Gov. Tim Walz and other Minnesota leaders on Saturday begged protesters angry over George Floyd’s killing to stay home so police and the National Guard could reclaim the streets and root out what authorities describe as an active criminal element bent only on destruction.
“We’re asking for you to let the National Guard have the street after 8 p.m. so that we make sure we can restore order,” Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison told reporters at a noon briefing. “We need to be able to stop the burning and the looting and the destruction.”
In emotional and sometimes angry tones, Walz, Ellison and other officials and faith leaders delivered the same message: People must obey the nighttime curfew despite their anger over Floyd’s killing.
“My heart and guts are being ripped out at this moment because I also want to go to the streets” to protest Floyd’s killing in police custody, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said.
But “there are white supremacists there. There are anarchists. There are people who are burning down institutions that are core to our identity,” she said. “Stay home tonight so that we can remove those folks who are harming us. Remove those folks who are detracting from the memory of George Floyd.”
Walz warned it would be dangerous Saturday night on the streets of Minneapolis and St. Paul, invoking comparisons to war-torn parts of Somalia and Iraq.
After the chaos Friday night into Saturday, officials became convinced that the worst of the violence and looting is coming from bands of people using the grief over Floyd’s death as an opportunity for crime. Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington described them overnight as an “armed … entrenched group of rioters.”
Walz is fully mobilizing the Guard in the Twin Cities in its largest-ever civilian deployment to stem violence on the streets of Minneapolis in the wake of Floyd’s death on Monday.
Guard officials said a contingent of nearly 2,500 soldiers will be on hand in Minneapolis on Saturday night; in the coming days, an estimated 7,000 to 10,000 Guard soldiers could be involved in the "full activation" — the largest domestic deployment in the 164-year history of the Minnesota's National Guard.
"The Minnesota National Guard is prepared to protect life, protect property and restore order," the Guard said in a news release. "This includes patrols, manning control points, and assisting firefighters in accomplishing their life saving mission by providing security."
The governor said peaceful protests over the killing of Floyd were hijacked by outsiders he said included white supremacists and drug cartels trying to take advantage of the unrest.
“Last night is a mockery of pretending this is about George Floyd's death, or inequities, or historical traumas to our communities of color,” Walz said earlier, “because our communities of color and our indigenous communities were out front fighting hand-in-hand to save businesses that took generations to build.”
Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington vowed a stronger police presence and a change in tactics “because this is intolerable and we are coming to stop it.”
The Pentagon said Saturday it was ready to provide military help to authorities scrambling to contain unrest in Minneapolis, but Walz has not requested federal troops. Jonathan Rath Hoffman, the chief Pentagon spokesperson, said several military units have been placed on higher alert “as a prudent planning measure” in case Walz asks for help.
On Saturday, President Trump spoke at the White House after protests turned to rioting in some cities around the United States. Trump urged Minnesota officials to get tougher with protesters who are destroying property and looting, saying by getting tougher, political leaders in Minnesota would be honoring the memory of Floyd.
As of 8 a.m. a fire was burning out of control at a Walgreens on Lake Street at 32nd Avenue; neighbors used garden hoses to try to keep the fire from spreading to nearby homes until fire crews arrived. Crews were battling another fire affecting a couple of retail stores near Nicollet Avenue at 35th Street.
As state and local authorities brace for another night of massive protests, the Minneapolis City Council Saturday afternoon voted to extend Mayor Jacob Frey’s emergency declaration to June 12, which allows the city to request and receive additional federal and state help to quell civil unrest.
Community gathers to clean up damage
In the wake of Friday night’s chaos, some in Minneapolis gathered Saturday morning to prepare and protect their neighborhoods against possible violence later in the evening.
Sam Gould was among the organizers of one of those meetings, at Powderhorn Park. He said authorities abandoned the neighborhood the night before.
"The Midtown Global Market has literally been under attack by undisclosed white men with guns and bats and crowbars trying to burn down the building for the last three nights in a row — no help from the police or National Guard at all," he said.
Gould also said they talked about rebuilding damaged buildings and businesses in the wake of the destruction.
"We're going to be experiencing this for years to come. This type of (community rebuilding) work is going to be vital. We can't keep expecting the city or the state or the nonprofit industrial complex in this state to lift us up. We're going to be lifting ourselves up and we're going to look out for one another," he said.
Volunteers gathered along Lake Street and in other neighborhoods on Saturday to help clean up the previous night's damage — including at the East Lake branch library.
