Preservation of George Floyd memorial continues one month after killing

By 830 WCCO

A quiet, calm, and sunny morning greeted less than a dozen people early Thursday morning exactly one month after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd outside of Cup Foods at 38th and Chicago in south Minneapolis.

"It's sacred ground," he said.

The living memorial is filled with flowers, artwork, and signs fill the east and west sides of the Chicago Avenue, while a landscaped flower garden sits in the middle of the 38th and Chicago intersection. Just east of the intersection is where the iconic George Floyd mural rests upon the Cup Foods outer wall. 

A group of community members have been working the past several weeks with the memorial's upkeep.

"We've been tending to the memorial at 6 a.m. every morning for a few weeks now, just to keep it neat," said Jeanelle Austin, a local resident. "As things are starting to shift and transition, we have also been concerned about preservation."

Part of the preservation concerns the flowers. Many of the flowers have wilted or dried out in the month since Floyd's death.

"With the flowers, we're trying to identify flowers that still tell a story," Austin said. "That way we can preserve the story for longevity. It's part of the work of making sure the story and future is told well and told correctly."

Getting to George Floyd's memorial at 38th and Chicago requires a bit of maneuvering, but is easily accessible. Makeshift barriers have been set up to cut-off vehicle access from all directions. In the case of preserving the well-guarded memorial, Austin says it's taken a lot of communication to share their intentions.

"In the beginning it was just that we were here to tend to the memorial and to keep it looking neat," she said. "And then the weather came and we had to figure out what to do with the weathered and damaged signs. That's when we began talking about preservation."

Austin, who founded the Racial Agency Initiative and is a racial justice leadership coach, says she and other community members began bringing in experts to help teach them about preserving flowers and artwork.

"This is not my expertise, I'm not a flower preservationist," she said. "Everybody always asks 'Who put you in charge?' and I am always transparent with them. No one put me in charge and I'm not in charge. I'm just a volunteer from the community to keep it looking neat and well."

Austin isn't the only community member who comes out to take care of and preserve the memorial. 

"There are others who come at midday or the afternoon who I have never met," she said. "We identify ourselves as community caretakers. We're just caretakers for the memorial. This is our community and this is our space."

The work holds more meaning not only for Jeanelle Austin, but for others who helping her now and who have helped her in the past.

"I started doing it because I need it for my own self-care," Austin said. "I spent a year preserving a memorial in 2016-2017. So I knew what that process was like for me and what it would do for my own self-care. That's why I started and there were others that said 'Hey, let's get together every morning and tending together.""

The group's top guideline is not throw anything away.

"Everything is somebody's offering," Austin said. 

The preservationists are among several groups echoing the calls to build a permanent memorial to George Floyd at 38th and Chicago.