Updated: April 21, 2021 06:18 PM
Created: April 21, 2021 06:07 PM
Law enforcement leaders in charge of the coordinated response known as Operation Safety Net say they've begun the process of scaling back the immense security presence in downtown Minneapolis.
Fencing and barbed wire, along with thousands of members of the Minnesota National Guard have been in place since the start of the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, which ended on Tuesday. That presence has prompted some to compare the appearance of downtown to a "war zone."
At the latest Operation Safety Net briefing, Maj. Gen. Shawn Manke announced that National Guard members would begin leaving as early as Wednesday evening.
"We have started transitioning to Phase Four and we are going to be rapidly maneuvering our soldiers and airmen out of the Twin Cities metro area back to their communities," Manke said.
Other law enforcement leaders at the briefing also praised the community for its peaceful response to the verdict in the Chauvin trial.
They said much of the temporary fencing and barricades could be removed in a matter of days or weeks but that law enforcement would still be meeting weekly to prepare for Chauvin's sentencing in June as well as the trial slated for August for the three other officers charged in George Floyd's death, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao.
"We have to keep some safety measures in place until we feel comfortable, but I think citizens of Hennepin County will see a change," Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson said.
That announcement comes as welcome news to Steve Cramer, president of the Minneapolis Downtown Council.
"In the conversations I've had, people are just taking a breath today," Cramer said. "There's a general sense that justice was done in this case. That really provides an opportunity for downtown and our entire community to move forward now in a positive way and really begin the recovery of our economy."
Some crews could be seen removing plywood from the windows of businesses on Wednesday morning, but Cramer acknowledged the process of restoring people's faith in the safety of downtown Minneapolis is ongoing.
"It's always been an issue. It will continue to be an issue, but we've got a pretty good story to tell and now we have a chance to tell it because this huge cloud has been lifted."
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