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Going “all in” in the Twin Cities

With Derek Chauvin’s trial underway, pastors say their churches will help their cities heal if more violence erupts

Going “all in” in the Twin Cities

A man prays near temporary security fencing outside the Hennepin County Government Center on March 7, 2021. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Concrete barriers, chain-link fencing, barbed wire, and coils of razor-sharp concertina wire surround the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis. Similar barricades block other nearby government buildings and each of the city’s five police precinct stations. Behind the scenes, a thousand Minnesota National Guard members and a similar number of police officers stand ready. 

Minneapolis and neighboring St. Paul are preparing for whatever the outcome of the Derek Chauvin trial, one of the United States’ highest-profile criminal cases involving a police officer. 

In the courtroom, opening arguments began Monday. Prosecutors have charged the former police officer with second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd. His death on May 25, occurring after Chauvin knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes, ignited protests and riots around the country over police brutality. Chauvin has pleaded not guilty. His trial is the first in Minnesota to be televised.

Outside the courtroom, city officials, law enforcement, and business owners planned for a potential repeat of last year’s riots. Violent crime rose in the Twin Cities about 25 percent last year, with no sign of abating. But urban pastors I spoke with want to be a calming, uniting, and permanent presence. 

While the cities strategized precautionary measures, Pastor Aaron Brockmeier of Faith Baptist Church in Minneapolis said he and his predominantly white congregation are staying focused on building relationships across races and have no plans to stop, regardless of the verdict or any aftermath from the trial that will likely last weeks. 

He says Floyd’s death and last year’s demonstrations sparked an urgency to bridge divides. He’s been praying every Monday since June with Pastor Brian Herron of Zion Baptist Church, a mostly black Minneapolis congregation. Herron initiated the meetings, then he and Brockmeier started inviting more leaders. Soon their two congregations joined to pray with a white suburban church, and now members from all three unite weekly to pray. Periodically, the congregations attend services or events at each other’s churches.

“No matter what happens in our city, we have to get to know each other’s stories, invite people into our homes, listen, learn, lament, pray,” Brockmeier said. A wake-up call for him came the day a police officer pulled over a black deacon from Zion who was driving to the prayer group. The deacon arrived at the meeting vocally praising God he hadn’t been killed and only received a ticket for driving too slowly. Brockmeier says he couldn’t relate to how that must feel: “I began to genuinely lament for how my brothers in Christ are routinely treated.” 

The prayer meetings led to the churches partnering for prayer walks, and neighbors began hiking city streets with them, voicing their own prayers. As the Chauvin trial proceeds, so will the prayer walks. “This isn’t for show. We are committed to assailing heaven on behalf of our city,” says Herron.

Pastors are planning at least five more prayer walks over the next few months through different neighborhoods. They may include Lake Street, where charred buildings, including a post office destroyed in last summer’s riots, have been bulldozed. Some prayer walks may start in the four neighborhoods surrounding the site where Chauvin pinned Floyd down. Violent crime is up 66 percent over the last year there, and many neighbors want a greater police presence there.

Pastor Terrell Walter of Beacon of Hope Church in Minneapolis, concurs. Battling stage 4 cancer for over a year, he sees the ongoing racial turmoil with extra urgency and exhorts everyone he can to pray: “God, show Yourself. … Heal the land and Your people.”

Cedric Steele and Sam Willis Jr., Christian business owners of Minneapolis’ Just Turkey restaurant in what is now called George Floyd Square, worry about ongoing violence worsening after the trial. Earlier this month, a deadly shooting occurred near their front door. “We have to put it in God’s hands,” Steele said. But both owners want the streets opened, and Willis says the square must be accessible to police. The city barricaded streets last year to prevent cars from hitting mourners at the Floyd memorial. Piles of colorful flowers still litter the ground around the familiar mural of Floyd and the raised fist monument at the intersection of East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue.

Richard Tsong-Taatarii, Star Tribune via Getty Images

Mateo Austin, 4, joined his parents Butchy and Rachel as they gathered in a walk and prayer early in the morning on March 29, 2021. (Richard Tsong-Taatarii, Star Tribune via Getty Images)

In St. Paul, the trial has solidified Pastor Chris Monson’s commitment to keep praying with ethnically diverse pastors. Their plans also include feeding the homeless, re-starting outdoor community church services in a vacant parking lot, and hosting free hotdog picnics for neighbors and police. Most weeks, Monson is chauffeuring a church van full of excited kids from East Immanuel Church’s multiracial neighborhood to play basketball at a white suburban church. 

Monson sees his additional role as a chaplain for the St. Paul Police Department as especially important now. If violence ensues again, police may summon him to pray with officers or crime victims, or to provide safe food and water, as he did after last summer’s riots. “I view my chaplain role as a ministry of presence,” Monson said, remembering when he had to inform a community member of a family member’s death at 2 a.m. during the unrest, then met with officers afterward simply to listen and be a peaceful presence. 