Kim Doss-Smith and her husband Patrick, who have lived in the neighborhood for more than 20 years, were among those helping at the fire-damaged library. They said what appeared to be a small splinter group broke away from the main crowd late Friday, and vandalized the library.
The couple and others who stepped in to assist helped extinguish the fire; they also chased away people who tried to cause damage. They called the fire department and, they said, were told no fire crews were available.
Kim Doss-Smith said she also saw a couple of people ready to throw Molotov cocktails at the adjacent Holy Trinity Lutheran Church.
“I talked to them, and I said, 'This church is important to me. It has been consistent as a peace and justice church addressing racial bias. And it's the only place feeding people in the neighborhood now that all the grocery stores are gone. You guys want to think really hard before you torch this church. And they — they went away," she said.
Friday curfew defied
Thousands of people defied an 8 p.m. Friday curfew. Many eventually gathered around the 5th Precinct station on Nicollet, south of Lake Street. Several businesses in that area were looted and several fires started, before the crowd was dispersed by a large law enforcement response.
Fires were reported elsewhere along Lake Street overnight, as well as along Broadway in north Minneapolis.
It was quieter in St. Paul Friday night, but Mayor Melvin Carter said several people were arrested related to the ongoing violence — and all of them were from out of state. He said local residents who have been pushing for police reform and advocating for communities of color for years don’t know the people committing criminal acts.
“As I talk to my friends who've been in this movement for a very long time, who wake up in this movement every day, and I ask them, what they're seeing, what they're feeling, what they're hearing,” Carter said. “I hear them say, 'We don't know these folks. We don't know these folks who are agitating.’”
Walz said at an early morning news conference that another 1,000 National Guard troops — a total of 1,700 — are being called to Minneapolis, making it the largest deployment within Minnesota in state history. Walz said law enforcement and Guard troops were outnumbered late Friday and early Saturday, and had to prioritize what to protect.
"When the business that you fought your life for to try and get burns down, that seems like a pretty damn critical asset to you," he said. "[But] we're protecting the federal reserve, we're protecting infrastructure downtown, we're protecting power stations and things like that."
Walz said groups who are only interested in destruction have taken over the protests in the wake of Floyd's death.
"Why are we talking about anarchists who are burning down damn buildings that were businesses built up by our indigenous and black communities, instead of talking about we had a horrific situation where a police officer murdered and was charged for the death of a black man?" he said.
Walz said the state has intelligence that white supremacists and drug cartels might also be trying to take advantage of the unrest.
Officer charged in Floyd killing
Meanwhile, the former Minneapolis police officer caught on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck has been charged in the man’s killing, as the mayors of the Twin Cities have ordered nighttime curfews through the weekend aimed at stemming the violence.
Derek Chauvin faces third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges.
He was arrested Friday morning.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said he anticipated charges for three other officers connected to the incident who were also fired, but “we felt it appropriate to focus on the most dangerous perpetrator.”
Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd's neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds total, including two minutes and 53 seconds when Floyd was unresponsive, according to the criminal complaint.
"Police are trained that this type of restraint with a subject in a prone position is inherently dangerous,” the complaint reads.
The initial emergency dispatch call on Monday had little urgency — a caller from the Cup Foods store on Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis reporting someone using “fake bills.”
In a transcript released earlier in the week by the Minneapolis police, the caller tells a dispatcher they asked the man to return the cigarettes he bought but that the man is “drunk and not in control of himself” and refuses to give back the cigarettes.
According to Friday’s criminal complaint, Chauvin and his partner Tou Thao arrived at the scene as two other officers, Thomas Lane and J.A. Kueng, were trying to get Floyd into the back of a squad, but Floyd said he was claustrophobic and didn't want to get in the car, and that he complained of not being able to breathe even while he was standing up.
Floyd took himself to the ground while in cuffs at 8:19 p.m., according to the charging document. That's when Chauvin placed his knee on Floyd's head and neck area.
Despite the danger of that technique, the complaint says officers told Floyd that he could talk, so he was fine.
Prosecutors say the officers kept holding Floyd down even after he stopped talking and breathing. According to the charges Lane asked Chauvin if they should roll Floyd over. Chauvin allegedly said no and to keep him there.
Prosecutors say Lane persisted, saying he was concerned that Floyd was experiencing a syndrome called “excited delirium” which can lead to sudden death, but Chauvin allegedly refused to roll Floyd over.
