Just over a month ago, former police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd. The verdict came days after another former police officer, Kim Potter, shot and killed Daunte Wright.
The state and mainstream media did an excellent job portraying Chauvin as a bad apple when in reality he was a sacrificial lamb being sacrificed to protect the racist-capitalist power structures. Chauvin hasn’t even been sentenced yet. But as the National Guard went home and the razor wire fences came down, Minneapolis leaders decided that enough time had been wasted on honoring George Floyd’s memory.
Attempt to Reopen George Floyd Square
On the morning of June 3, the City of Minneapolis, in collaboration with a community safety group called the Agape Movement, decided to take down the barricades, flowers, and art around George Floyd Square (an autonomous zone) and attempted to open it up to traffic. Caretakers of the square and community members quickly organized and put up makeshift barriers, closing the square off to traffic once again.
On June 8, the City reopened George Floyd Square to traffic by removing these barricades. Agape members, who have faced backlash from the community for their complicity in the operation, were not visible this time. Once the City crews left, activists blocked off the streets once again using makeshift barricades and vehicles.
Citing an increase in crime and an interest in promoting Black-owned businesses, city leaders described reopening the square as a “phased reconnection” of George Floyd Square to the rest of the city. However, community members have maintained that unless their 24 demands are met, they will not allow the space to be reopened.
The NGOization of Policing
Since the murder of George Floyd, with the police facing increased public scrutiny, a number of non-profit parapolicing organizations have popped up in the Twin Cities. These organizations are often composed of working-class Black community members with a stated goal of violence prevention and fostering collaboration between the community and law enforcement. Many of these groups work closely with law enforcement to assist them in their racist police work. The Agape Movement is one such group. Agape has a $25,000 contract with the City of Minneapolis and recently collaborated with the City to reopen George Floyd Square. Until recently, Agape was so embedded in the community that one of the 24 justice demands for reopening the George Floyd Square was for Agape to be housed within the square.
The abolitionist and antiracist group Whittier Cop Watch recently put out a field guide on how to identify groups and celebrity activists that act as counterinsurgents and collaborate with the state.
U.S. Marshals Murder Winston Smith
The same afternoon that the City attempted to reopen George Floyd Square, a Hennepin County Sheriff’s deputy and a Ramsey County deputy murdered Winston Boogie Smith in a parking ramp in Minneapolis. Smith was a Black man and a father. He was also a musician and comedian. The officers who killed him were part of the U.S. Marshals’ North Star Fugitive Task Force. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota has described the North Star fugitive task force as “local, state, and federal law enforcement who work together to arrest the state’s most violent fugitives” and who can “cross jurisdictional lines to apprehend violent fugitives.”
Immediately following his murder, the mainstream media provided misleading reports by incorrectly stating that Smith was a murder suspect. According to a Board of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) statement, Smith was wanted for a felony firearms violation.
There is no squad car or bodycam footage of Smith’s murder. BCA stated that the reason for the absence of video was that the Marshals were not allowed to wear body cameras. That policy, however, was changed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in October 2020 to allow the use of body cameras. Weeks prior to his murder, Smith had posted videos to his social media accounts talking about armed resistance to state violence. Following Smith’s murder, protests have continued in Minneapolis. Smith’s brother Kidale Smith is asking for evidence to be released and for any witnesses to come forward.
Winston Smith’s murder is similar to the murder of antifascist acitivist Michael Reinoehl last year — not because Smith was a murder suspect, as was falsely reported earlier, but becuase they were both killed in a similar manner by the same fugitive task force. Reinoehl had been charged for killing Aaron “Jay” Danielson (a supporter of far-right group Patriot Prayer) during a confrontation. Eyewitness accounts state that the officers did not identify themselves before opening fire on Reinoehl. The circumstances and lack of transparency surrounding both murders raise suspicion that both Reinoehl and Smith’s murders by the fugitive task force were targeted killings.
Autonomism and Reformism Will Not Liberate Us
After George Floyd’s murder, Minneapolis has been ground zero for the racist, capitalist ruling class to suppress any threat to their continued rule. We have already witnessed how the language of abolition has been used as window dressing for philanthropic police reform proposals.
The attempted reopening of George Floyd Square and the murder of Winston Smith show that the state has no plans to stop its violence. Whether through infiltrator “community safety groups” like the Agape Movement or through “fugitive task forces” that inflict terror and kill with impunity, the state is leaving no stone unturned in suppressing the working class and the oppressed.
George Floyd Square is regarded by many as a sacred space. It is not simply a memorial to George Floyd but also a revolutionary space of resistance to state terror. But as Ezra Brain writes in Left Voice, “Having small pockets of liberation is not liberation, and as long as the capitalist state exists, it will actively seek to stop these pockets from expanding.”
Our liberation will not come from a reactionary position of defending ourselves from state violence and responding to never-ending crises of capitalism through mutual aid. Nor will it come from reformism that promises mostly optics without dismantling any of the oppressive power structures. Our liberation is rooted in the democratic self-organization of workers and the oppressed, all over the world, and taking control of our present and our future.