Fences and concrete barriers surround the district’s government center. Nearby businesses are boarded up. And the intersection at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue where George Floyd died will remain closed to traffic.
But Rev. Billy G. Russell is preparing to welcome Minneapolis residents to his church.
“We are trying to get to the top of all of this to prepare people’s minds and hearts for what is about to happen,” said Russell, pastor, Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church. “Everyone is nervous right now.”
Ten months after George Floyd died in police custody, opening statements are set to begin Monday in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Local activists planned rallies and vigils on Sunday to honor Floyd’s life and raise awareness of the case.
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More than a dozen local organizations sponsored a rally early Sunday afternoon at the Minneapolis Government Center.
“We want to give people a space to come together and talk about what we saw during the judging process,” said Chauntyll Allen of Black Lives Matter Twin Cities. “And to let the system know that we are paying attention. We are paying attention to details and will keep popping up.”
Russell planned to hold an evening vigil at his church with members of Floyd’s family, Rev. Al Sharpton and civil rights attorney Ben Crump. Russell said he had watched most of the jury’s selection for the past three weeks and planned to continue the process.
“We have to make sure that we watch it all unfold. Whatever we have to do, we will do it in a peaceful spirit,” he said. “Even with beliefs, no measure of justice can bring back Mr. Floyd’s life, but it can restore hope for a system that should include all citizens.”
Protesters – some singing, drumming and holding portraits of Floyd – demonstrated outside the courthouse during the 11-day jury selection process that concluded last week. Some said they wanted to protest the rest of the process.
Members of A Mother’s Love, a community group committed to de-escalating gun violence and domestic violence, were downtown every day to choose bright pink T-shirts and black jeans. They distributed leaflets offering emotional support and encouraging residents to demonstrate peacefully.
“It’s about making sure people have a safe place to mourn,” said DonEsther Morris, director of the initiative and a native of Twin City. “The community is still mourning the loss of companies that were there last summer. We’re still building.”
Morris said “there is a bit of a sense of tension” as the opening statements approach. “There is more concern about how the process will go,” she said.
Morris said she plans to attend the vigil at the Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church. The day “is for prayer and peace across the city no matter what,” she said.
Members of the Minnesota National Guard were posted outside the courthouse in anticipation of possible disturbances during the trial. However, officials said there were no arrests related to the trial or reports of property damage last week. Police officers said they wanted to increase their presence at the beginning of the opening speech.
“It won’t be a dramatic increase,” said John Harrington, commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Public Security, at a news conference last Monday. “There is currently no information or information that would warrant a significant improvement in our attitude.”
Floyd, a black man, died in police custody on May 25, 2020 after white Derek Chauvin pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes. Floyd was chauvinized on a Minneapolis street and yelled “I can’t breathe” more than 20 times.
The incident sparked hundreds of protests against police brutality around the world. While most of the protests were peaceful, hundreds of Minneapolis businesses were ransacked and a police station set on fire after Floyd’s death.
The selection of the jury in the process began in early March. The court faced some early setbacks after the city announced a historic $ 27 million settlement with the Floyd family. Two jurors who were already on the jury told the judge they could no longer be impartial after watching the news and were expelled from the jury.
Defense and law enforcement attorneys worked with more than a hundred potential jurors, interviewing each of them about their prior knowledge and opinions on a range of topics including discrimination, color community surveillance, and black lives matter.
The court ultimately selected 15 jurors. Twelve of the jurors will be deliberating, two will act as deputies and one will be fired when everyone else shows up for the opening speech on Monday. The panel consists of nine white and six colored jurors, including three black men, one black woman and two women of mixed race.