George Floyd: Minneapolis to pay social media influencers to spread messages during Derek Chauvin trial

City-approved messages to target minority communities

Minneapolis is set to pay six social media influencers to help disseminate city-approved messaging throughout the upcoming murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the ex-cop charged in George Floyd's death.

The Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously Friday to approve a $1 million communications and de-escalation plan that involves partnering with community leaders, local media and social media influencers during Chauvin's trial set to begin in March, as well the August trial of three other former officers charged in Floyd's death.

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The social media influencers, whose contracts have yet to be finalized, will be paid $2,000 each to share "city-generated and approved messages" targeting Black, Native American, Somali, Hmong and Latinx communities. The effort is meant to dispel misinformation and avoid the unrest sparked by Floyd's death last year, inclouding violence and looting.

Local activists are criticizing the move, arguing the city is aiming to buy the narrative surrounding the trials, stamp out free speech and protests, and turn influencers into mouthpieces for the city, WCCO reported.

But according to the city of Minneapolis, "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," a statement said. "It's also an opportunity to create more two-way communication between the City and communities."

"The recommendations for which social media messengers to partner with come from the City’s Neighborhood and Community Relations staff," city spokesperson Casper Hill continued in an email to Fox News. "The agreements with the social media partners have not been finalized. The City is adhering to procurement requirements for the selection and contracting processes."

The city communications strategy, called Joint Information System (JIS), aims to "offer enhanced community services during the trial to keep people informed and safe, especially non-English and Black, Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) communities and small businesses that do not rely on traditional media."

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Regarding social media influencers, the program approved by City Council involves the city entering "paid partnerships with community members who are considered trusted messengers and have large social media presence to share City generated and approved messages." These individuals will also support "JIS situation monitoring" to "address/dispel incorrect information." The portion of the budget reserved for the social media partners is $12,000, with each paid $2,000.

In a separate 11-2 vote Friday, the council also approved a plan allowing the Minneapolis Police Department to enter into mutual aid agreements with at least 14 law enforcement agencies for added support during the trials surrounding Floyd's death, Fox 9 Minneapolis reported. The agreements could cost up to $1.5 million, which could be covered by the department’s pre-exiting budget.

"Our hope is the number of days that we need these officers will be very short," City Coordinator Mark Ruff said during the council meeting. "That it will be a trial where there is peaceful expression of First Amendment rights and not destruction or other types of illegal activities that would require these officers to be around for numerous days."

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Meanwhile, Minnesota state lawmakers were expected to resume negotiations over the weekend in an attempt to break a stalemate over the creation of a new $35 million account that could reimburse agencies that provide mutual aid, including during the Chauvin trial, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

City officials are expected to provide a public briefing at 10 a.m. Monday about "plans and preparations being made to ensure community safety" during the Chauvin trial. Jury selection begins March 8 with opening statements scheduled for March 29.

Floyd, who was Black, died May 25 after Chauvin, who is White, pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck while he was handcuffed and pleading that he couldn’t breathe. Chauvin faces second-degree murder and manslaughter charges.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said more than 3,000 law enforcement officers from across the state and National Guard soldiers will be at the ready when the case goes to the jury. Last week, the mayor declared that Minneapolis remains "open for business," and said people should go about their lives as usual.

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But new security measures around the Hennepin County courthouse, City Hall and jail — all in the heart of downtown — includes three rings of concrete barriers, two topped by chain-link fencing with a trough in between filled with coils of razor wire. The innermost fence is topped with barbed wire, and ground-floor windows at all three buildings are boarded up, The Associated Press reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.