Minneapolis prepares for potential unrest ahead of trial in George Floyd killing

< Go back

MINNEAPOLIS — There’s the fenced-off government buildings downtown.

Cars parked in the middle of the street where residents stand watch over George Floyd’s memorial on the city's south side.

Parts of east and north Minneapolis appear at times quiet and tense. Some businesses have boarded up or shut down.

Nearly a year of peaceful protests, riots and international outcry has led to this, a city on edge and on the cusp of what the mayor, Jacob Frey, calls "probably the most significant trial that our city has ever experienced.”

Jury selection starts Monday in the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, who is charged with murder in Floyd's death last May.

For many, the court case has been a long time coming. In interviews over the last few days, residents offer differing opinions of how they feel heading into the trial.

Still, it’s hard to find anyone in town who hasn’t spoken about the trial at least once.

“I’m worried that he’s going to get off free and riots starting back up,” one resident, Preston McDade-Davis, 35, said.

The city is calm but getting tense, and everything hinges on the verdict, said Rayford Dixon, 59, a barber.

“Anything under a 10-year sentence will cause Minneapolis to go into an uproar,” Dixon said. “They’re going to have a problem because they know he’ll be out in no time (with good behavior).”

He added that a 15-year sentence should satisfy the public.

Frey said in an interview that the city has exemplified a deep sense of pride over the past 10 months, exuding an unbridled love while enduring the weight of this moment, which leans heavy on Black and brown people.

“People are processing trauma in different ways,” said John Elder, public information officer for the Minneapolis Police Department. “We’re seeing people realize that kindness is important."

Floyd, a Black man, died in police custody on May 25 after Chauvin, a white 19-year veteran of the department, kneeled on his neck for several minutes as Floyd repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe.”

Between these two blocks, the usual faces who live here sporadically park their cars in the middle of the road, standing guard and on the lookout for unfamiliar faces.

Frey said the city has blocked vehicle traffic, allowing a space to which all are welcome to memorialize Floyd.

Walking the blocks, however, tell a different, somewhat unwelcoming story.

Marijuana smoke fills the cold, sunny air. Traffic signals are shut off. Sidewalks are eerily quiet. And the occupants of those parked cars roll down their windows to stare at and cross-examine strangers.

Black residents and a few white volunteers enforce this gritty neighborhood, taking it upon themselves to preserve and protect the monument and Floyd’s legacy.

“No outsiders allowed,” McDade-Davis said. “On one hand, residents stood up for themselves and banded together by blocking off access to a memorial dedicated to Floyd’s legacy. However, the neighborhood has become ripe for stickups.”

For better and worse, the neighborhood has spiraled in opposite directions, said McDade-Davis, who lives five blocks from where Floyd was killed.

The two blocks in part symbolize present-day Minneapolis — a tough and loving city nearing what could be "the most significant trial" it has ever seen.