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World

George Floyd Square: scene of tears and tensions

  • "People who remember me say, 'You held each flower as if it was precious gold,'" Austin said.
Published March 17, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS: Memorial or no-go zone? The Minneapolis intersection where George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was killed last summer by a white police officer has become a bit of both.

"George Floyd Square" is a public shrine, a focal point for debate and a canvas for artistic expression denouncing racial injustice and police brutality.

Surrounded by concrete barricades and patrolled by self-appointed "guardians," the intersection at 38th and Chicago has also been the scene of several shootings, at least one of them fatal.

Bouquets, candles and hand-written messages mark the spot where the handcuffed Floyd died, his neck pinned to the ground by police officer Derek Chauvin's knee.

Jeanelle Austin, a 36-year-old woman who grew up in the neighborhood, describes herself as the "lead caretaker" of the George Floyd global memorial.

"I started caretaking for my own well-being," Austin told AFP, carefully preserving and archiving the tributes left by visitors.

"People who remember me say, 'You held each flower as if it was precious gold,'" Austin said.

"At first we were just tending to the space, to keep it clean and tidy," she said. Now, "we are part of the fight to rehumanize Black people."

"The stories that we are conserving emerge out of Black narrative," she added.

"Our job is to be keeper of this story."

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