The Minneapolis city council recently dropped a $1 million communications plan for hiring social media influencers to share “city-generated and approved messages” during the upcoming murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the ex-cop charged in George Floyd’s death. Chauvin is being charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter while the other former officers in the case are being charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
The plan called for six influencers to be paid $2,000 each to share the city’s approved messages in Black, Native American, Somali, Hmong, and Latinx communities. The $12,000 was only part of the $1 million plan that was set to partner with community leaders and local media to fight against “misinformation.”
“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 council said in a statement.
The city dropped the plan after receiving negative feedback and being accused of trying to buy the narrative surrounding the trial. David Rubedor, Minneapolis director of Neighborhood and Community Relations, made the announcement during a Zoom call meeting that was discussing public safety and security preparations for the trials, which are set to begin next week.
“While I believe in and support the intention of this recommendation, we have seen that the impact has caused harm in our communities and for that I am sorry. We acknowledge that we have caused harm and we will work to repair the harm that was caused by this strategy. At this point, we will not move forward with this strategy,” Rubedor said.
Rubedor noted that the plan was never about trying to persuade or change public opinion, but getting important information out there quickly and in an “equitable way.” He said many residents aren’t connected to the city’s traditional routes of sharing information and aimed to offer “enhanced community services” during the trial to keep people informed, especially non-English and Black communities.
“For this strategy, we used the term ‘social media influencer,’ which in retrospect did not accurately reflect what we are asking of our partners and it caused confusion in the community,” Rubedor adds.
City Coordinator Mark Ruff also apologized for the plan. “When we make a mistake, we acknowledge that and do better.”
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey braces for possible unrest in the controversial case and told people to “go about their lives as usual.” He has more than 3,000 law enforcement officers from across the state and National Guard soldiers to be at the ready when the case goes to the jury. The Hennepin County courthouse also added new security measures, including three rings of concrete barriers. Two are topped by chain-link fencing and the innermost fence is topped with barbed wire.
Seems to be a lot of work for all of the “peaceful protests” going on. Nothing like the city council trying to influence a verdict in a courtroom.