Minneapolis store near where George Floyd died calls for unity

On the boarded-up windows of Cup Foods, the store outside which George Floyd was killed, an employee uses a can of green spray-paint to add to the layers of graffiti that have been left there over the last three months.

She writes one word in big letters. ‘OPEN’. Cup Foods sells everything from phone cards to milkshakes, and it is back in business. For a terrible reason, it has become 2020’s most well-known corner store, but its staff still need to make a living, and its community still needs a place to shop.

The unrest which engulfed Minneapolis in the wake of Floyd’s death means that a lot of grocery stores in this part of town remain closed. Jamar Nelson explained to me how that reality makes life harder for a section of society which is already marginalised.

“We know black folks don’t have access to transportation. Even if you can get to a store, how you going to bring back your groceries?”

Cup Foods’ reopening wasn’t universally welcomed. On the first night it was targeted by violent protesters who think that this junction should be maintained solely as a memorial to George Floyd.

There are also some who hold the store partially responsible for his death. The police officers who killed him were responding to a call made by staff, after they received a counterfeit twenty dollar note.

A memorial where George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis. Credit: ITV News

Jamar, who speaks for the store, said: "We need to look at how interactions between black and brown people become deadly and we need to work with legislators to change that."

This is a city where police stations have been all but destroyed, or abandoned. The Black Lives Matter protest call to ‘Defund the Police’ echoes most loudly here. But Jamar takes the view that the community’s relationship with the police must be renewed, not ended.

He speaks of the urgent need to reestablish trust. I suggest that in this neighbourhood, this is a minority view.

“We’ve had 190 shootings since May 25”, he responds. “It’s no secret that this community isn’t ready for a police presence, but let’s not do that at the expense of creating a haven for crime."

The authorities in Minneapolis are struggling to find a new way of policing this city. But while they work on regaining the trust and confidence of its people, grass roots organisations are being formed to try to offer some solutions.

Another Chance Outreach is based in the suburbs of Minneapolis. It’s focused on protecting ‘vulnerable and at risk populations’.

For one member, Bob Meela, that means keeping up the pressure on local government, even after the wave of protest sparked by the death of George Floyd subsides.

The organisation contains people who have been campaigning for racial equality for years.

Jennifer Schnarr feels that the diversity of the Black Lives Matter protests will be the guarantor of lasting change.

Jennifer’s son Deon thinks that while the long-term causes of racism have yet to be addressed, there have been ‘baby steps’ taken towards a law enforcement system which better serves its community.

It strikes me after all of the immense struggles that I have spent the last two weeks hearing about, from slavery and segregation, to a criminal justice system which is stacked against them, that black Americans I have spoken to have ’demands’ which are actually remarkably modest.

Not to be prejudged because of the colour of their skin, and not to be scared of the police. They are demands which America is yet to meet.