Minneapolis leaders said Wednesday they are beefing up security plans, preparing to close streets and making sure businesses and residents are well informed as the trial approaches for the former police officer charged in the death of George Floyd.
Mayor Jacob Frey said safety will be a top priority “during this very difficult time in our city” and that the trial of Derek Chauvin will likely increase trauma for many, especially as a verdict draws near.
“We believe it is on us to honour the magnitude of this moment and ensure that our families in this city feel safe,” Frey said.
Floyd, a Black man who was handcuffed, died May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck as Floyd said he couldn’t breathe. Floyd’s death sparked protests in Minneapolis and days of violent unrest in which buildings — including a police station — were burned and damaged.
Chauvin, who was fired, is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter. Jury selection in his trial is scheduled to begin March 8; opening statements are scheduled for March 29.
The city has already started installing a security perimeter around the Hennepin County Government Center, City Hall and nearby buildings.
Frey said a law enforcement presence in the city will increase in coming weeks, and will peak during the trial, with the help of up to 2,000 National Guard members and 1,100 law enforcement officers from 12 agencies.
On Monday, the Democratic-controlled Minnesota House pulled a bill that would have created a $35 million fund to bolster security during Chauvin’s trial. Frey said Wednesday that its time to pass that measure, noting that Minneapolis has seen a dramatic loss in revenue due to COVID-19.
“There is no place for gamesmanship or politics over these next couple of months in ensuring the city of Minneapolis is safe,” he said.
The intersection at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, which has become a memorial to Floyd and a community gathering place, will remain closed to vehicle traffic until after the trial. Sixth Street South will be closed at the courthouse starting March 1.
Erik Hansen, the city’s director of Economic Policy and Development, said the city is advising business owners to consider emergency preparedness plans, add physical barriers such as boards over windows or security gates, make sure their insurance policies are up to date, and upload important records online.
The city’s Office of Violence Prevention is working on a tool kit for neighbourhood groups and communities to help those who are most impacted by violence deal with trauma that could be triggered by the trial or protests. The city is also expanding its efforts to keep residents informed, with plans to send out information on social media, radio stations and other channels to help dispel rumours, address community trauma and provide information on street closures and other public safety issues.
City Council member Jamal Osman said the first step in rebuilding trust is honesty and good communication.
“The city cannot control what happens in the courtroom across the street. And we cannot, unfortunately, control what happened in the past,” Osman said. “But what we can control is our future. How honest, how transparent, and how direct we are in communicating with our affected communities. Today is a good first step.”
Amy Forliti, The Associated Press