Some Minneapolis City Council members on Monday questioned the city’s plan to bring in thousands of soldiers and police officers for former officer Derek Chauvin’s trial, saying it could inflame tensions in a traumatized community.
“I have been a little bit disappointed with the heavy city and police-only focus of this plan up until today,” Council Member Jeremiah Ellison said, adding: “I feel like I haven’t really heard … a plan that affirms the kind of trauma that happened this past summer, and not just from the four officers who killed George Floyd but from the response that happened afterward.”
Council members spoke during a public briefing Monday that provided more details of the city’s preparations for enlisting law enforcement, firefighters and community groups ahead of the trial in Floyd’s death.
They announced, too, that they were backing off a plan to pay “social media influencers” to help with communication, after some expressed doubts about the proposal.
Council Member Phillipe Cunningham echoed Ellison’s remarks and asked Minneapolis police for more detail about what training they have provided officers about the history of racism in policing and about what they will consider a peaceful protest. He said he was particularly concerned about officers coming from outside the city to provide assistance.
“Peaceful protests also include Black rage from the ongoing trauma and pain that has been a result of structural and systemic violence, but that kind of emotional expression is very upsetting to Minnesota’s sensibilities… particularly with a negative emotion,” Cunningham said.
Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said Minneapolis officers have had conversations in roll-call about the anger underlying protests. Law enforcement will have a unified command center aimed at allowing key leaders to work out of one location and share information more efficiently.
For example, the chief said, if a local activist reaches out to law enforcement to say they’re calming down a person expressing anger but not involved in “criminal behavior,” they can pass that information along to officers working nearby before the situation escalates.
“We’ll be able to have these conversations,” Arradondo said.
During Monday’s roughly two-and-a-half hour briefing, police outlined a plan to increase security measures when jury selection begins next Monday, with the largest presence expected when deliberations begin in mid-to late April.
Cmdr. Scott Gerlicher said they plan to have teams focused on protecting commercial corridors that were heavily damaged last year. Nearly two-third of the roughly 2,000 National Guard soldiers on hand will be assigned to those tasks.
They also plan to use police and soldiers to protect fire and EMS crews that need to respond to calls, if there is more rioting. Others will be used to protect police precincts, leaving the officers who work there free to answer 911 calls. Soldiers and Minnesota State Patrol officers will block roads near protests, with a goal of protecting protesters from vehicle traffic, Gerlicher said.
City leaders said they soon plan to launch a website with resources for residents and are increasing their partnerships with multilingual radio stations. The city’s crime prevention specialists will also work to share information with community groups.
The city announced Monday morning that it was scrapping a controversial plan to use “social media influencers” to “share City generated and approved messages” and help dispel rumors in the community.
David Rubedor, director of the city’s director of Neighborhood and Community Relations, said they frequently hear from people who don’t receive information through traditional channels and hoped that partnering with people on social media would help them get the word out about building closures, changes to public transit schedules and other practical information.
“We used the term social media influencer, which in retrospect did not accurately reflect what we were asking of our partners, and it caused confusion in the community,” Rubedor said. “This was never about trying to persuade or change public opinion about any particular message but more, it was about getting important information out quickly and in an equitable way.”
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