MINNEAPOLIS — Thousands of National Guard members and hundreds of police officers stood watch over the Twin Cities with jury deliberations underway in the trial of the former Minneapolis police officer charged with murder in George Floyd’s death.
A heavy and armed military presence could be seen Monday across Minneapolis in anticipation of unrest, especially near downtown government buildings. There were several protests and hundreds of arrests last week in nearby Brooklyn Center after a police officer killed Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, during a traffic stop.
Businesses have been boarded up across Minneapolis as the city awaits a verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, who is charged with second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
The impact and the coverage of the trial have been felt coast to coast. Demonstrations over police killings broke out recently in New York; Portland, Oregon; Chicago, where video of police fatally shooting a 13-year-old boy was released last week; and Raleigh, North Carolina, and protests are expected to intensify once a verdict is announced.
President Joe Biden plans to address the nation once a verdict is announced, administration officials said. The administration has planned for demonstrations by meeting with counterterrorism and Homeland Security advisers. An official said there have been discussions about mobilizing the National Guard in all 50 states.
Minneapolis law enforcement agencies and community leaders pleaded with the public Monday to protest peacefully.
“We’ve listened, we’ve learned and we’ve reflected, and quite frankly, we’ve adjusted,” Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said at a news conference as part of Operation Safety Net, a law enforcement task force assigned to coordinate safety and security measures during the trial. “And so we’ve listened to the community. We’ve listened to activists. We’ve listened to elected officials. And I will tell you that it is grounded under de-escalation.”
The goal is not to arrest people, he said.
“We want peaceful assembly. We want peaceful protest. We know that we have a city that is mourning. That they’re in grief. The last thing that we want to do is turn this thing into an enforcement situation,” he said.
State troopers from Nebraska and Ohio are helping secure the city, in addition to the National Guard members in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
“We stand on the brink of a historic week in our state and in our country and certainly for the policing profession,” said Col. Matthew Langer, chief of the Minnesota State Patrol.
The State Patrol is under a temporary restraining order issued by a federal judge related to its treatment of journalists, Langer said. Authorities arrested a CNN producer and are alleged to have assaulted a photographer for The New York Times, according to a letter on behalf of about two dozen media organizations, including NBC News.
“We accept those. We think they’re good, and we’ve worked as fast and as hard as we can to make sure that we’re in strict compliance with that restraining order,” Langer said.
In Minneapolis, many residents are uneasy waiting for a verdict.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty, because so many times we’ve seen that justice is not truly served,” said P.J. Hill, vice president of the NAACP in Minneapolis. “But then, there is an undercurrent of hope that this time could be different.”
Hill said he has heard from many residents who fear that the city will burn if Chauvin isn’t convicted.
South Minneapolis resident Preston McDade-Davis, 35, said he believes Chauvin will be convicted on some charge. If not, he said, the city must prepare for the worst.
“I’m a little scared myself for the city and the verdict,” he said. “If Chauvin isn’t convicted on at least two charges, the city is going back up in flames.”
He added that the area is still reeling from Wright’s killing.
Jaleesa Webb, 28, of North Minneapolis, said she hasn’t watched the trial because it makes her nervous.
“It’s brought a lot of tension,” Webb said. She said she also fears that white supremacists are plotting to cause harm.
“No matter the outcome, they’re coming back,” she said.
Many police precincts throughout Minneapolis have been fenced off in case of rioting, but some of the businesses near them don’t seem to be concerned about looting or potential damage.
Maria Corona, a manager at Maya Cuisine and Bar, a restaurant near the 2nd Precinct on Central Avenue, said she wasn’t fearful for the eatery’s fate should there be unrest. She said the restaurant wasn’t damaged during riots after Floyd’s death.
The same goes for Magus Books.
“We had riots before here, and we were fine. Do I feel safe? Do I feel like we’re in a safe area? Honestly, I do,” said Liz Johnson, a co-owner of the bookstore, which is across the street from the 2nd Precinct. “I’ve never felt that we were in any danger at any point. I don’t expect to be.”
Activists said the trial could move America forward or backward.
The trial is equally rooted in the civil rights movement and the Rodney King trial, Hill said. California police officers were acquitted in 1993 in the beating of King, a Black motorist, leading to days of nationally televised unrest.
“This is a moment that our nation has to decide to turn over a new leaf,” Hill said. “It can be a beacon of hope or it can be a beacon of true suppression.”