By Marielle Mohs

This story was originally published on Feb. 26

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minneapolis authorities are investing in six social media influencers, with a large local following, to help push their message and prevent riots during the murder trial of a fired police officer. On Friday, the Minneapolis City Council approved $1,181,500 for communication with the community during the trial.

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The City says the six influencers will be intentionally targeting Black, Native American, Somali, Hmong and Latinx communities with their messaging during the trial. Each influencer will be paid a flat fee of $2,000.

In a full statement from the Minneapolis City Council, they said:

“The City is collaborating with social media partners to share public information with cultural communities and to help dispel potential misinformation during the upcoming trials of the former officers involved in the killing of George Floyd. The goal is to increase access to information to communities that do not typically follow mainstream news sources or City communications channels and/or who do not consume information in English. It’s also an opportunity to create more two-way communication between the City and communities. The recommendations for which social media messengers to partner with come from the City’s Neighborhood and Community Relations staff. The agreements with the social media partners have not been finalized. The City is adhering to procurement requirements for the selection and contracting processes.”

Some activists and legal experts are concerned about this decision by the council.

Toussaint Morrison is an activist with a strong social media influencer himself, with a following of over 11,000 user on Instagram. He uses his platform to educate the community. He’s worried about bias behind information that will come from a city funded influencer.

“The key word here is ‘city-approved’,” said Morrison, “what do you think the message is going to be? It’s going to be pro-city, it’s going to be anti-protest.”

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Sarah Davis is the Executive director of The Legal Rights Center in Minneapolis. She said this decision by the council sends a clear message.

“It really reflects that they know there’s a lack of trust between community and city institutions and that’s real, let’s be honest about that, that’s real,” said Davis.

Her firm plans to offer legal expertise and Q & A’s during the trial.

“What we’re really trying to do is help folks understand what they’re going to be seeing, answer questions about that,” said Davis.

While Morrison’s social media following could make him a candidate for this new city position, he plans to remain an independent resource during the Chauvin trial.

“I don’t think they’ll reach out to me,” said Morrison, “I hope they don’t because I don’t want them to waste their time.”

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The city council plans to discuss more details on these new positions in a public online briefing on Monday at 10 a.m.

Marielle Mohs