Minneapolis, MN – Local and federal law enforcement held a press conference in Minneapolis on Wednesday to announce plans to re-open the “autonomous zone” that protesters established around the area where George Floyd was killed and to start making arrests in that area.
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo called the violence in the autonomous zone “staggering and unacceptable” and vowed on March 17 to put an end to it, KSTP reported.
The police chief said that law enforcement would be shifting its focus to restoring order in the area around George Floyd Square.
He said he knew that the area was significant to the community but said that they hadn’t taken care of it and it had become a public safety hazard, KSTP reported.
“I’m putting them on notice, enough is enough. Our community will not tolerate this anymore,” Chief Arradondo said.
“It’s not a matter of if, it’s when it happens and it’ll be forthcoming,” he added.
The cop-free autonomous zone popped up around the memorial area after Floyd died in the custody of the Minneapolis police on May 25, 2020.
Crime has skyrocketed in the area to such a point that law enforcement can no longer ignore what’s happening.
Police said that assaults in the autonomous zone were up by 400 percent and robberies had jumped by 250 percent in 2020 over 2019, KSTP reported.
In 2020, there were 185 ShotSpotter activations in the autonomous zone, with a total of 700 shots fired, according to the Minneapolis Police Department.
Chief Arradondo made his announcements flanked by members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Minneapolis Field Office, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), KSTP reported.
Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota W. Anders Folk vowed prosecutors would use every tool and federal statute to hold people accountable for crimes being committed in that area.
Folk told reporters they would especially be targeting illegal guns in the area, including felons in possession of firearms, KSTP reported.
Minneapolis City Councilmember Alondra Cano said her constituents would welcome the intervention.
“In the last several weeks I have received hundreds of urgent pleas for help from diverse business owners, residents, and George Floyd Square supporters begging us to take action to stop the violence that has steadily engulfed this community,” Cano said. “Birthday parties for young children abruptly abandoned. Vulnerable residents sleeping in their bathtubs for protection.”
“Our actions to keep this community alive and safe go hand in hand with our steadfast commitment to achieve justice, I’m thankful for this partnership to stop the violence,” the councilmember added.
The announcement came just a week after police were unable to respond to a fatal shooting that occurred inside the autonomous zone.
Kim Griffin said the victim was her nephew, Imez Wright, who was killed in George Floyd Square on March 6, KTXL reported.
“Police were not allowed to get into that area; he was carried out outside of the zone of George Floyd Square,” Griffin said.
“It was made clear law enforcement was not welcome to penetrate that zone, which is an atrocity because his life was taken, and I mean who knows whether or not he would have survived had things been different,” the grieving aunt added.
Video circulated online that showed Wright lying in a pool of blood in front of Cup Foods, the same deli where Floyd allegedly passed a counterfeit $20 that led to police being called on him the day he died.
Minneapolis Police Department Spokesman John Elder told reporters that Wright was shot after a verbal altercation with another man, FOX News reported.
Wright died at Hennepin County Medical Center.