MINNEAPOLIS — Three months after George Floyd died at the hands of police and sparked a wave of protests around the country and the world, the site of his death has become a universal gathering point where people come to remember him and acknowledge the struggle for racial equality.
On a dry, hot Tuesday afternoon, locals and tourists ebbed and flowed through the memorial site at the intersection where Floyd took his final breaths May 25. Now three months later, new shootings of Black people by police continue to generate further outcry and more protests.
“It’s still like yesterday, and there’s things that open up the wound,” Clifford Dodd, a Black vendor who was born and raised in nearby St. Paul, told NBC News.
Dodd, 64, said the memorial site was a sacred place where people gathered to meditate on America’s past, as well as its current struggles in the fight against inequality.
“There’s a spirit that’s here,” he said.
Throughout the memorial there are several tribute spaces, including colorful murals and paintings. At the center is the sculpture of a raised fist surrounded by a bed of colorful flowers and a photo of Floyd. Around it are teddy bears and other tributes, such as signs reading “Create the George Floyd Forest” and “George Lives Here.”
Close to the central memorial, flowers hang upside down from a clothesline with signs reading “Creatively Imagine A World Without Police” and another reading “We Stand Together.” Nearby, a symbolic cemetery features dozens of tombstones marking people who lost their lives at the hands of police.
At night, however, the square can take on a different tone, with previously existing tensions and violence leading to sporadic shootings before day breaks and locals and tourists filter back in.
Just after Floyd’s death, hundreds or thousands of people routinely gathered at the intersection of East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue. While those numbers have diminished, Dodd said he has met people from around the world, including Puerto Rico, Australia and the Netherlands.
“They want to see it for themselves, and they’re bringing their families. They’re coming thousands of miles,” he said. “There might be a real change this time because change is within the next generation, and that is what’s coming here.”
With his company Sweet Inspirations, he helps sell merchandise such as “Black Lives Matter” hoodies, T-shirts that say “We Still Can’t Breathe,” and masks with the words “Black Lives Matter” and a raised fist in the middle.
Dodd said he saw himself in Floyd many times.
“Everybody has their own war stories of being caught by the cops, being degraded, and everyone came here and they were laying their pain down somewhere,” he said. “Sometimes the way you learn how to live with something is to act like it didn’t happen. But you never really forget.”
Dodd said he was hopeful Floyd’s death could result in meaningful social change in this country, unlike what he had seen after previous killings, such as in the fatal shooting of the Black Minnesota motorist Philando Castile.
“Philando Castile had momentum there for a minute and then, poof, it’s gone. This one here has been lingering,” he said. “I conditioned myself to live to see a change, and that’s what I think I’m witnessing right now.”