Stamps, tobacco and organic milk. T-shirts, phone cases and vouchers for the bus. Halal, Mexican and Middle Eastern food. Olives and cheese. The Abumayyaleh couple emigrated from Palestine to Minneapolis in the 1970s with great enthusiasm and many children, up to four. Once here, they had many more, six, and when they were 10 they opened a huge store on a corner in the south of the city where they sell everything and it has been on the news all over the planet. On May 25 George Floyd walked into Cup Foods, as the establishment is called, and paid for his cigarettes with a fake $ 20 bill, so one of the clerks called the police and what followed was that brutal arrest right in front of of trade that ended in death and unleashed anger.
The crossroads where Floyd died has been turned into a sanctuary and the shop, on doomed land. Every day they receive death threats by phone, from numbers coming from different parts of the country, the calls to boycott the business persist almost a year later and the boy who called the police, who is 19 years old and had just started at work when the tragedy happened, he has not returned there.
“Most of the people of Minneapolis are reasonable and understand that we are not to blame, that we did the right thing, but other people do not see it the same,” says Adam Abumayyaleh, 31, the youngest of the brothers behind the counter. . The first one who was difficult to convince of this was the clerk himself, Christopher Martin, who as soon as Floyd died he went to his boss in tears saying that it had all been for him. That guilt also accompanied him when he testified at trial. “If I just hadn’t accepted the ticket, this could have been prevented,” he said. Martin took the bill and when Floyd left the store, realizing it was a fake, went out to find him and warn him. Since Floyd ignored him, he called 911. If he didn’t, the Abumayyaleh were going to take it off the floor, company policy.
The boy, according to Adam, “fears for his life and did not even want to go to court.” It is Sunday, April 18, and what is now colloquially called “George Floyd Square” has once again filled with protesters and activists awaiting the deliberations of the jury that must decide whether Agent Derek Chauvin is guilty of Floyd’s murder.
Right there, on the other side of the store window, is where Chauvin kept the man’s neck under his knee for nine agonizing minutes and the entire area has now been turned into a tapestry of flowers, banners, photographs and messages. Justice is no longer just for Floyd, but for the dozens of black men killed by police bullets in recent years, but he has become a global icon against racism and everyone awaits a turning point with this trial.
“If he is found not guilty, we will have to close for a long time,” says Adam, who runs the business with his brother Mahmoud. The Abumayyaleh had tough days after the tragedy, days when businesses everywhere in the center of the city were burned and many businesses displayed posters with the slogan “Black Property” that recalled macabre times of racial segregation. It was difficult for them to reopen. They made a first attempt in June, just weeks after the disaster, but protests forced them to close two days later.
They got a spokesman, Jamar Nelson, an African American, who is part of a neighborhood organization against violence and has tried to protect the family from the irrational anger that has aroused the floyd case against trade. In August they reopened again, but sales have never recovered. Adam does not believe they will do it while the streets are still closed and the future of the business is unknown.
Some entities believe that this place should no longer operate as a store and should be converted into a museum or a cultural center in memory of Floyd and in defense of civil rights, but no philanthropist with the money to do so has yet appeared. “There have been no serious propositions about that,” says Adam, although “we receive threats on a daily basis.”
Cup Foods has not been a haven of peace in its 31-year history. The police have closely watched their clients and their surroundings, since in the 1990s it was a drug-selling area and the police asked them to collaborate to avoid the murky life that it generated around it. But things had improved over the years, says the owner, the neighborhood was quieter and, at the same time, gentrification had not washed away them. Floyd was a regular customer; That same day, in the store, he greeted the shop assistants in a friendly way.
Minneapolis, despite having more than 400,000 inhabitants, is a city of old acquaintances. Floyd himself and Agent Chauvin had worked as security guards simultaneously at the same nightclub. Their destinations were last met at Cup Foods, and with them, that of the Abumayyaleh family.
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