Some accuse city of ‘violence baiting’ as Minneapolis prepares for trial of former officer Derek Chauvin

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Minneapolis looks like a city preparing for an invasion as it prepares for the upcoming trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer charged in the death of George Floyd.

Some are calling the massive preparations “violence baiting.”

The preparations throughout the city include barricades, barbed wire, fences, concrete barriers, and even a moat with razor wire.  Offices and stores have boarded up their windows in anticipation of rioting and looting depending on the outcome of the trial.

The city had contracted help from surrounding cities, with over 1,000 armed law enforcement officers from dozens of agencies, 2,000 National Guard troops, and an army of grief counselors and trauma counselors.

Government buildings including Minneapolis City Hall and the Hennepin County Government Center have been fenced off from the public. Citizens must be cleared through a gate to access the buildings.

Former Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Mary Mariarty said the public is going to see the preparations as a message:

“It’s upsetting to see all the wire and I think many members of our community view it as some kind of a reflection on them. Some perceive it as a message on how they [the city] think the verdict is going to come out. I wonder what message they are trying to send when the majority of the public protest was peaceful.”

Nekima Levy Armstrong of the Racial Justice Network called the preparations “disturbing”:

“It is highly disturbing that City, County and State officials would go to such extreme lengths to limit our right to peaceably assemble outside of the Hennepin County Government Center.

“We do not believe the police will be here to protect the people. White Supremacists flooded the Twin Cities. They terrorized people in North Minneapolis, shot at and shot Black people, and they were not held accountable.”

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Other activists said the city was trying to make protesters appear violent. Michelle Gross of Communities United against Police Brutality said at the recent press conference:

“It is outlandish that they are encircling themselves in barbed wire, in fences. They are more afraid and concerned with the people than they are with police violence.

“They want to make it seem like the protesters are violent and that they are the problem, not the police violence that led to the protest. What they should do is put this razor wire around the precinct so they can keep the cops inside who are brutalizing us.”

City leaders, however, say the preparations are warrant and appropriate considering the violence seen last summer in the city following the death of George Floyd on Memorial Day.

With jury selection in the trial set to begin on March 8, city leaders are concerned about another round of violence and riots.

During a meeting with councilmembers on February 26, City Coordinator Mark Ruff said he was hoping for peaceful protests, but the city could not depend on hope:

“Our hope is that the number of days we need these officers will be very short, that it will be a trial where there is peaceful expression of First Amendment rights and not destruction or other types of illegal activities that would require these officers to be around for numerous days.”

On May 25, 2020, Chauvin was captured on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as the black man cried out that he could not breathe.

Floyd had been accused of passing a counterfeit $20 bill and was handcuffed and pinned to the ground by three officers during the arrest.

Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck even after the man became unconscious and bystanders shouted for the officers to check his pulse.

Chauvin and the three other officers were fired the day after Floyd died, and were criminally charged a week later.

Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter. An appeals court is considering a request to reinstate a third-degree murder charge that was dismissed in October by Judge Peter Cahill.

Chauvin is released on $1 million bond pending trial.

The three other former officers involved, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao, are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter. They are scheduled for trial together in August.

George Floyd became a rally cry for protests that spread across the nation, and sparked peaceful protests and violent riots. The protests eventually spread across the globe to more than 1,700 cities and towns in all 50 states, and across the world.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Fry said the trial will increase traumatic memories for many people, especially as the verdict draws near:

“We believe it is on us to honor the magnitude of this moment and ensure that our families in this city feel safe.”

The trial will be livestreamed on CourtTV. Judge Cahill ruled in December that the trial would be livestreamed due to the immense global interest in the case, and limited courtroom space, according to the judge’s order:

“Without question, deprivation of the constitutional rights that are the hallmarks of a public criminal trial would be a ‘manifest injustice.’ The only real issue then, is whether there is a reasonable alternative to televising the trial that would vindicate the defendants’ Sixth Amendment rights and the First Amendment rights of the public and the press…

“The Court concludes that televising the trial is the only reasonable and meaningful method to safeguard the Sixth and First Amendment rights implicated in these cases.”

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