The intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis — now widely known as "George Floyd Square" — is an important symbol for racial justice and reconciliation. But it's also one of the city's busiest thoroughfares, providing essential access to transit, businesses and the nearby neighborhood.
The intersection has been closed to traffic since late May because the site has become a makeshift memorial to Floyd, who died in police custody, and because city officials and community groups can't come to terms on a more permanent memorial, reopening to traffic or social justice efforts.
Last August, city officials announced plans to begin opening the intersection but postponed the effort, avoiding a confrontation with demonstrators. Since then Mayor Jacob Frey and Council Members Alondra Cano and Andrea Jenkins have sent two letters outlining their thoughts about the concerns of demonstrators. Cano said they hoped to get the full City Council to put their names on a third letter but "we sort of hit a wall with that because we couldn't get all 13 council members to sign on."
Related discussions have gone on for months now, and it's time for the city to take action.
Bringing the intersection back is necessary for several reasons. As the Star Tribune Editorial Board previously argued, the site must provide access for first responders to get to nearby homes and businesses quickly in case of an emergency. The final plan for a memorial should balance the need for a place of reflection with the practicalities of moving traffic and supporting businesses.
From a safety standpoint, neighbors and law enforcement are concerned about the increase in crime around the area and the perception that it's almost a "no go'' zone for police.
On Dec. 27, police received a report that two people had been shot near the area. But when officers arrived, they said evidence had been removed. A police spokesman said that the "chief is concerned about this [intersection] remaining closed and the public safety impacts.''
As for services, the city needs access for street cleaning, rubbish removal and snowplowing. In addition, in an online survey done by the city, 65% of people said they supported reopening the intersection in some form. About 19% said they believed the area should remain closed indefinitely.
City officials have met with demonstrators repeatedly over the past several months and have acted on some of their requests. Public Works has recommended options for the site, and the council has designated about $10.5 million for programs in and around the intersection and is considering other ways to promote racial reconciliation.
Frey told an editorial writer that consensus about how to proceed would be preferred, but it is important to select a reopening plan. "Clearly we need a decision," he said.
And that decision, one that balances the need for a place of reflection with the practicalities of city life, should come soon.