MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — City leaders in Minneapolis announced Wednesday the outlines of a public safety plan for the upcoming trial of Derek Chauvin, the former city police officer accused of killing George Floyd.
In a statement, the city says that crews have already begun installing security perimeters around the Hennepin County Government Center, City Hall and other nearby buildings. Additionally, the Minnesota National Guard has been activated to provide assistance for the duration of the Chauvin trial, which will begin jury selection during the week of March 8.
At a morning press conference, Mayor Jacob Frey said that law enforcement presence will be increasing throughout the trial. At the time the verdict is read, up to 2,000 National Guard members could be on duty alongside 1,100 law enforcement officers from 11 different jurisdictions.
“As the national spotlight again turns to Minneapolis, our focus will remain on the safety of residents, small businesses, and neighborhoods whose lives and livelihoods will continue to be impacted throughout the trial,” Frey said, in a statement. “Public safety is our core responsibility while we work to honor the magnitude of this moment, partnering with communities confronting a renewed trauma from the killing of George Floyd. Our city will be tested in the weeks to come – and our local government is prepared to meet those challenges together.”
Beginning on March 1, Sixth Street South will be closed between Third and Fourth avenues in downtown Minneapolis. This section of Sixth Street is where the Hennepin County Courthouse stands. The city says it will provide updates on any other street closures.
There will be a unified command center similar to the one that was in charge of security during the 2018 Super Bowl.
“When it comes to public safety and when it comes to a need for assistance, Minnesota comes together,” Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said.
Frey says the site of Floyd’s death at 38th and Chicago will be closed to traffic, but is expected to be the site of protests.
“They will want to express their First Amendment rights and we want to enable them to do so safely,” Frey said.
He dismissed political battles at the Capitol over paying for security, saying traditional mutual aide arrangements will play out.
“Politics really has no place here,” Frey said.
He mentioned there will be significant road and skyway closures during the trial and there will even be a rapid response team to address rumors online and in person.
The city says that it’s developing guidance for business and property owners on how to take precautions while remaining open for business during the trial. Likewise, the city’s Office of Violence Prevention will be working with neighborhoods and other groups to be prepared.
“First, Minneapolis is open for business,” Erik Hansen, director of economic policy and development for the city, said.
But on a somewhat more somber note, businesses were urged to check their insurance policies and save important documents to the cloud.
During the trial, the city says its communications team will be working with other agencies to keep the public informed, using various channels to share information, updates, and feedback from the community.
“Our key public messages will focus on providing accurate overall information to the public,” said David Rubedor, the city’s director of neighborhood and community relations.
Activist Lisa Clemons says her team at A Mother’s Love tried to keep the peace during the initial unrest after George Floyd’s death.
“We were standing in between protestors and Third Precinct cops,” Clemons said.
They did it again in August with the Safe Streets Initiative, when people thought an officer shot someone on the Nicolet Mall, when in fact it was a suicide.
“I said, ‘Chief [Arradondo], they’re saying your cops killed somebody.’ He said, ‘No, that was a suicide.’ He said it’s on video. I said, ‘You need to release the video immediately,’” Clemons said.
Now, safety leaders are leaning on Clemons and other community leaders to help stop the spread of rumors and misinformation during the Chauvin trial.
“They’re not trying to do this without community support, because they know they can’t,” she said.
John Harrington, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, says they are committed to protecting the right of citizens to peacefully protest.
“You’re going to see uniforms of all kinds of different colors. You’re going to see squad cars from all kinds of different places coming here together to say with one voice that we support the First Amendment, and that we are going to protect the Twin Cities,” Harrington said.
But leaders, including Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson, emphasized that there’s a line, and crossing it will have consequences.
“If you cause harm, if you break things, burn things, hurt people, hurt people’s livelihood, I’m here to say you will go to jail,” Hutchinson said.
Harrington says about 300 officers from around the state have volunteered so far to help with trial security. He hopes more will step up in the coming days and weeks.
State and local authorities are saying privately they are expecting criticism that their security preparations are excessive. They say they can handle that. They are still dealing with the aftermath of what happened last year and the ongoing criticism that they were not prepared and their response was not strong enough.
Chauvin is facing charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter. Three other former Minneapolis police officers are also charged with aiding and abetting. Their trial is set for later this year.
Floyd, a Black man, died on May 25 after Chauvin kneeled on his neck for several minutes while Floyd was handcuffed, repeatedly saying he couldn’t breathe. Bystander video of the fatal arrest sparked protests and riots in Minneapolis and across the country.
Jury selection for the trial of Chauvin is scheduled to start March 8.
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