George Floyd memorial

Artist Jordan Powell Karis stands in front of the steel fist sculpture that was installed in January at the intersection of 38th and Chicago in Minneapolis. City leaders on Friday announced plans to reopen the intersection but keep a Floyd memorial in place. (Christine T. Nguyen/MPR News)

Minneapolis leaders said Friday they’re moving ahead with plans to reopen the intersection where George Floyd was killed while in police custody.

They expect to reopen 38th Street and Chicago Avenue to vehicle traffic following the trial of Derek Chauvin, the ex-officer charged with murder in Floyd’s death. That trial is expected to be begin with jury selection starting March 8.

City officials said they’ll work closely with local residents and businesses to maintain a memorial for Floyd and upgrade the streetscape, but they emphasized that the streets must be reopened and cannot remain an “autonomous zone.”

The intersection has been closed since Floyd’s killing on May 25. Chauvin and three other officers were fired after video surfaced showing Chauvin with his knee pressed against Floyd’s neck. Handcuffed and face down on the pavement, Floyd told the officer he couldn’t breathe and pleaded for his life before dying.

The video sparked waves of local and international outrage along with days of protests that at times dissolved into violence.

Since then, the intersection has been closed to vehicle traffic and barricaded. Protesters have dubbed the area George Floyd Square and attempted to occupy and police it themselves.

Officials, though, said the situation had become untenable. Eighth Ward City Council member Andrea Jenkins, who represents the area, began calling in December for the intersection to reopen after two people were shot nearby.

The city plans to survey residents first about their views on the intersection and what it should look like before moving forward.

“We are not going back to normal at that intersection,” Mayor Jacob Frey told reporters Friday. The area will include a space for people to remember Floyd, a spot that can be a “center for racial healing and justice,” he said.

Frey, though, said the intersection needed to be reopened so that city services from police to sanitation to public transit could operate freely, sentiments echoed by Jenkins and Medaria Arradondo, the city’s police chief.

“This is not an autonomous zone and will not and cannot be an autonomous zone,” Frey said.

At the same time, Frey acknowledged the city will not move to reopen the streets until after Chauvin’s trial, saying that Minneapolis expects it will be spot for crowds to gather then. The trial, he said, will “trigger a whole lot of trauma in the community.”

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