Walz activates National Guard in wake of deadly Minneapolis protests
Peaceful demonstration escalate into violence as people protest death of George Floyd in police custody
ST. PAUL, Minn. (WKBT) — Gov. Tim Walz activated the Minnesota National Guard today in an effort to quell violent protests in Minneapolis over the death of a 46-year-old black man while in police custody Monday.
Sparking the violence, which resulted in the shooting death of a looter Wednesday night were videos showing a Minneapolis police officer pressing his knee against the George Floyd’s neck for several minutes. Floyd, who was handcuffed and face-down on the street, pleaded repeatedly that he couldn’t breathe.
Three other officers milled about, watching, as passersby also pleaded for officer Derek Chauvin to let Floyd up. Two of the other officers appeared to be kneeling on Floyd at one point. Shortly after Chauvin relented, Floyd died.
Police Chief Medaria Arradondo fired Chauvin and the other three officers on Wednesday. Protesters and even the Minneapolis mayor have demanded that they be arrested and charged.
“Why is the man who killed George Floyd not in jail?” a visibly shaken Mayor Jacob Frey said during a news conference today. “If you had done it, or I had done it, we would be behind bars right now.”
Frey did not indicate what he believes the charge should be, but he said he based his opinion on video of the incident.
“We are not talking about a split-second decision that was made incorrectly,” Frey said. “There’s somewhere around 300 seconds in those five minutes — every one of which the officer could have turned back … and removed his knee from George Floyd’s neck.”
Protests Tuesday night were relatively peaceful, but those Wednesday night quickly took a dramatic and violent turn, including looting and arson that ravaged several buildings including a Target store, and dozens of cars along the streets.
The fatal shooting occurred near the site of Floyd’s death — reportedly when a pawn shop owner shot a man who was trying to loot the store.
Mayor Frey had asked the governor today to activate the National Guard to control any further protests.
Meanwhile, Walz said in his executive order activating the Guard, “It is time to rebuild. Rebuild the city, rebuild our justice system and rebuild the relationship between law enforcement and those they’re charged to protect.
“George Floyd’s death should lead to justice and systemic change, not more death and destruction,” the statement said.
“As George Floyd’s family has said, ‘Floyd would not want people to get hurt. He lived his life protecting people.’ Let’s come together to rebuild, remember, and seek justice for George Floyd,” Walz said.
Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said, “The anger and grief of this moment is unbearable. People deserve to be seen. People deserve to be heard. People deserve to be safe.” said.
Although many protesters took extensive safety precautions, Flanagan said, “The demonstration last night became incredibly unsafe for all involved. The purpose of the National Guard is to protect people, to protect people safely demonstrating, and to protect small business owners.”
Walz said, “As governor, I will always defend the right to protest. It is how we express pain, process tragedy, and create change. That is why I am answering our local leaders’ request for Minnesota National Guard assistance to protect peaceful demonstrators, neighbors, and small businesses in Minnesota.”
The National Guard will work with local government agencies to provide personnel, equipment, and facilities needed to respond to and recover from this emergency.
The Minnesota State Patrol also will assist, with about 200 troopers assigned to work with state, county and local community and public safety partners.
Walz’s executive order also declared a peacetime emergency, which activated the State Emergency Operations Center to help coordinate the state’s response. The SEOC already had been activated to lend assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic, so it now is on double duty.
Police Chief Arradondo, a Minneapolis native who also appeared shaken at the news conference, said the city has experienced extensive trauma since Floyd’s death. But Arradondo decried the looting and arson for exacerbating the raw feelings and escalating tensions.
“I know that there is currently a deficit of hope in this city,” Arradondo said. “And I know as I wear this uniform before you, this department has contributed to that deficit of hope, but I will not allow to continue to increase that deficit by re-traumatizing those folks in our community.
“I am committed to restoring peace and security in our community,” the chief said.
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