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MINNEAPOLIS – Security tightened across the region and nationwide as jurors were 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 trial 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 stepped up security in case a wave of violence follows the verdict.
At a news conference Monday afternoon, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo acknowledged the difficult balance law enforcement has in respecting the First Amendment rights of the community while protecting it from damage. Arradondo, who is Black, said he understands the community’s trauma.
“Our children are watching us in this moment right now. We have to ask ourselves, how are we doing to respond? Are we going to leave them in despair? Are we we going to leave them feeling a sense of hopelessness, negativity, that they have no chance, that they can’t rise from challenges and trials and tribulations? Or are we going to say to them this does not have to be your tomorrow?”
Community leaders are asking for calm, warning that the police response to destruction will be severe – and violence will risk setting back carefully developed relationships between law enforcement and residents.
“Please stop this violence. Don’t tear up our city any longer,” said the Rev. Ian Bethel of New Beginnings Baptist Church, speaking at a city-organized news conference.
Also on Monday, NAACP President Derrick Johnson met with the Minneapolis mayor and police chief before touring George Floyd Square, the activist-occupied intersection outside Cup Foods where Floyd died. Speaking to reporters, Johnson said the trial is about far more than Chauvin’s guilt or innocence, and could have implications that echo through history.
“And now we hope that this jury received what we all witnessed, received what we saw during the trial, and they make sure that our justice system actually works for a change. The globe is watching,” Johnson said. “Right now, we're looking at Selma, Alabama. Right now, we’re looking at the realities that we witnessed throughout the civil rights movement."
He added, "But this is a new movement where we must reform our criminal justice system. We must have a higher standard for law enforcement officers. We must ensure that young people who live in inner cities and African-Americans who live in rural areas can feel comfortable about law enforcement agencies.”
Minneapolis city leaders said 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 it says "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."
'No justice, no streets': Still grieving, Minneapolis residents wonder how city will move forward after Chauvin trial
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 after Floyd’s death.
Curfews have been intermittently ordered, although none are now 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, 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 in demonstrations Sunday.
Thousands of police and members of the National Guard have been activated, with guard troops carrying unloaded rifles at key intersections in Minneapolis. Authorities, without releasing details, said someone shot at guard members early Sunday, injuring two.
Downtown Minneapolis has largely been boarded up. The few stores and restaurants still open were hanging "Open" signs on plywood protecting their glass.
Weinhagen said many downtown offices remained closed because of the coronavirus 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.
Chauvin's trial is a teachable moment. Here's how classrooms are discussing it.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Derek Chauvin verdict: Minneapolis tightens security, National Guard