FILE - In this May 31, 2020 file photo, visitors make silent visits to organic memorial featuring a mural of George Floyd, near the spot where he died while in police custody, in Minneapolis, Minn. On Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2020, the Minneapolis City Council will decide whether to shrink the city's police department while violent crime is already soaring and redirect funding toward alternatives for reducing violence. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)
Why George Floyd's memorial site is surrounded by barricades
03:20 - Source: CNN
Minneapolis CNN  — 

First you see the barricades – traffic cones, graffitied concrete Jersey barriers and a metal frame that resembles a bike rack.

Then there’s the makeshift guard shack, with so-called community “Guardians” inside, regulating the comings and goings on the streets.

Finally, a poster declares “Welcome.”

The city first put in the concrete barriers, but then residents and activists added more obstacles and started to control the area.

Beyond the barricades, past the guard hut, at the intersection of Chicago Avenue and 38th Street in Minneapolis is the patch of ground where George Floyd took some of his last breaths as a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for several excruciating minutes, even after Floyd’s body went limp.

Locals wanted it to be a place of peace, justice, mourning and healing. There is a greenhouse growing plants for the memorial to Floyd and caretakers who make sure the area they now call George Floyd Square is clean.

The memorials to George Floyd are cleaned and tidied every day.

But the neighborhood is still dealing with old wounds, new conflicts and fresh violence, even as attention on them is renewed with the beginning of the murder trial for the man accused of killing Floyd.

“We are a grieving community,” said resident Jeanelle Austin. She grew up three blocks from the square but had left Minneapolis for college, and made her life with a career in faith and race relations. When Floyd was killed her mother told her to come home, that they needed her, that she had the tools and experience in civil rights to help her community heal.

She bought a one-way ticket from Austin, Texas, and thought she would stay about two weeks, she said. That was nearly 10 months ago.

Jeanelle Austin started saving everything that was left to honor George Floyd.

Austin weeps as she recounts all the messages and gifts she has seen at the memorial, especially those from children who are too young to spell correctly but still understand that something was very wrong.

“By the loss of life in that space, it created it into a sacred space, which is why we call them offerings,” she said.

The grief is fresh, too, not only caused by what happened to Floyd on Memorial Day 2020. Just last weekend a man was shot to death not far from the spot where Floyd once laid motionless. Police did not respond to CNN’s request for comment