Black owners of businesses in and around the intersection in Minneapolis where George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody last year, are claiming the city has abandoned them, barricading the area, permitting an autonomous zone to evolve and enabling left-wing militants and gang members to take over.
''Look around, things are empty,'' the New York Post quoted Richard Roberts, who works at the nearby Worldwide Outreach For Christ Ministries. ''What can we do about it?''
''Sometimes it’s good and sometimes bad. It’s not stopping violence.''
At least five businesses on one block in the area around Chicago Avenue and 38th Street have closed and merchants say they’ve lost 75% of their business since a makeshift memorial was erected for Floyd.
Concrete and metal barricades cordon the area now known as George Floyd Square.
''The city left me in danger,'' said Alexander W., the proprietor of Smoke In The Pit restaurant who only gave his last initial for fear of reprisals. ''They locked us up on here and left us behind. They left me with no food, no water, nothing to eat. The police, fire trucks, can’t come in here.''
Some of the businesses have established a GoFundMe online fundraising page to mitigate their losses.
''The Black businesses along George Floyd Square have suffered greatly,'' the page reads. ''Lack of traffic down this once busy street has led to an unintended economic downfall for these businesses. As the community continues to hold space, it is imperative that decision makers consider the economic toll that has been paid.''
Most business owners and workers would not speak to the Post due to fears of retaliation, the paper said.
However, a member of the group who oversees the memorial denounced the complaints of the merchants.
''It’s not like we are telling delivery drivers or customers not to come in. This area has always been violent,'' said Phil Khalar, who added that the Bloods gang members ''keep us safe in their own way.''
The Minneapolis police admitted in March that gun violence has increased in the area and promised to restore safety but have given no date for their action, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Former police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted in the death of Floyd on Tuesday, and those who work in the area don’t appear hopeful of any change in the situation soon.
''Business is bad,'' said an employee of Giant Express Laundromat whose identity was not disclosed by the Post. ''No one absolutely knows who runs this. It’s like a union. One person is selected as a leader one week and if they’re not fit, they get thrown out.''
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