Minneapolis beefs up security before trial in Floyd's death

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey speaks to reporters.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey updates reporters on security plans for the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer charged in the death of George Floyd, on Wednesday at Minneapolis City Hall.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

Updated: Feb. 18, 6 p.m. | Posted: Feb. 17, 2:35 p.m.

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.

State and local law enforcement leaders vowed to work together to preserve people’s rights to assemble and protest but also keep the peace.

“We’re not going to allow disruption. The court needs to go on,” Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson told reporters Wednesday afternoon. “We will arrest anybody who breaks the law.”

The public safety plan, which includes several thousand National Guard personnel and as many as 1,100 police officers, is “designed to prevent bad things from happening and to respond if they do,” said John Harrington, the state’s public safety commissioner.

“We do not have any current, actionable intelligence about groups planning to come here to disrupt the trial or to cause disorder,” he said, adding that law enforcement doesn’t want a repeat of the chaos following Floyd’s killing in late May while in police custody.

“Fool me once, shame on you,” said Harrington. “Fool me twice, we all know how that ends.”

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 it’s 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.

Gov. Tim Walz urged lawmakers to come together to ensure law enforcement has enough resources to protect the rights of those who want to peacefully protest and to keep people safe.

“We will execute a plan that I believe will do the things necessary, but it would sure be helpful if we did it together,” Walz said. “This sentiment that, ‘We don’t have to do anything, they’ll take care of it’ ... That’s a pretty reckless sentiment."

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.

On Thursday, barricades went up around the Hennepin County Government Center in preparation for the Chauvin trial. For now, Sixth Street, which passes underneath the Government Center, remains open to traffic, but that block of Sixth in downtown Minneapolis is slated to close a week from Monday.

Fencing, barricades around the Hennepin County Government Center
Fencing and barricades are set up around the Hennepin County Government Center on Thursday ahead of the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

The city’s Office of Violence Prevention is also working on a tool kit for neighborhood 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 rumors, address community trauma and provide information on street closures and other public safety issues.

City Council member Jamal Osman said officials hope the efforts will help neutralize rumors and other bad information. The first step in rebuilding trust, Osman said, 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.”

The trial is expected to wrap up by mid- to late April.

Watch: Law enforcement leaders speak on security during the Derek Chauvin trial

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