MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota — On Thursday morning, Minneapolis city workers were removing barriers at George Floyd Square, reopening the area to traffic.
Steve Floyd, one of the co-founders of The Agape Movement, said they approached the mayor and police chief about the reopening.
"Only thing the city works did was listen to us and what we wanted to have done and they gave the whole thing over to us to do as a community because we didn't want to be like Seattle, we didn't want to be like Portland, we didn't want to be like Ferguson where they came in and bulldozed everything out and disrespected what had happened there," Floyd said.
Since George Floyd's murder, members of The Agape Movement have been at 38th and Chicago. Floyd said they put the first barriers up.
The nonprofit aims to bridge the gap between the community and law enforcement. Members have been providing security in the neighborhood.
"We're basically here to establish in this community young men who are ready to take our community back," Floyd said.
Agape's motto is "transforming street energy into community energy." Many of them are former gang members who are now reaching out to those whose shoes they once walked in. They provide programs related to everything from de-escalation training to mentoring those in the juvenile justice system.
Floyd said they surveyed those who work and live in the area of 38th and Chicago and found that 90% of them wanted to see the intersection safely reopened.
"We approached the mayor and the chief and said, 'Hey, as a community, we want to do what's right in our own community as far as supporting Black businesses and as far as supporting the minorities... in the neighborhood,'" Floyd said.
Floyd and Mayor Frey maintain that what happened Thursday was led by Agape, with the city playing a supportive role. But The New York Times reports that member Akeem Cubie said, "That is the narrative... They don't want to take the backlash coming in here."
The Agape Movement does have a contract with the Minneapolis Office of Violence Prevention related to outreach to youth who are impacted by a shooting/homicide, along with working with the office's staff on violence prevention. But Floyd said that contract is not related to their efforts at 38th and Chicago.
Despite The Agape Movement claiming they did not have a contract with the city related to George Floyd Square, on June 17 Minneapolis City Council raised concerns about Mayor Jacob Frey approving a contract with Agape to help clear the square using his COVID-19 emergency powers.
During the council meeting on June 17, City Council President Lisa Bender said she looked into the the approval process for the contract -- which is reportedly a $359,000 contract -- and accused Mayor Frey of approving the contract without the City Council's approval. Mayor Frey was not present for the Thursday's council meeting.
Earlier in the day, Cubie said during a press conference, "Part of me wants it open just because of the stuff that's going on here so we can try to iron it out. A part of me doesn't want it open just because I believe this space has evolved into a healing space for people across the world."
Floyd said while there may have been some disagreements within the group, "We had questions that will allow us to check ourselves and see what we're doing is the right thing but that's okay. That's what we want... the people to give their own opinion about it."
The Agape Movement hopes by starting the reopening process, more focus can be put on issues like the three children shot — two of them killed — in Minneapolis recently.
"A lot of people are coming with their own agendas and all that. Just listen to us," Co-founder Alfonzo Williams said.
Floyd added, "We expected the push back but we still going to push forward."