Inside the George Floyd memorial ‘autonomous zone’

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MINNEAPOLIS (NewsNation Now) — Activists in Minneapolis now control a barricaded area near where George Floyd died.

It’s been the site of some violence in recent weeks. On Tuesday, prosecutors charged in man in connection with a shooting near 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, affectionately known as George Floyd Square

NewsNation gained an exclusive look inside the George Floyd Memorial ‘autonomous zone,’ a space where outsiders aren’t always welcomed.

Last week, NewsNation correspondent Brian Entin was confronted and threatened by two people inside the zone. The video went viral.

“We tried to respectfully get video-but left after two people confronted us near the barricades. Later learned many protesters don’t even feel comfortable there,” Entin said on Twitter.

After the story aired Entin got a Twitter message from community leader and former Ohio State basketball player PJ Hill.

“How you were kicked out of the square was not right and we the church/community will not stand for that,” Hill wrote. “I personally will escort you in and show you around.”

Entin took Hill up on his offer and met him outside the barricades and followed him into the autonomous zone.

There are tents. Portapottys. And many of the businesses are closed down.

“It is a combination of people. A lot of these people are not from the community and that is why it is super confusing,” Hill said.

Hill said he grew up near the zone, has led police reform protests and now goes to a church within the autonomous zone.

“Obviously we know this trial is going to open a lot of wounds for people, so how do we give people a safe space to be able to express themselves in a positive manner,” Hill said. “That is why when that stuff happened with you, it made me very upset because this is supposed to be sacred ground, not ground to push people out, but ground for us to come together and move the ball forward for humanity and for our city.”

Along the tour, Entin met PJ’s uncle, Pastor Curtis Farrar. Farrar’s church has been on this block for 38 years.

Pastor Farrar and other area business owners are concerned because they say emergency services are not able to get into the autonomous zone. Last Saturday, a 30-year-old man was shot and killed in the square, and his family says the ambulance was not allowed in.

NewsNation asked one of the people manning the gates about that. An activist named Madi, who did not want to disclose her last name, said they have their own medics and that the area is peaceful.

“I don’t think the goal is to not be a part of the city. The goal is to be a community and help each other instead of policing each other and punishing each other. It is complicated. No one person is in charge. It’s complicated as hell,” Madi said.

Communities like the ‘autonomous zone’ raise concerns about security culture.

“Move the barriers so people can come in here and celebrate. And really try to move forward,” Hill said.

Hill said removing the barrier would best for the community.

“That is my opinion. It would be best. We want to move the ball forward. It is time to heal,” Hill said.

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