MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Many in the activist community are anxious about the upcoming trial of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin. Their concerns not only lie with the impact heavy law enforcement and military presence on the streets of Minneapolis may have; they are also worried about the amount of money being spent in the name of security.

Activists say after the death of George Floyd, they were able to hold many successful peaceful protests throughout the summer and fall.

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Their plan for the upcoming trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin is further expression of their First Amendment rights.

“The problem here is not the community. The problem is law enforcement’s response to that community, including the use of soldiers — literally soldiers — on our streets,” said Michelle Gross.

Gross is part of Communities United Against Police Brutality. She’s worried that groups like hers will be met with aggression, similar to what happened last summer, and she’s not alone.

“Several protestors were harmed through the use of excessive force by law enforcement, the use of rubber bullets, as well as tear gas being deployed,” said Nekima Levy Armstrong.

The American Civil Liberties Union is looking to Minneapolis leaders to ensure that expectation is met.

“The ACLU, we have an expectation that people’s First Amendment rights are protected and are upheld, even in this difficult time,” said Elizer Darris. “We expect that our government officials and that our elected officials would take very serious the protection of people’s right to peacefully assemble (and) additionally the right for the press to be present and to monitor.”

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There is also concern about the amount of resources being used to contain protestors.

“Rather than listening to us and acting in a way that is compassionate, what we see is the governor using the power of Minnesota’s purse to try and stifle our protest and bring in many more law enforcement officers by creating this permanent $35 million,” Armstrong said.

Many feel that money could have been put to better use.

“This is happening when they are high rates of homelessness, unemployment, under-employment, a housing crisis in the city of Minneapolis and across the Twin Cities,” Armstrong said.

What activists hope is all who come to express their First Amendment rights do so in peace, and those there to protect and serve do the same.

“You had better not have any ideas of putting down that righteous dissent,” said Gross.

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Activists tell WCCO their summer protests were well organized and well attended. They’re hoping for the same during the Chauvin trial.

Reg Chapman