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speaks from the Treaty Room in the White House on April 14, 2021 in Washington, DC.
President Joe Biden is keeping a watchful eye on this week’s closing arguments in the Minneapolis trial of Derek Chauvin, fearful that a controversial verdict could inflame new racial tensions and further escalate a deepening crisis in confidence with the nation’s police forces.
The President voiced his concern about potential fallout from the trial during a private meeting last week with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, people familiar with the session said. For weeks, it has also been a point of worry in conversations with Vice President Kamala Harris, aides say, even as the White House grapples with a cascading wave of mass shootings in America.
As he begins his fourth month in office, Biden is presiding over a country on edge, as protests in several cities over the weekend underscored the fresh urgency of a national reckoning on racial justice and police reform.
The White House is bracing for a week ahead that could be particularly volatile, with a Thursday funeral set for Daunte Wright — another Minnesota man killed by a police officer — along with new revelations from a police-involved shooting of a 13-year-old boy in Chicago, as well as the verdict in the Chauvin trial.
The whipsaw of events, along with near-daily episodes of major shootings across the country, have only heightened pressure on both the President and Congress to hold police accountable for misconduct, a challenge now playing out against the backdrop of new calls for gun legislation.
The administration’s objective, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday, is to ensure “space for peaceful protest” while acknowledging the “pain, trauma, and exhaustion” in the Black community, citing both the trial and other violence, including the shooting of Wright last week.
“After the closing arguments today, they’ll come back with a verdict, and we’re not going to get ahead of those deliberations,” Psaki said. “Broadly speaking, we are in touch with mayors, governors, local authorities.”
She declined to say whether there are preparations underway regarding the use of the National Guard, but said there has been a “range of conversations about how to ensure that, no matter the outcome, there is space for peaceful protest.”