By CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News
(MINNEAPOLIS) — Minneapolis has scrapped plans to pay social media influencers to share information during the upcoming trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin for the death of George Floyd.
In an email sent to city elected officials and obtained by ABC News, Minneapolis’ Director of Communications Greta Bergstrom and Director of Neighborhood and Community Relations David Rubedor confirmed plans to cancel the initiative.
“We would like to take a moment to address the recommendation to use social media ‘influencers’ as part of the Joint Information System information sharing strategies,” the email stated. The initiative, according to the email, came about because “we have heard repeatedly that many residents are not connected to the city’s traditional routes of sharing information.”
“While we believe in and support the intention of this recommendation, we have seen the impact has caused harm. We are sorry and acknowledge that we will have to work to repair the harm that has been caused,” the email added. “At this point, we will NOT move forward with this strategy.”
The initial plans were for Minneapolis to have paid partnerships with “community members who are considered trusted messengers and have large social media presence to share City generated and approved messages,” according to the city’s website.
The proposal was first reported by the local outlet the Minnesota Reformer last Friday, which stated that the budget for this project was $12,000, with $2,000 paid to each influencer to share information during the trials, citing a city spokeswoman.
The embattled plans immediately courted controversy from many residents of Minneapolis, who questioned the move and the city’s motives.
“If you go through lengths and measures to buy a narrative, what does that say about the leadership and trust that has been eroded in the past few years?” Toussaint Morrison, a community activist in Minneapolis, told ABC Minneapolis affiliate KTSP-TV.
“You buy people to tell you that your emotions aren’t valid, or that you should stay home and not protest, or that certain things are more important than justice,” Morrison added. “So I really feel that them trying to buy the narrative from social media influencers is really disappointing.”
The trial of Chauvin, which is set to begin on March 8 with jury selection, looms large over Minneapolis.
The white police officer, who pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost eight minutes in a video that horrified the nation — as well as galvanized communities across the country to demand change — faces second-degree murder and manslaughter charges.
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