George Floyd Square's Future Hangs in Balance as Derek Chauvin Trial Begins

As Minneapolis braces for the fallout from the Derek Chauvin trial, the future of the semi-autonomous George Floyd Square, where the killing took place, hangs in the balance.

At the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, flowers, murals and tributes have been left close to where George Floyd pleaded for his life for nearly nine minutes as Minneapolis police officer Chauvin pressed his knee into his neck.

Floyd's death sparked protest movements across the globe, most notably Black Lives Matter, and became one of the largest cases of civil rights activism in the U.S. since the 1960s.

In the aftermath of Floyd's death, the site where he said "I can't breathe" became a makeshift shrine with people flocking to create a semi-autonomous zone.

The pedestrian community area is barricaded with concrete roadblocks, originally put up by city officials to protect protestors from traffic, according to The Guardian.

Activists have organized a community bookshelf, donated clothes and toys and a free clinic in a tent, although the newspaper reported it is now in the process of being moved into a building.

Local businesses have struggled to attract customers due to the road closures and public associations of the area with the killing of Floyd as well as due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Floyd's family offered to help struggling businesses by dedicating $500,000 of a pre-trial settlement to owners in the area.

Brandon Williams, the nephew of Floyd, told CBS Minnesota: "It's not the ultimate and full justice that we want, but I think it's a step in the right direction."

The barricades have also limited the police presence in the area and have led officials to push to reopen the square, claiming an uptick in violence should not be accepted.

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said earlier this month the force may not wait until the conclusion of Chauvin's trial to reopen the square, although no timeline or plan was offered.

He told KSTP-TV: "People are hurting. They need that intersection reopened. The best public safety remedy right now is to open up and get that intersection flowing again.

"We are not going to let the trial dictate when it's the right time to safely reopen that intersection, so the plans I present to Mayor Frey will not be based on the trial timeline, it's going to be based on public safety needs."

Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Arradondo revealed on March 17 that violent crime had risen at the intersection and nearby blocks as well as other parts of Minneapolis.

The future of the square is unclear
The future of George Floyd Square is unclear. A view of the site where George Floyd was killed last May, known now as George Floyd Square, on March 6, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Stephen Maturen / Stringer/Getty

In the area close to and including the square there was a 2,543 percent increase in Shotspotter activations, a gunfire locator; a 240 percent rise in robberies; and a 378 percent jump in assaults, according to KSTP-TV.

Democratic city council member Alondra Cano said she wants the site to reopen as it could cut the number of deaths.

She told The Guardian: "Crime has increased since the intersection has been blocked off, that's a fact...gang activity has grown over time."

Cano added criminals had taken advantage of "the sacred space people have tried to create there."

The future of George Floyd Square remains unclear as Minneapolis braces itself for the aftermath of Chauvin's trial.

Floyd's family marked the first day of the former Minneapolis officer's trial by kneeling for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd's neck on May 25, 2020.

Chauvin faces charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Newsweek has contacted the Minneapolis Police Department for comment.