Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said at a separate news conference that Operation Safety Net, an eight-month-old coalition formed by state and local law enforcement to manage community response to the Chauvin trial, “is not about arresting people.” The agencies want to avoid using force during protests unless absolutely necessary, Arradondo said.
“We know that we have a city that is mourning, that is in grief,” he said. “The last thing we want to do is turn this into an enforcement situation.”
While there are no statewide or regional curfews, nor one in Minneapolis, Walz said implementing a curfew remains an option for crowd control if circumstances change. Brooklyn Center, a Minneapolis suburb where 20-year-old Daunte Wright was shot and killed during a traffic stop on April 11, has been under a curfew for several days because of unrest.
The law enforcement response to the public’s reaction to the Chauvin verdict will serve as a litmus test for whether officials have made good on promises to rebuild trust with communities after widespread protests last summer. The Minneapolis area is on edge this week as residents await a decision in Chauvin’s murder trial in the Memorial Day killing of George Floyd.
Recent protests over the death of Wright, who was Black, have also heightened tensions, and law enforcement in the region has faced scrutiny in recent days for its response to those events.
Aggressive police tactics have injured dozens of protesters and journalists in the past week. Police have used “less lethal” munitions, including chemical irritants, rubber bullets and stun grenades — also known as flashbangs — to control the crowds. Several journalists have reported being punched, beaten in the legs, forced to the ground and arrested by police, despite identifying themselves as members of the news media and showing officers their credentials.
The turmoil has been especially hazardous for residents of an apartment complex adjacent to Brooklyn Center police headquarters, where most of the demonstrations have taken place. Tenants, many of them low-income and Black, have reported rashes and nosebleeds and said they are unable to sleep because of the fumes and noise.
Outcry over the police tactics intensified so much that a federal judge issued a restraining order late Friday barring police in Brooklyn Center from arresting journalists, using force against them, destroying their equipment or compelling them to disperse.
A letter sent Saturday to Walz on behalf of more than two dozen press advocacy groups and news organizations, including The Washington Post, called on the Minnesota State Patrol to embrace the language of the temporary restraining order and halt arrests and physical assaults against reporters.
Asked Monday whether police have escalated tensions with demonstrators, Walz called it “a bit of a chicken and an egg.”
“I think it starts to feed on itself,” the governor said. He said the vast majority of protesters expressing their anger tell elected officials like him that if they don’t fix the underlying factors, they will continue to face people protesting in the streets.
“I think Mayor Carter probably got that right: ‘If you don’t want to see people demonstrating about Black men being killed, then figure out how to not get Black men killed,’” Walz said, referring to an observation by Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter (D).
Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson on Monday simultaneously defended his department and conceded that his officers’ response in Brooklyn Center was not ideal.
“We know we have to do better,” he told reporters. “What happened the past few days wasn’t something we wanted. But we had to act to keep the city safe.”
Minnesota State Patrol Col. Matt Langer said about 130 state troopers from Ohio and Nebraska will come to Minneapolis to assist the police response after the Chauvin verdict. While he said the troopers would be trained in Minnesota’s use-of-force law, he acknowledged that they are not subject to the temporary restraining order, as other law enforcement agencies are.
Representatives of several community and activist groups joined police at that news conference and stressed that any response to the verdict should be peaceful. The Rev. Ian Bethel, of New Beginnings Baptist Tabernacle, said protesters “stand with law enforcement” and should demand from one another the same accountability they are demanding from police.