First day of Chauvin trial met with protests, demonstrator chaining herself to fence Monday

Kaia Hirt chained herself to a fence and organizers sought signatures on a petition for community control of police.

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Shannon Doyle

Protesters march in downtown Minneapolis on Monday, March 29. A coalition of activist groups held a protest calling for justice for George Floyd on opening statement day of the trial against Derek Chauvin.

Lydia Morrell and Samantha Woodward

After the first official day of the trial against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, about 300 protesters gathered outside of the Hennepin County Government Center to advocate for a guilty verdict and community control of the police.

One activist chained herself to the fence around the government building, saying that she wouldn’t leave until Gov. Tim Walz met with the families of people killed by police violence.

Over 20 activist groups hosted the event, including Black Lives Matter Minnesota, Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar and the University of Minnesota’s Students for a Democratic Society. The march traveled down 3rd Avenue South before looping back to the Government Plaza.

Inside the courtroom, the day began with opening statements and later the prosecution brought in the three witnesses.

Kaia Hirt, a local teacher and organizer with Good Trouble for Justice, chained herself to the fence around the Government Center building after the march. Hirt said she would not leave until she got a phone call from Walz explaining why he “hasn’t found time” to meet with families of victims of police violence in the Twin Cities.

She also asked legislators to lift the statute of limitations for civil suits on police violence and for Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter to meet with the victims’ families.

Hirt stayed outside overnight and was still chained to the fence as of Tuesday afternoon.

Hirt was following the actions of “Locks for Stolen Lives,” where protesters have been writing the names of people killed by police violence on padlocks and locking them on the fences near the Government Center.

“It’s an idea that we got from the Paris love lock bridge … couples would write their names on the lock and it was a symbol of their commitment forever to each other,” Hirt said. “We sort of turned that idea on its side and said we’re committed forever in our fight for justice for our loved ones who are gone now.”

Jess Sundin, a Freedom Road Socialist Organization organizer, said the trial has been “emotional” after the state showed the viral bystander video in its opening statement. Sundin was collecting signatures at the protest for a petition to amend the city charter and establish an elected civilian police oversight panel. The body would replace existing civilian and city police oversight groups, as reported by MinnPost.

“We want to establish an all-elected civilian police accountability commission,” Sundin said. “It would do the work that the mayor is not doing right now and it would put the power over discipline, power over negotiating the police contract.”

Protesters milled around the sunny plaza starting at 5 p.m., and many were dressed as if they came straight from work.

Ishmael Mack was selling t-shirts and masks near the courthouse. He is a bus driver who brings groups of people to protests for free, using the proceeds from his “Black Lives Matter” items to fuel the bus.

“What makes me want to do this is I see a melting pot of different races, different cultures,” Mack said. “Everybody’s coming together and that makes me feel strong and it makes me want to do more.”