The Potluck

Minneapolis will spend $645,000 on fencing around City Hall, police stations for Chauvin trial

By: - March 3, 2021 7:38 pm

A barbed wire barrier went up around the Minneapolis City Hall and Hennepin County Government Center on Feb. 24, 2021, in preparation for the murder trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

The city of Minneapolis will spend around $645,000 on barbed wire fencing around City Hall, a new government building nearby and its five police precinct stations in preparation for the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer charged with killing George Floyd last May.

The figure was provided to the City Council on Wednesday after Council Member Cam Gordon asked the city coordinator earlier this week for the cost during a public hearing on trial preparations.

“It seems like a big expense. I have trouble second-guessing the experts, and I’m sure they’re trying to be better-safe-than-sorry,” Gordon said. “On the other hand, it looks like building fortresses because the government is the enemy of the people or something.”

The intense fortifications include two lines of fencing with coils of razor wire in-between, encasing government buildings downtown like a prison. Barriers have also gone up around each of the city’s five police precincts including a downtown building that’s being temporarily used for the Third Precinct operations.

During the civil unrest last spring, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey made the unprecedented decision to abandon the Third Precinct building in south Minneapolis to rioters. It has been closed and fenced off since. Following the loss of the Third Precinct police station, the city put up makeshift barricades around all of its precinct stations.

The Minneapolis Third Precinct police station in Feb. 2021. It has been vacant since it was overtaken by rioters during the civil unrest following the police killing of George Floyd in May. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

The majority of the fencing costs — $515,000 — go toward the barricades around each of the city’s five police precincts.

The city estimates its share of the cost for the fencing that surrounds City Hall and the Hennepin County Government Center, where Chauvin will stand trial next week, is $65,000. It will pay an additional $65,000 for the barrier around the nearby public service building.

City officials appear eager to send a message that Minneapolis won’t be caught off guard should rioting and arson break out again during the trial, like those which consumed the city for nearly a  week following Floyd’s death.

The fencing is just one major expense the city is facing. On Friday, the City Council approved spending $1.5 million to contract with outside law enforcement agencies and $1.1 million for community-based groups for additional  public safety and community engagement efforts.

Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo outlined their plans in recent weeks to bring in some 1,100 outside law enforcement officers and 2,000 National Guard soldiers, who will ramp up operations close to when jurors begin deliberations.

The city’s plans assumed the passage of a proposal from DFL Gov. Tim Walz to create a $35 million “SAFE Account” fund for emergency law enforcement costs around the state, although it has already failed to pass the DFL-controlled House.

A spokeswoman for the city of Minneapolis said the city hopes that funding from the proposed SAFE Account would cover the costs of the fencing.

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Max Nesterak
Max Nesterak

Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Most recently he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.