Minneapolis will pay six social media influencers to help spread city-approved messages during the upcoming murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former cop charged in George Floyd’s death.
The Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously Friday to approve a $ 1 million communications and de-escalation plan that involves partnering with community leaders, local media, and social media influencers during Chauvin’s trial that begins in March, as well as the August trial of three other former officers. accused of Floyd’s death.
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Social media influencers, whose contracts have yet to be finalized, will receive $ 2,000 each to share “city-generated and approved messages” targeting Black, Native American, Somali, Hmong and Latinx communities. The effort is aimed at dispelling misinformation and preventing the riots sparked by Floyd’s death last year, including violence and looting.
Local activists are criticizing the move, arguing that the city aims to buy into the narrative surrounding the trials, crack down on free speech and protests, and turn influencers into spokespersons for the city, WCCO reported.
But the City of Minneapolis said in a statement that its “goal is to increase access to information to communities that do not normally follow the City’s major news sources or communication channels and / or do not consume information in English.” KSTP said. “It is also an opportunity to create more two-way communication between the City and the communities.”
The city’s communications strategy, called the Joint Information System (JIS), aims to “deliver enhanced community services during the trial to keep people informed and safe, especially Indigenous Peoples of Color (BIPOC) communities who they are not English and black (BIPOC) do not depend on traditional media “.
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With respect to social media influencers, the City Council approved program involves the city establishing “paid partnerships with community members who are considered trusted messengers and have a large social media presence to share generated messages and approved by the City. ” These people will also support “JIS situation monitoring” to “address / dispel incorrect information.”
In a separate 11-2 vote on Friday, the council also approved a plan that allows the Minneapolis Police Department to enter into mutual aid agreements with at least 14 law enforcement agencies for additional support during lawsuits related to the Floyd’s death, Fox 9 Minneapolis reported. The deals could cost up to $ 1.5 million, which could be covered by the budget prior to leaving the department.
“Our hope is that the number of days we need these officers is very short,” said city coordinator Mark Ruff during the council meeting. “That it will be a trial in which there is a peaceful expression of First Amendment rights and not destruction or other illegal activities that would require these officers to be present for several days.”
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Meanwhile, Minnesota state lawmakers were expected to resume negotiations over the weekend in an attempt to break the deadlock over creating a new $ 35 million account that could reimburse agencies that provide mutual aid, including during Chauvin’s trial, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
City officials are expected to provide a public briefing at 10 am Monday on “the plans and preparations that are being made to ensure the safety of the community” during Chauvin’s trial. Jury selection begins March 8 with opening statements scheduled for March 29.
Floyd, who was Black, died on May 25 after Chauvin, who is White, pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck while he was handcuffed and pleading that he couldn’t breathe. Chauvin faces charges of murder and murder in the second degree.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said more than 3,000 law enforcement officers from across the state and National Guard soldiers will be ready when the case goes to jury. Last week, the mayor declared that Minneapolis remains “open for business” and said people should go about their lives as usual.
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But new security measures around the Hennepin County courthouse, city hall and jail, all in the heart of downtown, include three rings of concrete barriers, two topped by chain-link fencing with a canal in the half full of coils of barbed wire. The innermost fence is topped with barbed wire and ground-floor windows in all three buildings are bricked up, The Associated Press reported.
Associated Press contributed to this report.