Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and some of his biggest critics on the City Council came together Thursday to announce a new violence-prevention effort on the North Side.

While the details of funding for the deployment of unarmed "community safety specialists" are still being nailed down, the presence of Frey and Council Members Jeremiah Ellison, Steve Fletcher and Lisa Goodman together was a departure from the divisions on display last week.

Escalating violence in the city — including the recent shootings of three children on the North Side — has challenged city leaders to find a way to stop the bloodshed while fulfilling a promise to transform public safety in the wake of George Floyd's death.

Last week, Frey and Goodman appeared together at a north Minneapolis news conference announcing an outline for a possible plan forward. Ellison hosted one the next day.

Fletcher, who didn't attend either event, has been critical of the mayor.

Some local activists, noting the divisions, called for elected officials to put politics aside and make residents the priority.

On Thursday, at a news conference supporting a new violence-prevention program, they projected an air of collaboration.

"What you see behind us is unity of purpose. You see unity of message, and you see unity in this ideal that you need to see community baked into the [safety] process every single step of the way," Frey said.

Speaking immediately after him, Ellison also emphasized unity — and its complex nature.

"Unity sometimes looks like advocacy. It doesn't always look like agreement," Ellison said. "It looks like criticism and it looks like pushing us to do the right thing. And what you're seeing here is this group of neighbors, people on the North Side pushing us to do the right thing."

The subject of Thursday's news conference was the goal to draw from the city's $271 million in American Rescue Plan funding to train people to do violence-prevention work.

Those negotiations could serve as a preview of this fall, when city leaders will have to agree on a budget with wide implications for the future of policing and public safety in the city.

The program unveiled Thursday is a collaboration between the nonprofit Northside Residents Redevelopment Council, SEIU Local 26 and Next Global Security.

The groups are trying to raise $1.6 million to run a yearlong program training people for violence-prevention work in Minneapolis.

City leaders on Thursday committed to providing funding but are still working out the final amount.

The Northside Residents Redevelopment Council, formed more than 40 years ago, already has members working in two neighborhoods trying to resolve conflicts before they escalate into violence.

With the new apprenticeship program, they hope to train at least 15 new community-safety specialists, possibly more if fundraising allows.

Gayle Smaller, chairman of the Redevelopment Council's safety committee, said the goal is twofold: They want to help people find jobs that offer a living wage, and they want to temper the violence that has taken a toll on residents.

The nature of that work varies.

One day, they intervened when someone tried to kidnap a child from a yard. In another instance, Smaller said someone sent an agitated person on a vacation, in hopes of bringing down tensions.

Other times, they're visiting homes and trying to meet with people who seem like they could be the next targets of violence.

"A lot of us know, one murder leads to six, right?" Smaller said. If they can speak to people affected by the first one, he said, they hope they can break the cycle — and free up police to do the work of solving crimes.

Liz Navratil • 612-673-4994