The Changing Faces of George Floyd Square: Dispatch from Minneapolis
In the living room of his home 15 blocks from George Floyd Square, Zane Spang talks about something that happened to him and his 3-year-old daughter several weeks earlier.
“I had [her] on the back of my bike and we need to go through the Square, but they’ve got it barricaded off, right?” says Spang. “This white lady, I think she was from inside one of the checkpoints they got there, she’s like, ‘You can’t ride through here.’ I’m like, ‘I live here and my daughter’s school is here.’ She’s saying something about how I’m being disrespectful and I should go around on another street.”
Spang, a full-blooded Native American (half Crow, half Northern Cheyenne) rode through anyway, as he has for the four years he’s lived in the South Minneapolis neighborhood.
“There’s an influx of qualities there for [the Square] to be really peaceful,” he said. “But me and my daughter also walked through there one time and there’s ‘Fuck the Police,’ all these signs and people spray paint that, and she’s trying to read and asking, ‘What does that say?’ I’m like, ‘People don’t like the cops?’ I don’t know how to explain stuff like that.”
After work in a machine shop across the border in Wisconsin, Spang talks about what he sees as the complicated relationship the city has with the memorial set up at and around the site where George Floyd was killed by former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, whose murder trial started the day Spang and I spoke. [Disclosure: Spang and I know each other from when we both lived in Portland, Oregon, in the mid-2010s.] Comments have been edited for length and clarity.
Reason: You were saying George Floyd Square presents differently at different times.
Zane Spang: As far as the presentation, it’s kind of back and forth with a lot of people in this neighborhood. If you’re at that specific part of the square at a certain time, it feels very vibrant. But then, when it lines up differently, when some shit’s going down over there, we had a homicide a couple of months ago. And I was working on a house one time and someone got shot a half-block away and medical guys were barely able to get to the person shot.
What was the shooting about?
I don’t even know because the cops never were [allowed in]; the cops don’t go there.
A Minneapolis Police officer told me George Floyd Square has become a dumping spot for stolen vehicles, that it’s basically the final destination for anyone involved in a police chase because cops aren’t welcome in there.
The amount of traffic we get through here now, literally people will fly through all these stop signs, go 50 miles per hour on 38th Street [which bisects the Square]. I’ve seen an influx of crime and just people shooting guns out the window.
An influx of crime since George Floyd
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