Three years later, Minneapolis remembers George Floyd
Roses in hand, a group of California high school students solemnly walked through George Floyd Square on Thursday morning. They were careful to step over the memories, led by guides and their instructors, who took them to see what happened in Minneapolis three years ago.
Teacher Amy Hunt brought 11th graders from Bay Area Nueva School in Minneapolis to give them first-hand insight into the scene of Floyd’s murder — and the resulting community resolve to seek justice race – as part of their American Studies education. They had a lot to do on Thursday, the third anniversary of Floyd’s death.
In the years since Floyd’s killing by four Minneapolis police officers on May 25, 2020, the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue remains a center of learning — even without the formal structure that some community members wish.
Floyd was killed just before members of the visiting class started high school, and his death changed history and their curriculum, said student Alyse Graham-Martínez.
“We’ve all seen this street on the news. But to actually be here, especially when there are so many journalists and people here who remember him, is a lot,” Graham-Martínez said.
People from as far away as California and New York traveled Thursday to look at the posters and other offerings. Gardeners worked on raised beds and others entered the black-owned Onyx Cafe for a latte, where poetry and leaflets about the racial justice movement decorate many tables.
The fact that local residents call a visit to the plaza a “pilgrimage” and not a tourist destination was really significant, said Hunt, a native of St. Louis Park.
“It’s about understanding this story that’s happening here,” Hunt said of his students.
In the afternoon, a steady stream of visitors stopped by an exhibition called The Movement Never Stops by freelance photographer KingDemetrius Pendleton. People were guided through three years of modern history by volunteer AJ Bantley, who only missed one weekend of work last year.
It can be difficult to recount one’s own experiences at protests, she said. Bantley cried as she told visitors about the protest images covering the walls.
“If it ever becomes automatic, then I’m not here for the right reasons,” she said. “If it’s ever robotic, then I’m not doing any good.”
She said it’s an honor to be entrusted with Pendleton’s exhibit, which she balances with two jobs. It worries her when people from outside – and those who live much closer to the intersection – come to the square with no one to guide them.
By early evening, around 200 people had gathered in the square for several planned events. Many were from outside the Twin Cities, some from out of state.
Taylor Jones, a 24-year-old from Medina, said he visited the memorial several times. As a black man, Jones said he had experienced disparity and unequal treatment his entire life.
He said it was hard to still see high-profile killings of black people three years after Floyd’s murder.
“It’s tough because it feels like we still have a lot of those incidents, even though it’s three years later,” Jones said.
Joe Brown, a 30-year-old from Chicago, said he wanted to come see the many art exhibits, murals and tributes placed in the plaza.
“It’s part of the story, and I think everyone needs to know more, and the police are taking it too far,” Brown said. “Sometimes when people say they can’t breathe, it’s not because they’re trying to run away or escape. They really can’t breathe and the police are overreacting.”
A block from the plaza, a procession began with about 30 people marching through the Say Their Names cemetery, where hundreds of plastic headstones are placed with the names of black people killed by police. The procession was led by the Ananya Dance Theatre, a St. Paul dance ensemble made up of women of color.
Others in the square began picking rose petals to distribute in the street and handing out candles for the vigil.
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