'People on edge': Confronting photo shows grim state of US city

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The United States is a country on edge this week.

At the centre of the unease is the city of Minneapolis, where a verdict in the murder trial of police officer Derek Chauvin is expected to come as early as the next 48 hours. 

Derek Chauvin, 45, stands accused of murder after kneeling on the neck of George Floyd for more than nine minutes

For some, the trial is seen as a potential watershed moment in the country's fraught history of police violence and race relations. 

People gathered for a demonstration Sunday as protests continue around Minneapolis.
People gathered for a demonstration Sunday as protests continue around Minneapolis. Source: Getty

For days, a heavy presence of militarised police and members of the national guard have patrolled the city as tensions run high and fears swell that protests could spill over into further violent clashes following the verdict. 

Fortifications including barbed wire have been erected around police stations in the city. 

"This is not a Minneapolis people are familiar with, it certainly feels like a city that is being locked down slowly, day-by-day," CNN reporter Josh Campbell said on Saturday (local time).

"People are just on edge here, waiting for that verdict."

Mayor Jacob Frey said ahead of the trial up to 2,000 National Guard members will be prepared to respond along with up to 1,100 law enforcement members brought in from other jurisdictions.

Shots fired at National Guardsmen in Minneapolis

On Sunday (local time), two National Guardsmen suffered minor injuries when they were fired upon as they provided neighbourhood security following the police killing of 20-year-old black man Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in a Minneapolis suburb last week.

The Minnesota Guard said the men were hurt when several shots came from a light-coloured SUV. One guard was treated at a hospital for an injury for shattered glass, and the other's injuries were described as superficial.

They were patrolling near a memorial site for Mr Wright which has seen protests and police clashes in recent nights, adding further fuel to potentially explosive conditions on the ground.

Residents in apartments nearby have complained of tear gas streaming into their homes at night, the Associated Press reported.

Online, some locals have decried the heavy-handed police presence with several military trucks parked in the CBD during recent nights of unrest.

One video shared on TikTok on Saturday, which has since been watched more than a million times on various social media platforms, shows two women being marched from their vehicle by heavily armed guards while at a petrol station.

Local demonstrators have taken to social media claiming the city is violating their human rights while journalists have also complained about brutal police tactics prompting a pledge over the weekend from Minnesota police and Governor Tim Walz not to detain, threaten or rough up journalists covering the city's protests. 

A demonstrator is pepper-sprayed outside police headquarters at Brooklyn Centre, Minnesota. Source: Getty
A demonstrator is pepper-sprayed outside police headquarters at Brooklyn Centre, Minnesota. Source: Getty

'Malicious intent': Cities prepare, schools to close

Some shops and businesses in downtown Minneapolis have been boarded up while cities across the country are also bracing for potential violence including New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Atlanta. 

"We don't want small groups of individuals with malicious intent to hijack what would otherwise be a peaceful demonstration," LA police spokesperson Stacy Spell told media. 

New York mayor Bill de Blasio said the city was bolstering law enforcement for the coming week with the expectation of protests.

"We're in constant, literally daily conversations," he said. "Obviously, so much will happen based on what the verdict is and how it's expressed."

Meanwhile National Guard members have been deployed in Philadelphia. 

A man walks past a boarded businesses.
A man walks past a boarded business centre near the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis on April 18.

Minneapolis Public Schools have told students to stay at home for distance learning from Wednesday to Friday due to outcome of the Derek Chauvin trial. 

"We anticipate that a verdict in the Chauvin case could impact in-person learning in Minneapolis Public Schools," the district said in a statement. 

Meanwhile the NBA has told teams to prepare for the potential postponement of games when the outcome of the trial is handed down. 

Chauvin faces second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges in Mr Floyd's death.

with AP

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