MINNEAPOLIS — Security continues tightening across the region and nationwide as jurors are set to begin deliberations in the murder trial of former police office Derek Chauvin.
Chauvin faces multiple charges stemming from last May’s death of George Floyd. Video shown to jurors shows Chauvin, who was swiftly fired, kneeling on Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds.
Floyd’s death sparked nationwide protests and calls for comprehensive police reform to protect Black communities. Both sides in the Chauvin prosecution gave their closing arguments Monday, and the 12-member jury will be sequestered in a secure location during their deliberations.
“We are just asking for justice,” said Black Lives Matter Minnesota co-leader Trahern Crews.
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Authorities across the country, from New York to Los Angeles and Chicago, have also stepped up security preparations in case a wave of violence follows the verdict.
In Minneapolis, city leaders say they are worried not just about anti-police protests, but the possibility that white nationalists might seize the moment to sow chaos. Facebook, acknowledging the role its platform could play in spreading calls for violence, said it would remove posts that is deems “praises, celebrates or mocks George Floyd’s death.”
The company added: “Our teams are working around the clock to look for potential threats both on and off of Facebook and Instagram so we can protect peaceful protests and limit content that could lead to civil unrest or violence. This includes identifying and removing calls to bring arms to areas in Minneapolis, which we have temporarily deemed to be a high-risk location.”
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For the people living and working downtown, the security measures mean road closures and armed soldiers patrolling the streets. Government officials are promising a swift response to any violence or property destruction, after largely standing back in the days following Floyd’s death.
Curfews have been intermittently ordered, although none are currently in effect.
“A best-case scenario is continuing what we’ve been experiencing for the past few weeks: Protecting the First Amendment rights of those who want to protest, to allow them to materialize the pain and trauma that has been experienced, and to also continue protecting property and businesses,” said Jonathan Weinhagen, the president and CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce.
While the weeks during the trial were largely peaceful, a police officer in the nearby suburb of Brooklyn Center shot and killed a Black man, Daunte Wright, on April 11 during a traffic stop, sparking new protests and demands for reform. Authorities reported no arrests from Sunday.
Thousands of police and members of the National Guard have been activated, with Guard members carrying unloaded rifles at key intersections in Minneapolis. Authorities, without releasing specific details, said someone shot at Guard members early Sunday morning, injuring two.
Downtown Minneapolis has largely been boarded up, with the few stores and restaurants still open hanging “Open” signs on the plywood protecting their glass.
Weinhagen said many downtown offices remained closed due to the pandemic, and the heavy security and concerns about violence are just one more challenge for small businesses.
Public schools are returning to remote learning Wednesday, and school officials warned parents that violence could break out.
“As appropriate and as they are comfortable, teachers will give students the opportunity to process their feelings, how this feels to them personally and how they are impacted by having the eyes of the world on Minneapolis,” Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent Ed Graff said in a letter to parents.
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