George Floyd: His death moved the world—but the community he died in is standing still

MSR file photo

by Al Brown, Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

For the last two and a half years, every Monday at 5:30 p.m., a powerful act of remembrance has taken place in South Minneapolis at the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, also known to the world as George Floyd Square. A makeshift group of percussionists, Brass Solidarity, gathers and fills the somber air with melodies that transcend grief and call for justice. 

This musical tribute has become a steadfast ritual that seeks to honor the memory of George Floyd, who was murdered four years ago on May 25, 2020, by a Minneapolis police officer while a 17-year-old teenager, Darnella Frazier, courageously videotaped the entire nine minutes it took to end Floyd’s life.

 “We do this to make sure his name and the cause for justice is never forgotten,” says a band member. “We vowed to keep playing until the 24 social justice demands are met. Some progress has been made, but regrettably, much has not happened yet.” Most notably, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act remains stalled in the Senate after passing in the House in 2021.

On the fourth anniversary of Floyd’s devastating murder, a somber reality confronts the community he left behind. Despite the global calls for justice and reform his death sparked, significant parts of this community remain unchanged. George Floyd Square stands as both a memorial and a stark reminder of unfulfilled promises.

The initial outpouring of support following Floyd’s tragic death ignited a firestorm of protests and discussions around systemic racism, police brutality, and social justice. Yet, the reality has grown increasingly bitter for business owners who line the small area of George Floyd Square. 

“We are tired of talking. The City [of Minneapolis] has been talking since Floyd was murdered. If they wanted to do something, they’d have done it already,” said a discouraged business owner in the square who asked to remain anonymous.

While the City often touts its willingness to engage in dialogue with various community groups, tangible outcomes have been conspicuously absent. Instead, a troubling inertia seems to have settled in. 

In March, following one of those community meetings held at Sabathani Community Center, Alexander Kado, senior project manager for the City, said, “The City was in no rush to act until the community collectively decides on a course of action.” This effectively shifts the burden back to the community, leaving many feeling frustrated and abandoned.

Photo by Chris JuhnSymbolic headstone for George Floyd near the Square

The City did take a singular action by purchasing the gas station located directly across from the site of Floyd’s death. Kado explains that this was done to prevent any businesses potentially harmful to the community’s interest from acquiring the location. Yet, this gesture seems a meager consolation to those calling for more substantial economic and infrastructural investments. 

For the local businesses struggling to survive within the Square, the absence of a decisive economic stimulus from the city is glaring. These establishments, which persevered through the pandemic and civil unrest, now face additional pressures due to the lack of support. “We are not just businesses; we are part of the fabric of this community,” explains another business owner. “What we need is action, not just words.” 

Meanwhile, the Square continues to be a pilgrimage site for countless visitors who come to pay their respects and view the exact place where one of the most shocking public deaths of our era occurred.

“George’s death was a catalyst for change worldwide,” said Dr. Angela Harrison, Floyd’s aunt and sister to his late mother, who resides in the Twin Cities and has been an active voice in these trying times. “It brought global attention to an issue many have been fighting for years. But it’s deeply disheartening to see that the community where this all began remains stagnant while the world moves forward.”

The band that plays every Monday is a small but persistent beacon of hope. Their tunes serve as a constant reminder of the promises made, and the work still left to do. They call attention to the fact that real change requires more than just rhetoric—it demands action and commitment.

Looking ahead, many hope that this anniversary will reignite the push for meaningful change. Perhaps the sustained efforts of the community and City of Minneapolis, combined with the unwavering memory of Floyd’s life and unnecessary death, will eventually lead to a future where his death not only moved the world but also transformed this community for the better.

For now, George Floyd Square remains at a painful crossroads—a testament to both the power of collective action and the frustratingly slow march towards justice. The melodies that float through the Square every Monday evening are not just a tribute; they are a call to action, echoing the hopes of a community that refuses to be forgotten. 

Al Brown

Al Brown is assignment editor at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.

George Floyd: His death moved the world—but the community he died in is standing still



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