George Floyd death: A city pledged to abolish its police. Then what?

At the end of January Ade Alabi made a big investment. He bought a four-storey building with two ballrooms, three restaurants, a night club and a radio station, just down the road from Minneapolis’s Third Precinct police headquarters.

By the end of May it was gone, a heap of rubble and ashes, consumed by the inferno that destroyed the police station and many of the businesses around it.

The image of the burning precinct, abandoned by police in the face of angry and violent protesters, signalled for him that something different was happening in Minneapolis.

This was the station where the four policemen charged in the killing of George Floyd worked. The explosive reaction to his slow and gruesome death, his neck pinned to the ground by an officer’s knee, created momentum to change the way not only the city, but the country, is policed.

Nearly five months on, however, ambitious policy efforts to address police violence in Minneapolis have slammed into bureaucratic roadblocks and public opposition.

In the charged atmosphere after the Floyd killing, city counsellor Alondra Cano says she “knew in my gut that we had to do something different… to send a message nationally that would rupture through the traditional approach”, to police misconduct.

Reform hadn’t worked, she said. It was time now to transform.

So in early June a majority of city council members took a step that shook Minneapolis and drew national and international attention. They pledged to dismantle a policing system long accused of racism, and build something new – “to end policing as we know it”.