Cities Church in St. Paul is using the uncertain times to encourage members to commit to staying in the city. Between the riots and COVID-19, the church had its hardest year ever and saw members move away. Pastor Jonathan Parnell says he and leaders concluded even if more people move, God “will preserve and use the remnant that says, ‘We’re all in.’”  

Sharon Dierberger

Sharon Dierberger

Sharon is a correspondent and reviewer for WORLD. She is a World Journalism Institute and Northwestern University graduate. She has served as a university teacher, clinical exercise physiologist, homeschooling mom, businesswoman, and Division 1 athlete. She resides in Stillwater, Minnesota, with her husband, Bill.


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  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Wed, 03/31/2021 12:08 am

    We need to pray for justice in this situation. As we look at the death of George Floyd we should morn the loss of a brother in Christ. The man was going through difficult times with difficulty finding work. He recently had the coronavirus, which the medical report showed. He was under pressure and fell apart where he was going back to his old nature with drugs and theft - he tried to purchase cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 dollar bill.  He also had three times the level of fentanyl in his system that could cause death. People have been known to die with 3ng/ml where George had 11 ng/ml. So if George was found with this level of fentanyl in his system his death would be ruled an overdose.

    George became a Christian in prison while serving time for a violent home invasion where they pistol whipped the boyfriend and put a barrel of the gun to the belly of a pregnant woman. He came out a changed man and helped in a local church before moving to Missouri. There he fell into hard times and had his relapse. I don't think we should look down on the guy for he was having a difficult time and God knows how many times I have let Him down due to much less pressure.  The shame George felt is heard in his voice as the officers had him get into the police car, if you watch the video. 

    At the same time I feel for George Floyd and the situation surrounding his death, I also feel for Derek Cauvin. Everyone wants him put away whether or not he is guilty or innocent. Some may question how he could be innocent, but with the lethal amount of fentanyl in George's bloodstream, he was likely a dead man before his arrest or contact with the police.  The fentanyl will cause an individual to have lung issues and the inability to breathe and heart problems. Chauvin is 5' 9" weighing only 154 lbs where Floyd was 6' 4" and weighed 223 lbs. In other words, Chauvin, a very small man was holding down a much larger and stronger man. Why would he not hold him down given the size of the man? The hold he used was taught by the police training and at one time was standard protocol. Another dynamic in the situation was that 3 of the 4 police present at the time were on their 1st or 2nd day on the job and the other one was new too. Chauvin was likely showing the new "cadets" how to hold a much larger man down. In other words, he was showing them a legal hold to restrain a man training them up to handle difficult situations. Had George Floyd not had a lethal dose of fentanyl in his system, he would not have died and everything would be peachy, but unfortunately it wasn't the case. We should remember that Chauvin identifies as a Christian so like any man we should pray for real justice no matter the political pressure. Now I could be wrong, but my money would be on Chauvin's innocence, but God only knows the heart. Let us pray that real justice is administered and that there would be peace in the city. I suspect that Soros will pay for his goons (BLM, AntiFa, etc.) to come and burn down the city if the conviction is anything less than 20 years. I don't believe there will be a large conviction, so the goons will be sent and the city will suffer a great assault by the radical left. 

  • JUSTIN10292000
    Posted: Wed, 03/31/2021 08:22 am

    Another brilliant and balanced analysis, Cyborg!  

    Posted: Wed, 03/31/2021 08:49 pm

    Thank you, Cyborg3, for reminding us Christians what is important to know about George Floyd and Derek Chauvin -- and what to do: pray.  

  • not silent
    Posted: Fri, 04/02/2021 02:23 pm

    I wholeheartedly agree with the need to pray for truth and justice in this trial. I have not seen all the evidence and obviously can't pronouce a verdict.  I also admit that I may have some biases for reasons I will not get into here. But I have some questions that I suspect others may also have:

    First, I get that a smaller person might need to restrain a larger person who was actively resisting, but, from what I keep hearing, the focus in justifying the restraint seems to be on the fact that Mr. Floyd was larger than Mr. Chauvin without a lot of mention of how much Mr. Floyd was resisting or how long he continued to resist. I haven't seen the entire video, and perhaps it presents a different story; but, in the clips I have seen, Mr. Floyd seemed to be begging and pleading instead of resisting.   

    A previous comment said that the method of restraint used by Mr. Chauvin "at one time was standard protocol."  For me, that raises the question of whether it was STILL standard protocol at the time of Mr. Floyd's death or if protocol had changed.  Also, I keep hearing that Mr. Floyd had a potentially fatal level of opiods in his system; but, if that is correct, I have to wonder why he would need to be restrained for so long, particularly since he had apparently reached a point where first responders felt the need to check for a pulse. I would also be interested in hearing about the usual police proceedures in cases of opiod overdoes, and when and how medical attention and/or narcan would normally be provided in such cases.

    Hopefully, these and other questions will ultimately be answered by the defense. Whatever the case, I definitely pray for a proper verdict.