The National Police Association (NPA) is putting pressure on the Minneapolis City Council, denouncing that residents living near George Floyd Square have suffered for months an exponential increase in insecurity as a result of the declared “autonomous zone” created in the vicinity of the neighborhood. The situation is expected to worsen in the coming days as riots are expected to break out in the run-up to the trial of ex-police officer Derek Chauvin, accused of murdering George Floyd last year.
The “autonomous zone” was born as a form of protest in events after the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. Protesters camped out for months and it eventually became a settlement of sorts where entire families now live permanently.
According to statements by retired Sgt. Betsy Brantner Smith, spokeswoman for the NPA, the area takes up six entire blocks, which according to the officer, has a rule of “no white people allowed in,” let alone police officers.
Minneapolis gearing up for more violence
“George Floyd Square is now an autonomous zone. They just had a homicide there,” Smith told Fox News, explaining that violence in the area has been an ongoing problem since last summer’s riots. “There are businesses especially near the Third Precinct—that was allowed to burn down—that get robbed by the same people two to three times a week. There are citizens who just can’t get police services.”
“The police are literally barricaded from going in there,” Smith said, explaining that the zone, focused at a gas station and convenience store, also includes residential housing. “It’s very frustrating because it’s already a very disadvantaged area to begin with. Then, of course, last May and into the summer, there were the riots that further decimated it, and now you have this area where the police—who are already short-staffed—aren’t allowed to go in.”
During 2020, using the argument of Floyd’s death, almost daily demonstrations were held in Minneapolis promoted by radical leftist groups that encouraged destruction in public buildings, looting, robberies, assaults, and garbage in the streets. The demonstrators demanded, among other things, the abolition of the police.
As a result of the riots and the limitations suffered by the police to exercise their power, Minneapolis recorded as of December 10, 2020, 532 shooting victims, more than double the number reported the year before, in addition, vehicle thefts increased by 331% over the same period and violent crimes exceeded 5,100, more than 1,000 of those reported in 2019.
Defunding the police
Notwithstanding the alarming statistics, the Minneapolis City Council in December approved a nearly $8 million cut in funding allocated to the city’s police department. The move came in response to demands from the far-left violent minority led by Black Lives Matter (BLM) and antifa, amid a historic increase in homicide and violent crime rates in the city.
Calls for defunding were supported by major media outlets and Democratic lawmakers such as Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), whose congressional district includes Minneapolis.
The decision quickly sparked controversy, given the obvious consequences of the erratic move, and as a result the City Council approved $6.4 million in additional funding in mid-February to hire new police officers. This last measure has not yet been implemented, and the NPA warns that the police system is collapsing due to lack of personnel.
As reported by Fox News, the police department said it has only 638 officers available to work, approximately 200 fewer than it had a year ago and 250 fewer than it should have. An unprecedented number of officers resigned or went on extended medical leave after Floyd’s death and the riots that followed.
Derek Chauvin trial complicating the situation
Adding to the problem of police understaffing is the start of Chauvin’s trial. The Hennepin County Government Center, where the trial will be held, is packed with concrete barriers, iron fences, and barbed wire to protect entry to the building.
The National Guard and police stand guard while hundreds of people gather outside the barriers in what so far have been only peaceful protests.
The number of police guarding the area forces many other sectors to be left completely unprotected and in the hands of criminals who can act without any control.
Smith said Minneapolis is preparing for “inevitable rioting” because “no matter how this case turns out, there likely will be violence.” The police department is short about 250 officers, in part because of retirements, injuries and post-traumatic stress experienced by officers during the riots over the summer, he said. And the security problem right now falls primarily on the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office.