Minneapolis has launched a massive security effort including putting 2,000 National Guard members and 1,100 cops on the streets while businesses and government buildings have boarded up as the city braces for the start of Derek Chauvin’s trial.
Barbed wire and metal barricades have already been erected around the Hennepin County Courthouse where Chauvin’s murder trial is set to start Monday with the jury selection.
A coalition of 17 activist groups have vowed to stage a large peaceful protest Monday and throughout the trial but some city officials are concerned the heavy police presence – during a trial that centers on police brutality – may exacerbate rather than diffuse tensions.
The former white Minneapolis police officer is charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter over the killing of George Floyd after he knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes as the black man begged for air and said ‘I can’t breathe’.
The three other fired officers Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng involved in his death face charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter and will stand trial separately in August.
Floyd’s death sparked protests in the streets of Minneapolis – and worldwide – as people demanded an end to police brutality and systemic racism in the wake of multiple cop killings of black people in police custody.
Around $1 billion worth of damage was caused and 1,500 businesses in Minneapolis alone were impacted by rioters and looters last summer, and city officials and business owners are hoping to prevent a repeat of the unrest.
A worker installs security fencing at the Hennepin County Government Headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Wednesday
Boarded windows at the Hennepin County Government Headquarters in Minneapolis. Minneapolis has launched a massive security effort including putting 2,000 National Guard members and 1,100 cops on the streets
Workers erect fencing at the government HQ Wednesday. Businesses and government buildings have boarded up as the city braces for the start of Derek Chauvin’s trial
City, state and federal leaders held their last security briefings Thursday just days before what will be one of the most high-profile and most closely watched trials the US has ever seen kicks off.
Dubbed ‘Operation Safety Net’ (ONS), the multi-agency security plan includes closures of certain public buildings and streets, extra security from law enforcement and National Guard troops and the launch of a city website to keep residents up to date.
Government buildings including the Hennepin County Government Center where Chauvin will stand trial have already been cordoned off with barbed wire, concrete barriers and chain link fencing, costing the city an estimated $645,000, reported ABC 5.
The intersection of East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, where Floyd died, will also be closed off for the duration of the trial.
Officials said preparations had been months in the making with a total of 2,000 guard members and 1,100 police officers, many from other jurisdictions, ready to be deployed – after the city was caught off guard last summer and was forced to call in emergency help from the National Guard.
Any use of tear gas or other nonlethal methods of crowd dispersal will be required to be approved directly by the police chief under a court order, after shocking footage emerged last summer of some cops and federal agents using violent tactics against demonstrators.
DPS Commissioner John Harrington said Monday law enforcement agencies are also monitoring online activity for potential threats from extremist groups but said there was no intel of an imminent threat.
The multi-agency group operating ONS is anticipating the most critical time of the trial to come in mid-to-late April when the jury starts deliberating before ultimately deciding whether to convict Chauvin of Floyd’s murder.
Former white Minneapolis police officer Chauvin (left) is charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter over the killing of George Floyd (right) after he knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes
Small business owners started boarding up their windows, erecting fencing around their property and moving important documents or items off-site last week in anticipation of potential unrest during the trial.
Tawfiq Wazwaz, manager of grocery and tobacco store AM Gift Shop, told the Wall Street Journal he was ‘nervous’ after having spent tens of thousands of dollars repairing damage and hiring security to protect his business last summer.
‘We don’t want what happened in the past to happen again,’ he said.
Jay Chau, the owner of a family-owned hair salon near the Minneapolis fifth police precinct, told Fox News it took months to rebuild his business after it was looted and flooded in the summer.
‘A lot of the suffering were minority business owners too, you know, and a lot of us start from scratch and it just takes time to heal. Hopefully we can all work together,’ Chau said.
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said ‘over communication’ with the public is a key aspect of the plan and promised that security measures put in place will protect the constitutional rights of people wanting to protest Floyd’s death.
‘I’m a firm believer that you can never over communicate in matters such as this that impacts our city,’ Arradondo said in a briefing Monday.
A gate allowing visitors to access the US District Court Barriers near Minneapolis City Hall at the Government Center
A man walks past layers of barbed wire fence and razor wire in front of the Hennepin County Government Headquarters. Barbed wire and metal barricades have already been erected around the Hennepin County Courthouse where Chauvin’s murder trial is set to start Monday with the jury selection
A coalition of 17 activist groups have vowed to stage a large peaceful protest Monday and throughout the trial
Some city officials are concerned the heavy police presence – during a trial that centers on police brutality – may exacerbate rather than diffuse tensions
City, state and federal leaders held their last security briefings Thursday just days before what will be one of the most high-profile and most closely watched trials the US has ever seen kicks off
‘We want peaceful protest. We want to make sure that people are supported [and] we’re ensuring their first amendment rights.
‘But we have seen sadly last year, and across this nation of ours, that you will at times get individuals who will want to hijack that moment and make it something more criminal and destructive.’
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey also explained the heightened security by saying ‘safety is a top priority through this very difficult time in our city’.
‘We’re hearing several common themes. One of them is concern over this question of additional law enforcement and mutual aid,’ he said Wednesday.
‘How those additional law enforcement and mutual aid will be interfacing with peaceful protestors.’
However several city leaders and activist groups have been critical of the level of security measures going up around the city which is sparking concerns officials are gearing up for a ‘not guilty’ verdict.
City Council President Lisa Bender warned that a heavy police and National Guard presence could create a more hostile environment between law enforcement and demonstrators at a time of increased tensions between law enforcement and the community.
‘I don’t think that we can police our way out of police violence,’ Bender said in a public hearing Monday.
