MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Just outside the entrance to Smile Orthodontics, in a Minneapolis neighborhood of craft breweries and trendy shops, two soldiers in jungle camouflage and body armor were on watch Monday, assault rifles slung over their backs. Snow flurries blew around them. A few steps away at the Iron Door Pub, three more National Guard soldiers and a Minneapolis police officer stood out front, watching the street. A handful of other soldiers were scattered nearby, along with four camouflaged Humvees and a couple police cars.
Across the street was a boarded-up building spray-painted with big yellow letters: “BLACK LIVES MATTER ALL YEAR ROUND.”
Adam Martinez was walking down the street when he briefly stopped to stare at the scene.
“This city feels like it’s occupied by the military,” said Martinez, a commercial painter who lives in nearby St. Paul. “This is so weird.”
More than 3,000 National Guard soldiers, along with police officers, state police, sheriffs deputies and other law enforcement personnel have flooded the city in recent days, with a verdict looming in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer charged with murder in the death last year of George Floyd.
But in the city that has come to epitomize America’s debate over police killings, there are places today in Minneapolis that can feel almost like a police state.
It leaves many wondering: How much is too much?
Concrete barriers, chain-link fences and barbed wire now ring parts of downtown Minneapolis so that authorities can quickly close off the courthouse where the trial is being held. It’s become normal in recent days to pass convoys of desert-tan military vehicles on nearby highways, and stumble across armed men and women standing guard.
One day they’ll park their armored vehicles in front of the high-end kitchen store with its $160 bread knives and $400 cooking pots. The next they’ll be outside the Depression-era movie theater, or the popular Mexican grocery store or the liquor store ransacked by rioters during the protests that followed Floyd’s death.
Meanwhile hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of stores and other buildings have been boarded up across the city, from Absolute Bail Bonds to glass-walled downtown office towers to Floyd’s 99 Barbershop.
Behind all the security are the days of violence that began with protests over Floyd’s death. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz faced withering criticism for not stepping in quicker to deploy the National Guard. City officials estimate the city suffered roughly $350 million in damage, mostly to commercial properties.
“They’re between a rock and hard place,” said Eli Silverman, professor emeritus at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a longtime scholar of policing. “You don’t want to overmilitarize and make it appear that you’ve converted a sovereign state into a police state. But on the other hand, you have to be prepared, too,” in case protests flare again.
More important than the size of the force, he said, is the expertise and planning behind it. Law enforcement leaders, for example, need to ensure proper crowd control training,…
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