‘Road to justice’
Freeman said the charges against Chauvin are the same as those that came down against Mohamed Noor, the ex-Minneapolis police officer found guilty in the on-duty killing of 911 caller Justine Ruszczyk in 2017.
Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines recommend 12 1/2 years for a conviction on the murder count and four years on the manslaughter charge. After he was convicted last year, Noor got exactly the 12 1/2-year guidelines sentence.
Ben Crump, the attorney for Floyd's family, said in a statement that while the charges against Chauvin are a "welcome but overdue step on the road to justice,” the family expected the fired officer to face a first-degree murder charge. “We want a first-degree murder charge. And we want to see the other officers arrested,” he said.
During an earlier news conference Friday, Harrington, the state’s public safety director, referred to Floyd’s death as murder.
“We’ll call it a murder. That’s what it looked like to me,” Harrington said while noting that the majority of people protesting Floyd’s death were doing so peacefully. “I don’t want to prejudice this from a criminal perspective. I’m just calling it what I see it at that point."
Following Chauvin’s arrest, Gov. Tim Walz wrote on Twitter that “Chauvin's actions were horrific. His arrest is a good first step toward justice for George Floyd. But it doesn't change the systemic problems and persistent inequities that led to his death or the pain our communities live with every day. We’re committed to change.”
Separately from the state probe, FBI officials say they are investigating Floyd’s death for possible federal civil rights violations.
Tensions boil again, despite curfews
In Minneapolis and St. Paul, the mayors’ curfews started at 8 p.m. Friday and last until 6 a.m. Saturday, then restarting at 8 p.m. Saturday through 6 a.m. Sunday. Gov. Tim Walz reinforced the city orders with one from his office.
Demonstrators in Minneapolis Friday night, however, defied the city’s curfew, setting the stage for confrontations with police for another night.
The nighttime curfews came as city leaders hoped to stop a repeat of the past few days where peaceful protests over the killing of George Floyd dissolved into mayhem and looting after sunset.
As the sun set Friday, however, it appeared the order would not keep people off the Twin Cities’ streets.
Earlier Friday, St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell said he’s asked for 400 members of the State Patrol and National Guard to help patrol St. Paul, which saw swaths, of destruction and looting Thursday, especially in the Midway neighborhood.
City police said more than 170 business had been damaged or looted overnight but with no serious injuries. Officers made seven arrests and responded to hundreds of calls, including 89 “shots fired” calls.
Axtell admonished those who were “disgustingly looting” Thursday night, drawing a line between peaceful demonstrators and “the people who decide to take this as an opportunity to victimize our community.”
Curfews around Twin Cities
Multiple other cities and counties in the Twin Cities metro area have also announced similar curfews.
Roseville: Overnight curfews will be imposed from 8 p.m. through 6 a.m. for three days starting Friday night.
Bloomington: A nighttime curfew goes into effect Friday night from 9 p.m. through 6 a.m. Saturday and 8 p.m. Saturday through 6 a.m. Sunday.
Maple Grove: A curfew in all public places takes effect from 8 p.m. Friday through 6 a.m. Saturday and 8 p.m. Saturday until 6 a.m. Sunday.
Osseo: A citywide, overnight curfew from 9 p.m. through 6 p.m. starts Friday night and remain in effect for three days.
Richfield: A curfew will be in place from 9 p.m. Friday through 6 a.m. Saturday and 8 p.m. Saturday through 6 a.m. Sunday.
Brooklyn Park: An overnight curfew takes effect from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. starting Friday night through Monday morning.
Woodbury: A curfew starts at 8 p.m. Saturday until 6 a.m. on Sunday; and 8 p.m. Sunday until 6 a.m. on Monday.
Maplewood: Curfews in effect from 8 p.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. Sunday, and from 8 p.m. Sunday to 6 a.m. Monday. The city says it’s tripling police staffing levels this weekend.
Robbinsdale: 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. starting Friday night and until further notice
Brooklyn Center: 8 p.m. through 6 a.m. Friday and Saturday night. The curfew could be extended additional nights.
St. Louis Park: A citywide curfew is in place from 10 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday and resumes at 8 p.m. through 6 a.m. from Saturday night until Monday morning.
Dakota County: Countywide curfews will be in place from 8 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday and resume at 8 p.m. Saturday until 6 a.m. Sunday.
Anoka County: Overnight, countywide curfews are in place from 8 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday, 8 p.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. Sunday, and 8 p.m. Sunday through 3 a.m. Monday.