In the aftermath of the Death of George Floyd last year, the intersection where he died, and the surrounding area were declared an autonomous zone. Much of the media attempts to characterize such areas, which are appearing with increasing frequency around the country, as sort of artsy, freewheeling “summer of love” zones where everyone does their own thing without the restrictions of our oppressive, patriarchal society. That is not what such areas are at all, and that is most definitely not what the George Floyd Square autonomous zone represents.
The George Floyd Square autonomous zone was created pursuant to a formal written set of demands sent to the City of Minneapolis. That document – typically referred to as the Justice Resolution – presented 24 explicit demands to the city and made clear that the autonomous zone would remain walled off and independent of the city until those demands were met. To ensure that these demands were not taken lightly barricades were erected and access to the area for police and emergency services personnel was cut off.
REPORTER BEING CONFRONTED
The Justice Resolution was submitted to the city by a group calling itself “Meet on the Street.” The key leaders of this group appear to be Jeanelle Austin, Marcia Howard, and Madi Ramirez-Tentinger. These are the individuals with whom the city has negotiated since the submission of the Resolution regarding returning the area to municipal control.
The key demands contained in the Justice Resolution, which runs to a full nineteen pages, include:
- Firing the Hennepin County Attorney
- Firing several members of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension
- Establishing an office of independent investigation and prosecution for Minneapolis law
- enforcement, appointed by the Governor of Minnesota
- Ending qualified immunity for law enforcement officers
- Investing $400,000 into the George Floyd Square Zone through the neighborhood associations to create new jobs for young people
- Investing $300,000 into the George Floyd Square Zone through the neighborhood associations to provide Undoing Racism training
- Allocating funds for health care
- Suspending property taxes
- Establishing a contingency fund for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) businesses located in the George Floyd Square
- Granting space to an organization called the Agape Movement, which is a group of former gang members who now claim to provide security in the autonomous zone
- Dropping all charges against “non-violent” protesters
The leaders of the autonomous zone all have radical backgrounds consistent with those of others involved in the Black Lives Matter movement nationwide.
Jeanelle Austin runs a group called the Racial Agency Initiative focused on pushing the narrative of systemic racism. She talks actively about the “resistance” and the necessity for the city to pay “restitution” to the community for crimes committed. Before moving to the autonomous zone from Texas, Austin compiled what she describes as a “shopping list” of protective gear required to engage in violent protest activity.
Marcia Howard is a former school teacher whose Tiktok posts are full of explicit references to the need to end systemic racism and the constant refrain, “No justice, no streets” meaning the autonomous zone will never be surrendered unless its occupiers believe there has been sufficient change. She also refers to the area outside of the autonomous zone as “occupied Minneapolis.” Many of her posts are recorded in the midst of rallies in the autonomous zone in which Black Lives Matter flags are clearly visible and the crowd is chanting anti-police slogans.
Madi Ramirez-Tentinger openly represents herself as affiliated with the “Twin Cities Democratic Socialists” an expressly Marxist organization. Her social media posts are full of references to the ongoing revolution and the fact that Derek Chauvin’s conviction is only the beginning. She routinely uses the word “comrade” when referring to individuals with whom she is working in the “movement.”
While Meet on the Street continues its negotiations with the city, the residents of the two-block radius areas surrounding “George Floyd Square” continue to live in an area closed off and inaccessible to the police and emergency personnel. The result has been predictable. Within the area, crime has skyrocketed and businesses have been destroyed.
Last summer, the owner of Cup Foods in the area threatened to sue Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and the Minneapolis City Council if the barricades were not removed. He claimed that he was losing tens of thousands of dollars every month “because crime has gone up inside the area that’s blocked off” and people no longer felt safe visiting the area.
The black-owned businesses in the autonomous zone say they have lost 75-percent of their business since the area was walled off from the rest of the municipality. They have even launched a GoFundMe fundraising page in a desperate attempt to stay afloat.
“The city left me in danger,” the owner of Smoke In The Pit restaurant told The New York Post recently. “They locked us up in here and left us behind,” said another merchant, who asked to be identified only as Alexander W. for fear of reprisals. “They left me with no food, no water, nothing to eat,” he said. “The police, fire trucks, can’t come in here.”The New York Post
Minneapolis recorded a 21 percent increase in violent crime last year. A spike in homicides coincided “with the death of George Floyd and the mass protests that followed.” Gun violence within the autonomous zone is now routine.
Inside the square, a placard now provides guidance for visitors including special rules for white people.
“Decenter yourself and come to listen, learn, mourn, and witness,” the first bullet point reads, adding, “Remember you are here to support, not to be supported.”The New York Post
“Be mindful of whether your volume, pace, and movements are supporting or undermining your efforts to decenter yourself,” the second order says.
“Bring your own process to other white folks so that you will not harm BIPOC,” it says, using an acronym for black, indigenous, and people of color.
“If you witness white folks doing problematic things, speak up with compassion to take the burden off [sic] Black folks and our siblings of color whenever appropriate,” the final instruction reads.
With the Derek Chauvin trial behind us, much of the media speaks in terms of the imminent return of the autonomous zone to city control. This is based on the assumption that the “protest” within the area was focused completely on the conviction of Chauvin for his role in the death of George Floyd. This myopic view of the situation completely misrepresents what is happening.
The individuals pushing the insurrection in the George Floyd Square autonomous zone are not looking for marginal change or limited reform of some kind. The demands contained within the Justice Resolution are only the beginning of those we can expect to see. What is desired is the complete destruction of the existing political, economic and social order, and there will be no end to the ongoing revolution until either those goals are achieved, or the insurrection is defeated.
There is no question that there are massive issues facing the black community in this country. There is no question but that the policies pursued to date in dealing with those problems are grotesque failures. In response, a growing revolutionary movement based on transparently Marxist principles has arisen in this nation. We must recognize that, stop pretending otherwise and respond accordingly.
That means restoring law and order and respect for the police. It also means addressing the very real concerns of American citizens in areas like the George Floyd autonomous zone that have been ignored too long. Right now the autonomous zone is not simply outside the control of the City of Minneapolis. It is Ground Zero for the Revolution.