On March 8, the state of Minnesota is scheduled to begin its prosecution of Derek Chauvin, the main police officer involved in the death of George Floyd. His trial is for second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. According to the Minnesota Star Tribune, the state can also charge him with third-degree murder.
The remaining three officers involved will have a separate trial together beginning in August.
The city of Minneapolis — my hometown and where I spent the fall semester before returning to Tallahassee to complete my degree at FAMU — has begun taking measures of protection in the downtown area where the trial will be held. They are calling it “Operation safety net (OSN).” The initiative consists of law enforcement and local health agencies.
An estimated 3,000 police and National Guard officers will be activated at the start of trial. Minneapolis has already placed barbed wire and barricades surrounding the Hennepin County Government Center.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said the large security presence is in place to protect people and property.
“Safety is a top priority through this very difficult time in our city. We need to make sure that our communities, our businesses, families throughout the city are safe and feel safe regardless of where they live and regardless of where they work,” Frey said.
Many people have been criticical of Mayor Frey’s decision to have such a heavy load of policing. City Council member Phillipe Cunningham believes last spring’s protests left a lot of Black-businesses vulnerable but now thinks the city is overdoing it.
“How do we make sure that we don’t have a protection gap in the same kind of way, but not do so in a way that’s so heavy-handed that it actually makes folks feel unsafe in a different kind of way?” Cunningham said.
Due to the preparations the city has made to protect property, many believe that city officials are setting a precedent for a “not guilty” verdict. Local activists say they will not let police presence stop them from exercising their First Amendment rights.
Kasey Drayton, an FSU grad student, doesn’t have high hopes for the outcome.
“Seeing the pictures of the barbed wire and barricades makes me believe they already know the verdict. History will be repeated, and he [Chauvin] will get off,” she said.
There are hundreds of people — especially in Black and brown communities — who feel the exact same way, due to the results in similar instances in the past.
The leaders of Minneapolis are trying to avoid a repeat of the protests that took place last summer that had a nationwide and global effect. For them, extra policing is the answer, hence operation safety net. However, this may not be the proper solution.
The trial’s verdict of is predicted to be announced sometime in April, and that is what Minneapolis leaders are trying to prepare for, regardless of the outcome.
The trial will begin with jury selection on Monday.