City Council member Phillipe Cunningham added that the ‘heavy-handed’ presence is making ‘folks feel unsafe in a different kind of way’.
Dubbed ‘Operation Safety Net’ (ONS), the multi-agency security plan includes closures of certain public buildings and streets, extra security and the launch of a city website to keep residents up to date
Government buildings including the courthouse where Chauvin will stand trial and the Hennepin County Government Center (above) have already been cordoned off with barbed wire, concrete barriers and chain link fencing
Security is costing the city an estimated $645,000, reported ABC 5 with the multi-agency group operating ONS is anticipating the most critical time of the trial to come in mid-to-late April when the jury starts deliberating
Angela Rose Myers, president of the Minneapolis branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), said the ramped-up security measures are hampering protesters’ First Amendment rights to protest for justice for Floyd.
‘Their justice, their safety is putting up barricades and hindering our First Amendment right for public assembly and protest,’ she told WSJ.
‘We are not here to hinder justice, we are here to deliver justice.’
The Minnesota branch of Black Lives Matter told the outlet the organization plans to hold peaceful protests throughout the trial but could not rule out the possibility of unrest if Chauvin walks free.
‘The whole country is watching right now,’ said Trahern Crews, founder and lead organizer of the branch.
‘And I believe the majority of the country wants to see justice for George Floyd.’
A coalition of social justice and community groups has planned a mass protest on March 8 outside the courthouse demanding justice for Floyd on the first day of the trial.
George Floyd died on Memorial Day as he was arrested by four police officers over allegedly trying to buy cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. He was seen in a video pleading that he couldn’t breathe as Derek Chauvin pressed his knee against his neck
Pictured (left to right): Former officers Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao in their mugshots. The three other cops have been charged with aiding and abetting and will stand trial August
George Floyd bill to ban police chokeholds hits resistance in the Senate
A bill seeking to ban chokeholds that passed the House Wednesday night is already facing obstacles in the Senate – and the lone Republican who backed it in the House said he did so in error.
The House passed the bill, designated the ‘George Floyd Justice in Policing Act’ in one of the last votes of the week amid an ongoing security threat to the Capitol.
It seeks to stop ‘choke-holds’ by tying federal funds to police tactics and passed the House on a 220-212 vote.
Rep. Lance Gooden, a Texas Republican, announced late Wednesday he didn’t vote as he intended. The bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where it would be subject to a 60-vote filibuster.
Sen. Tim Scott, the lone black Republican senator, has his own bill, and labeled the House bill ‘partisan.’
‘I hope my friends on the other side of the aisle will come to the table to find common ground where we can make meaningful changes that will bring us closer to the goal of a more just country,’ he said. Sen. Rand Paul, whose state was home to Breonna Taylor, who died in a nighttime police raid, has his own bill on ‘no-knock’ warrants.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at a Thursday press conference cheered passage of the bill. ‘It was pretty exciting to have a big strong Democratic vote for that. We had wished it would be bipartisan,’ she said. ‘It is something we all take great pride in. Millions of people worldwide marched, came out, peacefully demonstrated to say: “Enough.” When they saw George Floyd lynched before their very eyes, for eight minutes and 48 seconds,’ she said.
The bill restricts some funds to local governments that allow choke holds and other techniques, bans ‘no-knock warrants’ by police, and modifies ‘qualified immunity’ for police.
The organizations include: the Anti-War Committee, Black Lives Matter MN, CAIR-MN, CAIR-MN, Climate Justice Committee, Communities United Against Police Brutality, Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, Freedom Road Socialist Organization – Twin Cities, Good Trouble for Justice, MN Immigrant Rights Action Committee, MN Uprising Arrestee Support, MN Workers United, Native Lives Matter, On Site Public Media, Racial Justice Network, Students for Democratic Society at UMN, Twin Cities Coalition 4 Justice 4 Jamar, and Women Against Military Madness.
Jury selection for Chauvin’s trial could take up to three weeks starting Monday with opening arguments not expected to be heard until the end of March.
If convicted of his two counts of murder and manslaughter, Chauvin faces up to 40 years in prison for second-degree murder and 10 years for manslaughter.
Prosecutors say Chauvin murdered Floyd with the county medical examiner ruling his death a homicide from ‘cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint and neck compression.’
The defense says Floyd died from the drugs found in his system and his pre-existing heart disease.
Chauvin was arrested back in May after footage surfaced online of Floyd’s Memorial Day killing in the streets of Minneapolis.
Chauvin is accused of murdering Floyd, 46, during his arrest on May 25 for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store.
The white cop was caught on camera kneeling on the black man’s neck for almost nine minutes while Floyd begged for his life and said ‘I can’t breathe’ and onlookers pleaded with the officers to stop.
Chauvin, Thao, Lane and Kueng were all fired the next day and the FBI and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension launched an investigation.
Chauvin, who it transpired had been subject to at least 12 conduct reports with Minneapolis Police Department since 2001, was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter at the end of May.
Floyd’s family called for the charges to be upgraded to murder in the first degree.
In June Chauvin was handed another charge of second-degree murder.
A judge then dismissed the third-degree murder charge against Chauvin in October saying prosecutors did not have probable cause for the charge because they did not prove that Chauvin’s actions were a danger to anyone other than Floyd.
Under Minnesota law, a person is guilty of third-degree murder if ‘without intent to effect the death of any person, [the defendant] causes the death of another by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life’.
The charge is rarely used in Minnesota and carries a maximum prison sentence of 25 years.
Thao, Lane and Kueng were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter. They each face up to 40 years in prison.
Chauvin is accused of murdering Floyd (above), 46, during his arrest on May 25 for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store