38th and Chicago to remain closed to traffic during Chauvin trial

The monument erected at 38th and Chicago honors the memory of George Floyd. (FOX 9)

The intersection of 38th and Chicago, which has been closed since George Floyd's death, will remain closed to vehicle traffic during the upcoming trial for fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged in Floyd's death. 

"It's going to be a traumatic time for our city and we want to make sure that during that very difficult period that people have the ability to be with one another--of course accounting for the pandemic," said Mayor Jacob Frey during a press conference Friday afternoon.

Frey emphasized that during the trial, set to begin on March 8, city services to the area such as trash services, snow removal and emergency response will continue.

Following Floyd's death, the intersection became a site of mourning with artwork, including a fist sculpture, placed in the square. As the months have gone on, nearby residents and business owners have pushed for the area to reopen due to crime and access concerns.

"The barricades that were originally placed at the intersection to protect people as well as the public are now in many senses used as a screen for illicit activity and have re-traumatized a neighborhood that has already experienced far too much over the last year," said Frey.

Plans in August to remove roadblocks in the area were scrapped after pushback from activists. Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said at times response to the area has been "challenging," showing the importance of continued conversation with community organizers. He said he visited the square on Tuesday.

"With the conversations that I've had, folks respect in recognizing the importance of making sure that as a city we are respecting and honoring that space and the memorial, but at the same time, they're ready. They're ready to open that up," said Arradondo.

Survey on traffic options

Interim Public Works Director Brette Hjelle announced the city will be sending out a survey in the coming weeks to residents and business owners to choose between two options on how 38th and Chicago will be reopened. Both options involve two-way traffic on both streets. One plan keeps the fist statue in the middle of the intersection, while the other would move it to one of the corners.

After city staff tabulate the survey results, work on the preferred option will begin weather permitting following the Chauvin trial, according to Hjelle.

City leaders, including council members Alondra Cano and Andrea Jenkins, have been working with activists on plans for the space. The city has committed $10 million to go toward racial healing at 38th and Chicago. 

Last month, City Council President Lisa Bender said it was "past time" for Mayor Frey to make a decision to either use his authority to reopen or allow the council to follow its process.