MINNEAPOLIS — We are just weeks away from the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, and we're starting to learn more about what security will look like in downtown Minneapolis.
The area around the Hennepin County Courthouse is starting to look like a war zone now that the plaza is surrounded by metal fencing and concrete barricades.
City workers are also installing razor wire in various sections to deter people from going into secure areas around the courthouse.
The jail, just a few blocks away, has also been heavily fortified in recent days.
On Wednesday, Minneapolis city leaders said residents will see even more security upgrades in the coming weeks.
“This is about maintaining safety and security,” Deputy Police Chief Erick Fors says.
The city’s remaining police precincts will also be heavily fortified later this month.
Fors says residents may also see National Guard soldiers out in the community before the trial starts.
“They are here to conduct different tests to ensure interoperability in relations to their radio communications,” Fors explains.
Many of these National Guard soldiers will also be out on patrol during the trial itself.
“They will be providing patrols, a presence and a deterrence in key business corridors,” Fors says.
The Department of Economic Policy and Development also announced some new guidance for business owners who are worried about security during the trial.
Director Erik Hansen says they are not recommending that business owners board up windows and doors, but he says that is an option for owners if they choose to do so.
“We have been encouraged to have businesses check in with their insurance companies about their policies and not simply to see if their policies are up to date, but really to go into the policies and what is covered,” Hansen says.
David Rubedor with the Minneapolis Neighborhood and Community Relations Department says neighborhood leaders will also play an important role during the trial.
He says his office holds monthly meetings with leaders of all 70 of the city’s neighborhood associations.
Those meetings are now being held weekly so that neighborhood leaders can give their neighbors the most up-to-date information about the trial.
“These leaders have been great partners with us over this last year both dealing with the civil unrest, as well as dealing with COVID and so we expect that relationship to continue as we go through the trial period,” Rubedor says.
Metro Transit is also working with the city to keep riders informed about delays or cancellations that may come up during the trial.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey says the city will host additional security briefings in the coming weeks so that residents are informed about the city’s ongoing efforts to keep people and property safe during the trial.
“We are working to be prepared for anything that might happen,” Frey says.
“Undoubtedly the primary flashpoint associated with this trial will be the jury deliberation and the verdict itself and it’s really impossible at this point to know what date that will be on, whether it’s late April or early May.”
During the trial most of the Hennepin County Government Center will be closed off to the public, but the city is setting up two "demonstration zones" where people can safely gather to protest.
City leaders say those two zones will be located on the north and south sides of the government center plaza.