Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Saturday said that he was “fully” mobilizing the state’s National Guard, a first in the state’s history, saying that it was “nothing short of a blessing” that an innocent bystander has not yet been killed in unrest.
His announcement comes after protests raged across America on a brutal night in cities where people gathered to grieve and demand justice for George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody. At least 20 U.S. cities woke up to destruction and arrests Saturday morning after unrest over the death of Floyd boiled over in the Twin Cities, sparking demonstrations — some peaceful, others violent — across the country.
“Let’s be very clear, the situation in Minneapolis is no longer in any way about the murder of George Floyd,” Walz, a Democrat, said.
The governor said he had “sensitivity to the legitimate rage and anger” that Minnesotans felt after Floyd’s death, which manifested earlier in the week with “healthy gathering of community.”
By Thursday, Walz said that peaceful protest was gone and that the destruction Friday night made a “mockery” of Floyd’s death.
“At this point of time, it is nothing short of a blessing that we have not had someone killed as an innocent bystander in this,” Walz said.
The governor said the tactics of first responders will be to reduce loss of life and property in the state, where small businesses and community nonprofits were damaged in the unrest.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, who also spoke during the news briefing, said the violent demonstrators weren’t from their cities. Carter said there were “relatively few arrests” during Friday night’s protests, but the people arrested were all from other states.
“Those folks are agitating and inciting and taking advantage of the pain, hurt, frustration, anger and real and legitimate sadness that so many of our community members feel to advocate for the destruction of our communities,” Carter said.
Walz warned of more protesters gathering Saturday night spurred by increased police presence.
“This is only going to make it more difficult tonight,” Walz said.
Minnesota National Guard Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen told reporters that there were already 700 guardsmen mobilized as of early Saturday but by noon, there will be 2,500 guard members activated and they were requesting federal assistance.
“What does that mean? It means we’re all in,” Jensen said.
In other developments:
— President Donald Trump praised the Secret Service on Saturday, the morning after the White House was placed under lockdown as protesters clashed with officers outside. “They were not only totally professional, but very cool,” Trump tweeted.
— In Minneapolis — where Floyd died Monday after a white officer pressed his knee into the 46-year-old’s neck — businesses were torched and shots were fired at police, who struggled to enforce an 8 p.m. curfew enacted after several nights of unrest.
— Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms delivered an emotional plea for protesters to go home Friday after violence and vandalism erupted in her city. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp later issued a state of emergency for the area at the mayor’s request.
— In New York, officers were seen struggling with demonstrators, holding some down on the ground, amid screams. In Lincoln, Nebraska, police urged residents to shelter in place because a gathering there was “no longer a peaceful protest.”
— Fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death on Friday. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said he also anticipates charges for three other officers who were fired over Floyd’s death.
— The Hennepin County Medical Examiner announced it has made “no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation.” The medical examiner suggested underlying health conditions contributed to Floyd’s death; Floyd’s family said it will seek an independent autopsy.
— Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced Saturday morning he is calling in the National Guard to help “keep peace” in Louisville, where protests have erupted over the death of 26-year-old emergency medical technician Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was fatally shot eight times by narcotics detectives in her own home in March. No drugs were found.