ST. PAUL — In response to several nights of destructive riots in Minneapolis sparked by the death of local 46-year-old George Floyd in police custody, Gov. Tim Walz on Saturday morning, May 30 announced the "full mobilization" of the Minnesota National Guard.
It will be the first time that the National Guard has been marshaled in the state at that scale, he said, amid what has already been called the largest domestic deployment of the Guard in Minnesota in its 164-year history. While acknowledging the trauma that Floyd's death has inflicted on Minneapolis's black communities and communities of color, Walz condemned this week's rioting in strong terms.
"The situation in Minneapolis is no longer in any way about the murder of George Floyd," he said during a Saturday press conference.
Walz and other local officials said that violent groups and individuals active in the Twin Cities area in recent days are believed to come from outside of the state and region. Criminal groups may be behind some of the looting and fire-setting that have ravaged the metro.
Mayor Melvin Carter of St. Paul said individual arrested by city police Friday night came from outside of the state, for example. Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said his agency has seen social media posts from white supremacist groups that said they planned to travel here and agitate the situation as well.
Harrington said that additional information on the background of groups believed to be inciting violence in the cities would be released sometime Saturday. Arrest figures were not immediately available.
Peaceful protest over Floyd's death planned for Saturday, Walz said, will still be allowed to take place but additional Guard soldiers and airmen will be deployed to the Twin Cities are to reinforce local law enforcement agencies based here. Up to 2,500 Guard service members will be in the area by noon, according to Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen, adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard.
"We're all in," Jensen said stoically.
Mayor Jacob Frey of Minneapolis warned that protesters out after the ongoing 8 p.m. curfew put in place Friday may passively provide cover for violent actors, making it difficult for authorities to suss them out.
"We'll need everybody complying," he said.
Derek Chauvin, the now-former Minneapolis police officer who was taped kneeling on Floyd's neck in the moments leading up to his death, was arrested a day earlier and charged with murder in the third degree as well as manslaughter. But his arrest and the Friday night curfews put in place to tamp down on the chaos seemed to have failed to quell the rage that surges through the area.
And while many neighborhoods rallied to clean up businesses smashed in the frenzy, many more were set ablaze Friday evening, according to police radio reports.
The protests and riots come at a time when Minnesota and the U.S. are still reeling from the coronavirus pandemic. Many demonstrators are wearing masks and face covering but social distancing has gone by the wayside in a move that could further exacerbate the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by coronavirus.