Minnesota governor activates National Guard to respond to protests over George Floyd’s death
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) activated the Minnesota National Guard on Thursday in response to violent protests that erupted in Minneapolis this week over the death of George Floyd.
Walz signed an executive order calling up National Guard troops “to help protect Minnesotans’ safety and maintain peace in the wake of George Floyd’s death.”
The governor said in his announcement that local leaders had requested resources after demonstrations in Minneapolis turned violent and private property was damaged and stores looted.
“While many Minnesotans are taking extensive safety precautions while exercising their right to protest, the demonstration last night became incredibly unsafe for all involved,” he said.
“The purpose of the National Guard is to protect people, to protect people safely demonstrating, and to protect small business owners.”
Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died earlier this week as he was being detained by four police officers. A video recorded by a bystander shows Floyd on the ground and one of the officers with a knee on Floyd’s neck as the unarmed man says he can’t breathe.
Walz acknowledged in his announcement that “the anger and grief of this moment is unbearable,” adding he will “always defend the right to protest.”
“People deserve to be seen,” he said. “People deserve to be heard. People deserve to be safe.”
The governor called on the city of Minneapolis to “rebuild” its justice system and relationship between law enforcement and the community, so Floyd’s death leads to “justice and systemic change, not more death and destruction.”
Walz said that the Minnesota State Patrol, including about 200 troopers, will help with public safety efforts in the next several days.
Protests that started earlier in the week continued in Minneapolis into Wednesday night, with riots, fires and looting in the city.
The Associated Press reported that a third consecutive night of protests over Floyd’s death was expected Thursday near county offices, prompting stores to close early and the city to stop its light-rail and bus transportation systems.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI in Minneapolis said on Thursday they were running “a robust criminal investigation” into Floyd’s death and making it a top priority. President Trump has also requested the Justice Department to expedite their investigation.
The officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck was fired along with three other officers on Tuesday, and the mayor and several others have called for him to be charged.
The AP noted the last time the Minnesota National Guard was activated to deal with civil unrest was during the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul.
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