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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Minneapolis: Gunshots heard near George Floyd square on death anniversary

Floyd, 46, who was Black, died on Memorial Day 2020 after then-Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck, pinning him to the ground for about 9 1/2 minutes. Chauvin, who is white, was convicted last month of murder and faces sentencing June 25.

By: AP | Minneapolis |
May 25, 2021 10:26:25 pm
George FloydIn this Wednesday, April 21, 2021, file photo, a man holds a sign at George Floyd Square, in Minneapolis, a day after former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted on all counts for the 2020 death of Floyd. (AP Photo)

The Minneapolis intersection where George Floyd died was disrupted by gunfire Tuesday, just hours before it was to be the site of a family-friendly street festival marking the anniversary of his death at the hands of police.

Associated Press video from the scene showed people running and seeking cover as shots rang out. A police spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Journalist Philip Crowther, who was shooting live video from 38th and Chicago, reported hearing as many as 30 gunshots about a block east of the intersection. Crowther said a storefront window appeared to have been broken by a gunshot.

“Very quickly things got back to normal,” Crowther said. “People here who spend a significant amount of time, the organizers, were running around asking, ‘Does anyone need a medic?’ It seems like there are no injuries.”

Police said they responded to reports of gunfire at about 10:10 a.m. at the 3800 block of Elliot Ave. South. Callers told police that a vehicle was seen speeding away from the area.

Soon after, someone went to Abbott Northwestern Hospital with a gunshot wound. The victim was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center and it’s believed the injury is not life-threatening. It wasn’t immediately clear if that person was injured in the shooting near George Floyd Square.

The intersection has been barricaded since soon after George Floyd’s death and quickly turned into a memorial — and also a challenging spot for the city, with police officers not always welcome.

Informally dubbed George Floyd Square, it was being transformed Tuesday into an outdoor festival on the anniversary of his death, with food, children’s activities and a long list of musical performers.

“We’re going to be turning mourning into dancing,” rapper Nur-D tweeted. “We’re going to be celebrating 365 days of strength in the face of injustice.”

In this April 20, 2021, file photo, a crowd gathers at George Floyd Square after a guilty verdict was announced at the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin for the 2020 death of Floyd in Minneapolis. (AP Photo)

Floyd, 46, who was Black, died on Memorial Day 2020 after then-Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck, pinning him to the ground for about 9 1/2 minutes. Chauvin, who is white, was convicted last month of murder and faces sentencing June 25. Three other fired officers still face trial.

The “Rise and Remember George Floyd” celebration, including a candlelight vigil at 8 p.m., caps several days of marches, rallies and panel discussions about his death and where America is in confronting racial discrimination.

Many members of the Floyd family are scheduled to be in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, in a private meeting with President Joe Biden, who called family members after the Chauvin verdict and pledged to continue fighting for racial justice.

Floyd family attorney Ben Crump said he hoped Biden will renew his support for policing reform named for George Floyd that would ban chokeholds and no-knock police raids and create a national registry for officers disciplined for serious misconduct.

“Now is time to act,” Crump said Tuesday on CNN. “Not just talk but act.”

Floyd’s brother Philonise, appearing alongside Crump, said he thinks about George “all the time.”

“My sister called me at 12 o’clock last night and said ’This is the day our brother left us,’” he said, adding: “I think things have changed. I think it is moving slowly but we are making progress.”

In this April 21, 2021, file photo, demonstrators display placards while marching during a protest in the Nubian Square neighborhood, of Boston, a day after a guilty verdict was announced at the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the 2020 death of George Floyd. (AP Photo)

Nur-D, whose real name is Matt Allen, took to the Minneapolis streets in the days after Floyd’s death, often providing medical assistance to protesters who were shot or gassed in confrontations with police. He eventually founded an organization, Justice Frontline Aid, to support safe protest.

He described the past year as “like we’ve lived 20 years inside of one” and hoped that people would feel “honesty and a real sense of togetherness” during Tuesday’s celebration at what’s informally known as George Floyd Square.

“If you’re angry, you can be angry. If you’re sad, you can be sad,” Nur-D said in a follow-up interview. “If you’re feeling some sense of joy over the verdict and some sort of like step in the right direction, and you want to celebrate that, do that as well.”

The event was organized by the George Floyd Global Memorial. Angela Harrelson, an aunt of Floyd’s and a member of the board of directors, said the organization has stockpiled 3,000 items surrounding Floyd’s death — things like artwork left behind in the square — and will display some of them in a pop-up gallery.

Separately, the Floyd family announced the launch of a fund that will make grants to businesses and community organizations in the neighborhood where he died, as well as broader grants “encouraging the success and growth of Black citizens and community harmony.” The money comes from $500,000 earmarked as part of the city’s $27 million civil settlement for the Floyd family earlier this year.

The event at George Floyd Square was due to start at 1 p.m., the same time Gov. Tim Walz asked Minnesotans to pause for a moment of silence to honor Floyd. Walz asked that the moment last for 9 minutes, 29 seconds – the length of time that prosecutors say Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck.

Walz’s proclamation says Chauvin’s guilty verdict was a step in the right direction, “but our work to dismantle systemic racism and discrimination has not ended. True justice for George Floyd will come only through real, systemic change to prevent acts like this from happening again — when every member of every community, no matter their race, is safe, valued, and protected.”

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