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What Security Looks Like Amid Protests In The Minneapolis Area

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

In Minneapolis today, community leaders and government officials are calling for calm as the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin nears its end. Chauvin is charged with two counts of murder and one count of manslaughter in the death last year of George Floyd. Both sides made their closing arguments today. The judge has given the jury their instructions. Authorities are bracing for possible violence and are stepping up security measures all across the Twin Cities. And NPR's David Schaper is covering the story. He joins us from Minneapolis.

Hi, David.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Paint a picture for us. What are you seeing in and around Minneapolis today?

SCHAPER: Well, you know, it's not just a heavy police presence here, but there's a military presence. More than 3,000 National Guard troops are here, and you see these desert sand-colored Humvees and rifle-toting National Guard soldiers on many of the street corners and outside of certain buildings all around the downtown area in Minneapolis and in some business districts outside of the city center. Just about all of the street-level windows and doors are boarded up. Many government buildings are surrounded by concrete barriers, high fencing and razor wire. And I've even seen some crews out adding to those fortifications today. Fifty-seven-year-old Sylvia Pogoff of suburban Minnetonka was quietly protesting the fatal police shooting of Daunte Wright outside suburban Brooklyn Center's police department, and she says that there's a palpable tension here.

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SYLVIA POGOFF: Obviously, people are upset, and they should be. But living here, you can just feel it in the air. The energy of this state, this city, this area has changed. It's grieving, I think.

SHAPIRO: This afternoon, I know that state and local police officials and the National Guard and community leaders held a briefing on security measures. So tell us more about what they said.

SCHAPER: Well, you know, they've been talking about the need to balance the rights of those who are peacefully expressing their First Amendment rights to protest with the need to protect people and property from violence and destruction. But there's been a lot of criticism here of the response to the rioting last May and June after George Floyd's death, and that it didn't get that balance right. You know, there was more than a thousand buildings damaged or destroyed. Even in the last week, as police and protesters have clashed following the fatal shooting of Wright, state and local police have had to adjust their plans to be - and they're saying they want to be more - and they're saying they want to be less confrontational and to de-escalate things as much as they can. Authorities are also now working with community leaders, including the Reverend Ian Bethel, to call for peace and calm.

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IAN BETHEL: But let me make this clear - one way you do not express whatever you got tied up in you is through violence. Frozen bottles against law enforcement does not represent us.

SHAPIRO: So David, how do the people you're talking to there feel about such a significant military and police presence in their neighborhoods and in some cases around their homes?

SCHAPER: Yeah. You know, there are a lot of those who do say they appreciate the effort to make them safe and secure, but they do acknowledge seeing these gun-toting soldiers everywhere is very eerie. And some have even questioned the militarized response, worrying that it could actually deepen the divide between police and the community. Here's Kim Griffin (ph) of Minneapolis.

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KIM GRIFFIN: What - I mean, what are you protecting, the structure? I don't know. It's - to me, it's to engage the community in more havoc. To me, it's just inviting more violence and more destructive behavior.

SHAPIRO: Just briefly, what do people say about when a verdict is reached and what they expect?

SCHAPER: Well, obviously, it depends on what that verdict is, but if the former police officer is found not guilty of killing George Floyd, there are those who say this city could explode.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's David Schaper in Minneapolis.

Thank you.

SCHAPER: My pleasure, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.