MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Gov. Tim Walz on Friday signed an executive order to activate the Minnesota National Guard to prepare for the “potential of civil unrest” during former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin’s trial next month.

The order allows for the guards to start preparing security measures for the trial, coordinating with the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, both of which have requested public safety assistance from the state.

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For the past weeks, there has been a deeply divided debate at the Minnesota State Capitol, as Republicans and Democrats disagree over Walz’s plans to cover the added security costs triggered by the oncoming trials.

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Walz has asked the legislature to approve $35 million for a special fund called the “SAFE” account, which will reimburse local governments whose officers may be dispatched to help with the security needs surrounding the trial.

Republicans have said they don’t want the whole state to be on the hook for civil unrest like that which shook the Twin Cities after the death of George Floyd. Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said that the fund would be ongoing, and would benefit the entire state should another emergency situation occur.

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The costs of the national guard activation, on the other hand, will come from the general fund. Walz has activated the guard several times in the last year: during the civil unrest in May, to assist with COVID response, and most recently in mid-January, to prepare for potential unrest at the State Capitol ahead of President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Walz’s executive order says that National Guard will work in conjunction with local law enforcement to “keep the peace, ensure public safety, and allow for peaceful demonstrations.”

However, MPD Chief Medaria Arradondo said on Thursday that the force is down about 200 officers from where it was two years ago, as 105 officers left the department, went on leave, or retired last year. With new hires in the mix, Arradondo projects about 660 sworn active officers on the streets in February.

Chauvin’s trial is planned to begin on March 8.

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