Derek Chauvin trial: Security increasing around public buildings in Minneapolis
MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - Minneapolis leaders provided another update Wednesday about security plans for the upcoming trial for Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with George Floyd’s murder.
Minneapolis Police Deputy Chief Erick Fors promised the city will be fully prepared for whatever the upcoming trial brings in the way of civil unrest.
"The main focus is prevention. Prevention of property damage, arson and looting," Fors said.
The Hennepin County courtroom is already set up for the trial, which is scheduled to begin March 8, and barricades are in place around the court building and city hall. Barricades and other safety and security measures are also going up around key infrastructure across the city, including police precinct buildings, should they become targets like they did in the aftermath of Floyd's death.
"This is about maintaining safety and security and ensuring key infrastructure can still be utilized and is still functional during key periods of time," Fors said.
The city is trying to strike a balance between providing safety and security for the trial and allowing the community space to gather and speak out, including on Government Plaza--18 floors below the courtroom.
"We want to make sure that right to protest is protected in every way, shape and form," Mayor Jacob Frey said.
The Minneapolis Police Department is bringing in help from other law enforcement agencies and the Minnesota National Guard. All agencies will be under a unified command, dubbed Operation Safety Net, to respond to any civil unrest that arises as a result of the trial.
Law enforcement officials said people can expect to see the National Guard downtown in the coming days as they prepare for mobilization during the trial.
Sixth Street South, which runs under the Hennepin County Courthouse, will be closed between Third and Fourth avenues. Other streets in the area are expected to stay open.
Metro Transit is not planning any disruptions to bus or light rail service to downtown Minneapolis, although there may be detours around the Hennepin County Government Center.
The city is not recommending businesses preemptively board up in advance of the trial, but they have resources available should businesses owners wish to. Officials said they will be assigning highly visible joint teams of National Guard soldiers and law enforcement to patrol businesses corridors throughout the city, especially those hit hardest during the unrest last summer, as a deterrent to any destructive behavior.
The message from city hall to property owners? Have a plan.
"We are not recommending that people board up, but each business will have to make their own decision," said Minneapolis Economic Policy and Development Director Erik Hansen. "If they choose to take security measures and precautions, we’re here to help them."
Officials said the city’s Office of Violence Prevention plans to fund a network of community-based groups that can be activated during "periods of heightened tension" during the remainder of 2021, including the Chauvin trial as well as the trial for the other three former officers charged in Floyd’s death, which will take place later this summer.
Meanwhile, a source tells FOX 9 a federal grand jury is considering civil rights charges against Chauvin. The jury is listening to testimony from other former officers about possible violations and other public encounters.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments Monday about whether to reinstate a third-degree murder charge against Chauvin.
It is unclear when the federal civil rights probe will wrap up or when we can expect a ruling on the third-degree charge, which could impact his upcoming trial.