MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — National Guard troops and hundreds of law enforcement officers will converge on the Minneapolis area during the upcoming trial of the former police officer charged in George Floyd’s death, and authorities said Wednesday they hope months of planning will help prevent a repeat of last year’s violent unrest.
Leaders from Minneapolis and local and state law enforcement agencies have been beefing up security plans, preparing to close streets and making sure businesses and residents are well informed as the trial of Derek Chauvin approaches. Mayor Jacob Frey said the trial will likely increase trauma for many, especially as the verdict draws near, and that safety will be a top priority “during this very difficult time in our city.”
“We believe it is on us to honor the magnitude of this moment and ensure that our families in this city feel safe,” Frey said.
State Patrol Col. Matt Langer said authorities will be working to protect everyone’s rights to peacefully protest while also ensuring that businesses, government buildings and infrastructure are protected. Law enforcement will use quick reaction teams, bicycle rapid response officers, SWAT officers and other tactics to respond quickly to emergencies. Protests on freeways or unlawful behavior such as throwing objects, using illegal fireworks, setting fires or damaging property will not be tolerated, Langer 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.
Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson said his deputies will ensure the courthouse is protected and the trial is not disrupted.
“We want to protect everybody’s rights, but if you cause harm, if you break things, burn things, hurt people, hurt people’s livelihood, I’m here to say: You will go to jail. We will arrest everybody who breaks the law,” Hutchinson said. “We are not going to tolerate disorder.”
The city has already started installing a security perimeter around the Hennepin County Government Center, City Hall and nearby buildings. The street and sidewalk in front of the courthouse will be closed starting March 1.
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.
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. Langer said the bulk of law enforcement resources will be present surrounding closing arguments, jury deliberations and announcement of a verdict.
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.
Authorities have no current “actionable” intelligence suggesting that specific groups may be coming to Minneapolis to stir up trouble, said Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington. He said authorities are taking what has been learned from past protests in Minneapolis, Los Angeles and Ferguson, Missouri and they believe their preparation and united approach can prevent bad things from happening and ensure people’s voices are heard.
He said that last year, “In midst of the riots, in the midst of the fires, in the midst of all that — people’s voices who really want to call out the death of George Floyd could not be heard over the vitriol and over the activity of folks that were there to destroy property and to hurt other people.”