City in negotiations to pay local constable force to provide security at George Floyd Square

Police largely absent from the eight block area around where Floyd was killed

By: - September 10, 2020 4:55 pm

Two volunteer security guards who are also boxers spar before a neighborhood meeting Tuesday night. Photo by Will Jacott/Minnesota Reformer.

The city of Minneapolis is in negotiations to pay the volunteer security guards who have been patrolling the area now known as George Floyd Square at Chicago Avenue and 38th Street.

The area has been blocked off with barricades and become a makeshift memorial to George Floyd after he died on the street at the hands of police outside Cup Foods on Memorial Day, sparking protests worldwide and a national reckoning over racial injustice. 

Citizens have since taken over a roughly eight-block zone since police stepped back from the area after Floyd’s killing. 

Cup Foods spokesman Jamar Nelson said city officials have said they will start paying the Agape Movement, a group that coordinates the volunteer security guards from the neighborhood who patrol and protect the area.

City of Minneapolis spokesman Casper Hill confirmed city officials are considering paying the security, saying “we’re in contract negotiations.” 

The city already supports the area with garbage and recycling removal, which helps keep it clean even as hordes of visitors continue to make a pilgrimage to the site to honor Floyd and the movement that has flourished since his death.

Alfonzo Williams, a member of the Agape Movement who helps secure the area, grew up in the south Minneapolis area and has attended the World Wide Outreach for Christ church on the corner of 38th and Chicago since he was 5. He said more than two dozen men are working on the volunteer force 24/7. 

The volunteer guards have had to escort out of the zone a suspected white supremacist who threw a rock through Cup Foods’ door and debris at passersby. 

And they ran down a vandal who spray-painted over the iconic Floyd mural on the side of Cup Foods. They rarely call police to deal with such situations.

The city of Minneapolis barricaded the intersection, blocking off traffic and bus routes to keep mourners safe. 

But it’s proven much more difficult to remove those barricades, with a grassroots group of neighbors vowing not to leave the zone until some of the items on a long list of demands are met. The list was recently revised to include $156 million worth of programs over a decade — a big ask for a city that faced a $155 million budget shortfall this year. 

The demands came from a local group called Meet on the Street that gathers twice daily to discuss the square and is negotiating with city officials about its future. They’re also training residents to defend the space — including from the city, with shields stashed near the barricades if the city moves in to reopen the intersection.

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs.