Minneapolis city crews returned to George Floyd Square early Tuesday to remove makeshift barriers blocking streets, the second attempt in less than a week to open the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue to traffic.
Crews moved in with front-end loaders and brooms just before 5 a.m. to move "debris and trash piles" out of the way, said city representatives. They were on scene for about half an hour.
The workers did not disturb the pop-up gardens and memorial artifacts scattered throughout the intersection. As of noon, three sides of the square were mostly reopened, with the exception of the large fist sculptures standing in the middle of the street, a few cars wedged horizontally and small traffic signs repurposed as roadblocks.
Members of the Agape Movement, a community group hired by the city to provide security in lieu of police, and protest organizers argued over the wooden pallets and concrete barricades remaining on the west side of the square.
By 5 p.m., regular vehicle traffic still had not returned to the intersection as protesters blocked the cross streets surrounding it. While they did not pile new obstructions in the road, the south side was partially blocked by an SUV, the east side had a handful of cars parked in the street beside Cup Foods, and a handful of activists kept watch at the north and west ends.
The city's action Tuesday follows their first attempt last Thursday, when crews cleared away vehicle barriers and portable toilets to reopen portions of the sprawling memorial where George Floyd was murdered by a police officer more than a year ago.
As soon as workers were finished, protesters began parking cars and piling pallets in the streets again.
Since that first reopening attempt, city workers have not re-entered the intersection to take away trash, said Julia Eagles, who lives two blocks away from the square. She credited protesters for borrowing trash bins from Phelps Park for use in the intersection and pushing neighbors' recycling to the south end of the semi-autonomous zone for city workers to pick up.
"It feels a lot like last year where that responsibility was left to the community to both deal with trash and frankly the port-a-potties, before finally we convinced the city to cover that for health and safety reasons," Eagles complained. "Now we're in a situation where they have said that they will still empty the bins, but we have to bring them down to 39th Street because they won't enter the square for that."
She said she wants the city to fulfill the protesters' 24 demands, and consider routing traffic around the square permanently.
"They should be engaging community in a really real way, whether they have the answers or not, just to actually come out and sit with people and talk about what is at the root of all this," Eagles said.
George Floyd Square became a primary gathering place for grief and remembrance almost immediately after the 46-year-old man's death under former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's knee.
The debate on how or whether to reopen the commercial intersection of 38th and Chicago has been playing out for months among the neighborhood's diverse interests. Protesters have created a nonprofit, the George Floyd Global Memorial, which organized a large remembrance event with food trucks and an outdoor concert on the anniversary of Floyd's death last month.
But some residents and business owners argue that the occupation has turned the intersection into a tourist attraction without bringing lasting investment to the historically Black community.
Ivy Alexander, owner of Smoke in the Pit barbecue restaurant, is eager to see the streets reopen. She accuses the activist gatekeepers of trying to control her access to the neighborhood where she raised her children and ran a small business for the past nine years.
Alexander questioned what protesters have accomplished.
"I'm upset because people who are not a part of this community just came in and decided what we wanted to have here," Alexander said. "I didn't get to make a nonprofit. I don't get donations. I haven't been getting money hand over fist. If you're fighting for the community … you wouldn't be holding down this block where all these businesses are … but everybody got their own agenda."
She said if the city persists in removing the makeshift barricades every time they're reinstalled, she'll acknowledge it is putting some effort into reopening the streets.
"The City's three guiding principles for the reconnection of 38th and Chicago have been community safety, racial healing and economic stability and development for Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian and other communities of color," Mayor Jacob Frey, City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins and City Council Member Alondra Cano said in a statement last week. "We are collectively committed to establishing a permanent memorial at the intersection, preserving the artwork, and making the area an enduring space for racial healing."