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After Chauvin trial, Twin Cities government buildings, businesses set to defortify

Nicole Norfleet, Briana Bierschbach, Star Tribune on

Published in Business News

National Guard soldiers will soon pack up the beige trucks dotting the Twin Cities. Workers will begin to take down barbed wire and tall fencing surrounding government buildings. Business owners and building managers will carefully remove plywood covering shop windows and office tower lobbies.

Public safety officials on Wednesday described plans to defortify the Twin Cities, citing calmed tensions and decreased threats of civil unrest after a jury found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of murdering George Floyd.

Many of the 3,000 activated Guard members will be demobilized and state troopers and others who have been guarding locations such as the State Capitol will be reassigned. Residents can expect a dramatic decrease in law enforcement presence by the end of the week, officials said during a news conference about the Operation Safety Net security plan, put in place for the verdict in Chauvin's case.

"Our employees and members are ready to go home and eager to go home," State Patrol Col. Matt Langer said, though he and others said that some extra security measures would remain until officials feel comfortable removing them.

Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson said the barricades and fencing surrounding the government center where the trial took place will come down "within the next few days or weeks." They could return later this summer, before the trial for the other three former officers charged in Floyd's death.

Many business owners and commercial building managers said they were eager to start removing their barricades and welcome customers and workers back.

 

"I want us to get the boards down as quickly as possible because this is not representative of who and what we want to be as a city," said Alexis Walsko, owner and founder of Lola Red PR.

She waited until the very last minute to board up her downtown Minneapolis public relations firm Tuesday, right before the announcement that a verdict in the Chauvin trial had been reached. Walsko said she hoped to get the boards down from the windows and doors at her First Avenue office as soon as she could this week: "I don't think it's good for a city to be boarded up."

In the last few weeks, downtown Minneapolis and other swatches of the Twin Cities have turned into fortified zones with blocks of businesses boarded up out of worry for possible riots related to the Chauvin trial. More than 1,500 businesses in the Twin Cities sustained damage during the unrest that followed Floyd's death nearly a year ago, causing an estimated $500 million in losses.

The fortification this year didn't sit well with some residents, activists and city officials, who said the barriers were intimidating and made it feel like officials were implying that marches would be violent.

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