In the wake of the trial of Derek Chauvin, the police officer charged with the murder of George Floyd, militant protesters have overtaken a memorial site and transformed it into a “volatile” autonomous zone.
The makeshift memorial, entitled George Floyd Square, was established days after Floyd’s death last May as global protests and riots against police brutality sparked by his death rocked the nation in honor of the grave injustice and racial equality more generally. Today, the site has become a hostile autonomous zone, similar to the infamous CHAZ in Seattle, Washington.
Residents have complained of gunshots in the area and helicopters flying over head, with City councilwoman Andrea Jenkins confirming police have faced “protests, resistance, opposition” by the occupants.
“The situation at the memorial, from what I understand, is its kind of volatile,” Kim Griffin, a Minneapolis resident, told the NewsNation Now. “People that want to go and support doesn’t feel a sense of inclusion. There is more of a like militant-type atmosphere over there and a sense of fear.”
According to Griffin, protesters shot her nephew, Imez Wright, in the zone and even prevented law enforcement from entering the area. “It was made clear law enforcement was not welcome to penetrate that zone, which is an atrocity because his life was taken, and I mean who knows whether or not he would have survived had things been different,” Griffin recounted.
Adding to the hostility, protesters threatened a NewsNation reporter who attempted to document the area, with a masked protester telling the outlet’s Brian Entin “You’re going to be in a bad situation in a second.”
“You’re being called out for what you are, and you need to get out of here,” the protester told Entin on camera. “You need to get in your car and go.”
The militant protesters occupying the zone have also issued a list of 24 demands to the city of Minneapolis, which includes recalling the county prosecutor, allocating hundreds of thousands of dollars to combat racism, and creating affordable housing and jobs.
“The thing about it is that a lot of the different demands are asks from different people, and black folks aren’t monolithic,” said Jeanelle Austin, a leader of the autonomous zone. “So it’s really incumbent upon our city leadership to really look at the needs behind the asks, and really fulfilling those needs.”
Activists plan to occupy the autonomous zone until the conclusion of the trials for the four offices involved with Floyd’s death, three of which are scheduled for August, or until the city meets their demands. The city, however, has plans to re-open the zone following the trial of former officer Chauvin, a process that will most likely stretch for weeks.