Opinion: Minneapolis should re-open 38th and Chicago — conscientiously

If George Floyd Square were to be re-opened, it should be done with input and open dialogue from the city, the local community and activists who have made an effort to call for reform in peaceful ways.

Connor Wilson

2020 was a tumultuous year, with COVID-19 taking a disastrous toll on the economy, local businesses and people’s health. We saw civil unrest, widespread calls for police reform, spikes in violent crime in major cities across the U.S. and political division that seems to be creating a “Divided” States rather than a “United” States. In addition to this, the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis has led to the creation of an autonomous zone around the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue. The area, known as George Floyd Square, was created as a memorial to George Floyd and a space where the local community could process his death and attempt to heal from the effects of the civil unrest that engulfed the city of Minneapolis during the summer of 2020.

The creation of the square began as an effort to memorialize a victim of police brutality, but has since become a ‘no go’ zone for police — an arena for violence between local gangs — and has impacted small businesses and local resident’s abilities to live their lives safely. To put this in perspective, violent crime rose 21% from 2019 to 2020;  the autonomous zone around George Floyd Square has not been immune to the spike in violent crime, with several murders being reported within or near the square. In 2020, 553 people were shot across the city, according to the Star Tribune.

This is a plea to the city to re-open the area around 38th and Chicago Avenue, so that police can respond to shooting calls, local businesses can resume normal operations and residents can feel safe in their community. If the square were to be re-opened, it should be done with input and open dialogue from the city, the local community and activists who have made an effort to call for reform in peaceful ways. It should be done in a way that recognizes the pain that the community has gone through during the past year. It should empower the local community to seek and attain meaningful change in a system that at times seems unchangeable. Simply keeping the square open without any plan moving forward is doing a disservice to the people of Minneapolis.

This OpEd essay was submitted by Connor Wilson, a graduate student at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota. 

This letter has been lightly edited for style and clarity.