Minneapolis, MN – Hostile crowds destroyed evidence and tried to block Minneapolis officers from entering the George Floyd Square autonomous zone after a double shooting took place there on Sunday night, according to police.
The confrontation between Minneapolis police and the autonomous zone “security” guards took place near the intersection of Chicago Avenue and 38th Street after a man and a woman were shot on Dec. 27, KSTP reported.
The intersection is also the location of the May 25 arrest of George Floyd, who died in police custody.
Protesters seized a four-block area around the intersection in the wake of Floyd’s death, cordoned it off with cement barricades, and declared it to be a cop-free autonomous zone.
City leaders have allowed the group to retain their hold on the area for the past seven months, despite prior claims that they were negotiating with the autonomous zone leaders to facilitate a phased reopening of the space sometime “before winter,” KSTP reported in September.
When Minneapolis police responded to the so-called “George Floyd Square” area to investigate the double shooting at about 8:45 p.m. on Sunday, they were initially turned away by the autonomous zone’s self-appointed “security” officers, a department inspector told Minneapolis City Councilmembers Alondra Cano and Andrea Jenkins in an email, according to KSTP.
After investigators were finally able to access the area, they discovered the scene had been tampered with, according to police.
“I just wanted you to be aware of another incident at this location,” the inspector’s email read. “Hostile crowds destroying evidence and initially refusing to entrance by ‘security.'”
According to police, both shooting victims were transported to separate hospitals in private vehicles as officers were responding to the scene, ABC News reported.
The male victim was being treated at Children’s Minnesota Hospital, while the female victim showed up at the Hennepin Healthcare medical center, Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) spokesperson John Elder told ABC News.
Both gunshot victims suffered non-life threatening bullet wounds, Elder said.
Officers were unable to locate the scene of the shooting, and no one had been arrested in connection with the incident as of Monday, ABC News reported.
Jenkins, who has expressed a desire to make George Floyd Square a permanent fixture in the city, said she was “not happy” that the protesters refused to allow police to investigate the double shooting, KSTP reported.
“We want justice for everybody and it concerns me and I am not happy with what I read in the email,” the city councilmember said. “To somehow disrupt or delay that kind of response is completely irresponsible and an obstruction of justice.”
She urged those responsible for establishing the autonomous zone to reopen the area in order to restore goodwill and unity, KSTP reported.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey’s office released a statement calling the incident “unacceptable.”
“No neighborhood should be forced to tolerate gun violence and last night’s events compromised the safety of the neighborhood, which is simply unacceptable,” the statement read. “Mayor Frey’s position has remained consistent: the city should work with community towards a phased re-opening of 38th and Chicago while prioritizing both safety and memorialization of George Floyd’s life in this space.”
Frey’s office said residents and businesses located in the autonomous zone “deserve full city service,” KSTP reported.
“We need to acknowledge the injustices that are happening and overcome those harms,” Jenkins told the news outlet. “We need to overcome these things so we can rebuild 38th and Chicago and make it an economic engine for the black community again.”
Jenkins, who admitted she doesn’t feel safe in the four-block area at night, said she plans to hold a virtual meeting with the occupiers next week in an effort to have the autonomous zone dismantled “before the end of January,” KSTP reported.
Sunday’s double shooting wasn’t the first time members of the autonomous zone blocked first responders from trying to help injured victims.
On Aug. 5, ambulances were unable to respond after the owner of Mill City Auto Body was brutally beaten during a robbery at his business because the protesters controlling access to the area blocked them.
“I had a broken cheekbone, teeth missing, stitches in my head and I was knocked out,” the business owner told KSTP. “It took police and the ambulance a very long time to get here because they had a hard time getting inside the barricades.”
He said his attacker punched him several times in the head, knocking him unconscious.
Then surveillance video of the front of his business showed his attacker stomped on the business owner’s head before he left the area.
Minneapolis police and EMS tried to respond quickly to the scene to assist the victim, KSTP reported.
But police said their path was blocked by protesters manning the barricades at the boundaries of the “autonomous zone.”
Minneapolis police said it took 14 minutes for them to get through the melee to the scene, KSTP reported.
“The crowd from the George Floyd Memorial began moving toward us and people were hollering that they were going to kick our -sses and that we would have to kill them,” officers wrote in the police report.
In the wake of the assault, a city spokesperson denied that the “autonomous zone” existed in Minneapolis, despite the fact the city blocked off some of the streets in the area, KSTP reported.
“There is no autonomous zone in the area of 38th and Chicago Avenue, or anywhere else in the City of Minneapolis. Laws and enforcement responsibilities have not changed for any part of the city,” the city spokesperson said at the time.
KSPT reported that residents have told them they are moving out of the area and businesses are shutting down because of the ongoing lawless situation around George Floyd Park.