ST. PAUL — Tension and anxiety turned to joy in the streets of Minneapolis Tuesday, April 20, as a Hennepin County jury handed down guilty convictions in a landmark trial of a former Minneapolis police officer.
News that jurors convicted Derek Chauvin of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the May 25, 2020, death of George Floyd turned the mood in the Twin Cities, at least for a few hours. And it led state law enforcement officials to begin discussing the demobilization of police forces monitoring for civil unrest.
Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington on Tuesday evening said officers would remain in the Twin Cities overnight but noted that leaders had urged them to use patience and restraint in dealing with demonstrators. And unlike in May and June, when Floyd's death spurred demonstrations along with looting and rioting, Harrington said there would be no curfew in place Tuesday night.
"We stand ready to take action if necessary but we are, as a profession, we stand with the community," Harrington said. "This is an act of justice and it's time for all of us to be on the same page, be marching toward that justice together."
Harrington and Gov. Tim Walz had prepared state and local law enforcement for extensive civil unrest in the event protesters became frustrated in the court's decision. Walz on Monday, April 19, declared a state of emergency in the seven-county Twin Cities metro area ahead of a possible verdict and requested law enforcement support from Nebraska and Ohio.
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The governor in his executive order said state and local law enforcement weren't able to address the possible threat posed by civil unrest as they'd been stretched covering demonstrations in Brooklyn Center after a police officer shot and killed Daunte Wright, 20, on Sunday, April 11, during a traffic stop.
The governor and commissioner in a Tuesday evening news conference expressed relief at the jury's decision and said the state would start stepping down the law enforcement presence in the coming days.
In the streets of Minneapolis, groups gathered to take in the news applauded the decision Tuesday afternoon and celebrated the historic conviction. Attorney General Keith Ellison said the decision was "the first step toward justice" but said the state and nation needed to do more to address racism in policing. And he asked that demonstrators respond to the news "calmly, legally and peacefully."
Demonstrators for days had gathered at the Minneapolis intersection where Wright was killed and in nearby suburb Brooklyn Center. At times, interactions between protesters and police became violent.
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