Posted on April 2, 2021

Minneapolis Weighs the Meaning of the Chauvin Trial

Clyde McGrady, Washington Post, March 31, 2021

Barricades, barbed wire and boarded-up storefronts. This is how Minneapolis prepares for justice.

The downtown streets are mostly abandoned on Monday until you arrive at the Hennepin County Government Center, where former police officer Derek Chauvin is on trial in the killing of George Floyd. The courthouse looks more like Berlin’s Checkpoint Charlie than a public building. National Guard troops, clad in desert camo and carrying assault rifles, walk beside Humvees near the concrete barriers, fencing and razor wire separating the trial from the tribulations outside.

Anyone could watch the proceedings online, but many had seen enough.

“Chauvin is in the courtroom, but America is on trial,” boomed the Rev. Al Sharpton from the pulpit of Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church on Sunday.

At the church gathering, located on the south side of town, a five-minute drive down the street from where Floyd was killed, his brother Terrence choked back tears while testifying about his loss. He talked about how he feared the way Chauvin’s attorneys might portray his late brother during the trial, citing George’s drug use and the fentanyl in his system when he died. Another Floyd brother, Philonise, prayed that any protests would remain peaceful. The choir’s soulful melodies filled the pews. Attendees clapped and swayed. But hymns weren’t enough to keep people from ruminating on the question:

What happens if Chauvin is not convicted?

“Let the whole damn city burn if that’s what it takes . . . burn, baby, burn,” said Pastor Runney Patterson. {snip}


After a year of protests, there is no verdict yet on how the city wants to be policed. At the corner of 38th and Chicago, they were preaching a vision for a world without police. This is the intersection where Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes in front of the Cup Foods convenience store. It has become a Floyd memorial but also an “autonomous zone”; police are not welcome, despite a recent spate of shootings.


A young woman, who goes by Paw Paw, said she understands why a future without police might scare some people, but she encourages them to use their imagination. The state would provide health care, food and housing. “If everybody had what they needed, no one would be robbing anybody,” she said. There would be a period of “healing” from the current brutalized system. Violence would still occur during the transition, she allowed, “but I promise that we will take care of each other.”


A 4-foot-11-inch Asian American woman named Kaia Hirt chained herself to a fence with heavy chains purchased from Frattallone’s Ace Hardware. Hirt, a high school English teacher, came prepared with blankets, a wagon full of juice and fresh fruit, and a list of demands that included changes to the rules governing when police can use force and a civilian-run commission to control the amount of policing people want. {snip}

Hirt said she thinks more people should listen to Black communities before they weigh in on how to address the larger role of law enforcement. “You have a lot of liberals running around who were throwing around the words ‘abolish the police’ without ever talking to people in the community about if that’s what they wanted,” she said. For some communities, she said, having no police would be a “nightmare.”