrations. Rioters torched the minority business districts of Lake Street and West Broadway after nightfall. Organically, the intersection of 38th and Chicago metamorphosed into an elaborate memorial and community haven overflowing with flowers, protest art, music, cookouts and food drives.

Courteney Ross and her goddaughter Ireony Farmer, 20, visited a mural near George Floyd Square in Minneapolis on Dec. 3, 2020. Monuments and tributes line the area next to Cup Foods.
Aerial photos from George Floyd Square outside of Cup Foods in Minneapolis on Tuesday, June 16, 2020.

As the months wore on through fall and a frigid winter, a small group of activists continued to guard blockades of concrete barricades, iron barriers known as Czech hedgehogs and bike racks separating “George Floyd Square” from the rest of the city. The activists demanded the city meet 24 conditions, including removing the elected county attorney, before they’ll cede the semi-autonomous zone, where police and others deemed undesirable are not welcome. Their rallying cry: “No justice, no street.”

Today, a complex interplay of power defines George Floyd Square, which sits in the center of the Metropolitan Council’s plans to construct a rapid bus line along Chicago. The city intends to build a permanent memorial to Floyd in the intersection while developing 38th Street as a cultural corridor. Black business owners within the square and Worldwide Outreach for Christ, a church that has been a pillar of the intersection for nearly 40 years, object to the activists’ self-authorized occupation, which they allege gives cover to the local Bloods gang. People lost to gun violence at the square since Floyd’s death include Dameon Chambers, Imez Wright, Leneesha Columbus and her child.

“It felt good,” said Landyn Simmons-Davis, 6, of south Minneapolis, after he kicked an inflatable punching bag of U.S. President Donald Trump Saturday while visiting George Floyd Square at 38th and Chicago in Minneapolis on Nov. 7, 2020. Landyn said Trump is a “mean” man.
A image of George Floyd hangs on art on a clothesline in George Floyd Square, outside Cup Foods in Minneapolis on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020.
Snow fell over the George Floyd memorial, in Minneapolis on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020.

Nevertheless, George Floyd Square remains an active protest site, ever-changing memorial and flexible space for progressive groups to host events and strategize across a wide range of causes, including fighting the Line 3 pipeline in northern Minnesota and supplying Minneapolis’ widespread homeless encampments. It draws tourists the world over and presents a living classroom for families to teach children about racial injustice.

“It’s really profoundly sad when you’re here in person,” said Karen Rene-Peterson, of Robbinsdale, as she fought back tears while visiting the George Floyd memorial in Minneapolis on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020. She was driving around, honking and celebrating Joe Biden’s win in the presidential election and decided to stop by the memorial for her first time.
The chalk list of people killed by the police in George Floyd Square was double exposed with the mural of his likeness on June 4, 2020.

After Derek Chauvin was convicted in April of murdering Floyd, Jeanelle Austin, founder of the nonprofit George Floyd Global Memorial, said occupiers intend to keep the street until they get “justice” as a way of life, defined and designed by the people. City leaders have said the intersection will open to traffic, but so far, they haven’t said when.

At George Floyd Square, people including Jennifer Starr Dodd, left, celebrated the conviction verdict in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, Tuesday, April 20, 2021 in Minneapolis. Chauvin was on trial in the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody in May, 2020.