During a press conference today to address the continued violent protests in Minnesota, Democrat Governor Tim Walz called for the full mobilization of the Minnesota National Guard—the largest deployment in the state since World War II.
Joined by the mayors of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Governor Walz appeared angry at times in response to the disorder. “Our great cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are under assault by people who do not share our values, who do not value life and the work that went into this and are certainly not here to honor George Floyd. They need to see today that that line will stop and order needs to be restored,” he stated.
For context, Governor Walz said the National Guard contingent currently working to get the city of Minneapolis under control is three times larger than the force deployed in the 1960s during the race riots. The governor also suggested that the protests and riots sparked after the death of George Lloyd were being fueled by foreign and extremist influences. “Last night is a mockery of pretending that this is about George Floyd’s death, or inequities, or historical traumas to our communities of color,” Governor Walz stated.
On Thursday, 500 National Guard soldiers and airmen were activated, and another 200 were activated Friday night, according to a release from the National Guard. Minnesota National Guard Adjutant General Joe Jensen said the state was now prepared to deploy an additional 1.000 civilian soldiers. By noon Saturday, Governor Walz said a total of 2,500 guardsmen would be activated. “Our tactics again are to try and reduce loss of life and restore order,” he said.
On Friday night —in defiance of curfews there— widespread looting and arson continued in Minneapolis and nearby St. Paul, and protests spilled into violence in 30 cities. A federal agent in California and a protester in Detroit were shot dead. “The situation in Minneapolis is no longer in any way about the murder of George Floyd, it is about attacking civil society, instilling fear, and disrupting our great cities,” Governor Walz said. “As you saw this expand across the United States, and you start to see whether it be domestic terrorism, whether it be ideological extremists to fan the group, or whether it be international destabilization of how our country works,” he continued.
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter said that while his city was quieter Friday night than the previous night, he has been told that all of those arrested were from out of state. While “there’s a group of folks that are sad and mourning” Mr. Floyd, Mayor Carter said “there seems to be another group that are using Mr. Floyd’s death as a cover to create havoc.”
State officials said that around 80 percent of those arrested in the Twin Cities on Friday had come from outside of Minnesota. John Harrington, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, said there were approximately 40 arrests across St. Paul and Minneapolis on Friday night. He said some of those protesting had been linked to white supremacist groups and organized crime. “We will always respect everyone’s First Amendment rights, but those rights stop at the end of a Molotov cocktail thrown into an open business,” Harrington said. “Those rights stop at the point that you loot the liquor store in your neighborhood,” Harrington declared.
Officials say they previously underestimated the number of protestors who would be out. “I will take responsibility for underestimating the wanton destruction and site of this crowd,” Governor Walz said today. Walz also added that the sheer scope of the chaos in Minneapolis, along with the time it takes to mobilize National Guard forces from across the state, and the mobile nature of the crowds made it difficult to direct emergency forces. “There’s simply more of them than us,” he said.