Minneapolis city officials said Monday they’ve ditched plans to hire social media influencers to spin news from the upcoming murder trial of ex-cop Derek Chauvin in George Floyd’s death.
Lawmakers, who approved a plan last week to hire six social media wizzes for $2,000 each to report developments from the potentially volatile trial, said community backlash over being targeted by city-funded “influencers” made the city council rethink the idea.
“A lot of folks saw that language and for whatever reason didn’t register that it was such a bad idea,” Minneapolis Councilman Jeremiah Ellison acknowledged to KARE-TV.
“It’s a relatively small deal, especially since we’re not moving forward with the program anymore,” he said. “But we also owe our respective apologies to our communities over that.”
The social media strategy was part of a $1.1 million plan approved by the council on Friday, calling for the city to fund a network of community-based initiatives to help east tensions “during periods of heightened tension.”
Floyd’s death on May 25 sparked widespread protests worldwide and led to violent clashes with police, looting, and fires in the Minnesota city.
Chauvin was charged with murder after viral video showed him kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes despite Floyd’s pleas for air.
The council’s social media plan was meant to reach out to members of the Minneapolis community who don’t rely on traditional media or information channels to get news.
In particular, influencers were to target black, Latino, Native-American, and other minority communities during Chauvin’s trial, which is due to begin with jury selection on Monday and get underway in earnest later this month.
But community activists lashed out at the idea, suggesting it was an attempt to manipulate public opinion in those neighborhoods, according to Fox News.
“While I believe in and support the intention of this recommendation, we have seen that the impact has caused harm in our communities and for that I am sorry,” David Rubedor, the city’s director of neighborhood and community relations, said Monday.
“We acknowledge that we have caused a harm and we will work to repair the harm that was caused by this strategy,” Rubedor said. “At this point, we will not move forward with this strategy.”
Minneapolis officials still plan heavy security for the trial, including as many as 3,000 law enforcement personnel that will include the Minnesota National Guard.