• Sat. May 8th, 2021

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Minneapolis Businesses Brace for Possibility of Intense Protests

Carl Mitchell spent Sunday nailing wood to the windows of the Amstar convenience shop he manages in North Minneapolis. Hours earlier, Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, had been shot by the police 10 miles north. With the trial of the former officer Derek Chauvin, accused of killing George Floyd, heading into its third week, Mr. Mitchell didn’t want to take any chances.

Mr. Mitchell, 26, saw last year just how quickly protests can escalate when the O’Reilly’s Auto Parts across the street from his shop burned down at 4 a.m. after a night of protests following Mr. Floyd’s death. Only the walls of the auto shop remain.

“We weren’t ready last time,” he said as customers paid for gas on Wednesday. “We have already boarded. We pray. Not much else we can do.”

As Minneapolis and its suburbs prepare for a verdict in Mr. Chauvin’s trial, business owners are hoping they won’t have to relive the weeks of protests from last year that sparked a nationwide discussion about race and policing. At home, it led to damage estimated at about $300 million. Businesses, already hurting from the pandemic, closed.

In downtown Minneapolis, near the site of Mr. Chauvin’s trial, construction workers were putting up more fencing and boarding and widening the security perimeter around the courthouse where Mr. Chauvin is on trial. Public areas with park benches are now closed off by metal grates, fencing and jersey barriers. One worker called the area a “ghost town.” A Caribou Coffee had so much wood up that regular customers thought it was closed until workers spray painted OPEN on the sheets.

Curfews have been in place in much of the Metropolitan area since Sunday, with protests mostly occurring in Brooklyn Center, where Mr. Wright was shot. In the main drag of businesses there, only two gas stations were open late Tuesday. Every other shop was boarded and closed.

Back in North Minneapolis, groups of National Guard troops could be seen patrolling late Tuesday night and during the day on Wednesday. Of the dozens of stores in strip malls, most had wood nailed to the windows. Some stores never reopened after last summer’s protests, Mr. Mitchell said.

Mr. Mitchell, a Black father of two, said he wasn’t worried about his own safety. But now in addition to his shop, his mind was on Brooklyn Center and neighboring areas, including Brooklyn Park, where he lives

“And now I need to worry about what’s going on at home,” he said.