Minneapolis votes to pay social media influencers to ‘dispel potential misinformation’ in Chauvin trial

In anticipation of potential civil unrest, the city of Minneapolis plans to pay six local social media influencers to share approved messaging during the upcoming trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd.

As yet unselected, each will receive a $2,000 stipend from the city “to share public information with cultural communities and to help dispel potential misinformation” when the proceedings get underway on or about March 29.

“The goal is to increase access to information to communities that do not typically follow mainstream news sources or City communications channels and/or who do not consume information in English,” the city council explained in a statement, CBS affiliate WCCO reported.

The $12,000 outlay primarily targeting minority communities is a drop in the bucket in a nearly $1.2 million allocation approved by the city council on a plan to work with community groups on de-escalation techniques and other initiatives during the prosecution of Chauvin and a later trial of the three other ex-officers who were on the scene when Floyd died on May 25, 2020, prompting local and nationwide protests.

One local activist was skeptical about the Minneapolis-funded influencer hire. “The keyword here is ‘city-approved.’ What do you think the message is going to be? It’s going to be pro-city, it’s going to be anti-protest,” Toussaint Morrison said.

Separately, the city has beefed up security around the courthouse with concrete barriers and barbed-wire fencing. Other public buildings are similarly setting up buffers. Police precincts are also reportedly fortifying their perimeter. Downtown businesses will likely be boarding up.

Some 2,000 National Guard troops and about 1,000 cops from other jurisdictions will be on hand in the city to provide security during the trial.

With the latter apparently in mind, the Minneapolis city council has given its approval for entering into mutual aid agreements with about 14 nearby law enforcement agencies to provide additional security during the Floyd-related trials, at a price tag of around $1.5 million, with the funding possibly covered by the city’s existing police budget.

“Our hope is the number of days that we need these officers will be very short. That it will be a trial where there is a peaceful expression of First Amendment rights and not destruction or other types of illegal activities that would require these officers to be around for numerous days,” City Coordinator Mark Ruff told the council.

The potential cost is apparently much higher, however. “Minnesota lawmakers are trying to break through a stalemate over the creation of a new $35 million account that could reimburse agencies that provide mutual aid, including for the Chauvin trial,” the Star Tribune reported.

With crime soaring in the city that was once ground zero for the defund-the-police movement, officials in February 2021 unanimously voted to spend $6.4 million to hire more cops.

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Robert Jonathan

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