MINNEAPOLIS — The Twin Cities area is headed into the night at the heels of elected officials and community leaders for peace. Blame spread as quickly as the flames after a night of unrest claimed multiple businesses that succumbed to fire.
Saturday, May 30 marked the fifth day of rallies and protests since George Floyd died in police custody Monday, May 25 after one of four arresting Minneapolis Police officers knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, captured on an eyewitness video. After days of peaceful demonstrations and destructive riots alike, government officials vowed today to crack down on later — some of whom they claim are being instigated by out-of-state groups bent on inciting violence.
Indigenous dancers perform at a rally Saturday afternoon at East Lake Street and East 31st Street Saturday. pic.twitter.com/d6WaA7kt43— John Molseed (@JMolseed) May 31, 2020
On Saturday, thousands attended a peaceful rally held outside of Minneapolis's Fifth Precinct police station, across from which a bank was burned a day earlier. Kurt Joseph, a Minneapolis activist, spoke to the crowd but turned around to face the precinct building, aiming his megaphone at police watching from the roof.
"Do you hear us?" Joseph asked. “No one body in this crowd has got a gun,” he said. "We’re not going to hurt you."
The area had earlier been center of a clash between demonstrators and police late Friday, May 29 and early Saturday morning. Further east down Lake Street, the Minneapolis Third Precinct building was heavily damaged by fire earlier in the week.
Area leaders expressed optimism about early crowd control efforts. Even with a weekend curfew in effect as of 8 p.m., local, county and state public safety agencies have already reported fires and arrests in different parts of the cities. Still, Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen, head of the Minnesota National Guard, said during Saturday's late night press event that the service branch is "in a position of strength."
Hundreds of police and National Guard soldiers pushed protesters west down Lake Avenue firing canisters of chemical irritant and rubber bullets into the crowd. But officials conceded during press appearances Saturday that local law enforcement failed to adequately respond to the frenzy.
Reinforcing them tonight are an estimated 2,5000 Minnesota National Guard airmen and soldiers who Gov. Tim Walz had deployed in the state's first full mobilization of the service branch. An additional 7,000 to 10,000 may yet be deployed, according to a Guard news release.
Walz and others said during a Saturday afternoon, May 30, press conference that they have reason to believe that some of the groups responsible for looting and fires reported in Minneapolis and St. Paul may have criminal ties. But late into the evening, officials were evasive about the source and validity of the intelligence that suggested outside groups are infiltrating demonstrations.
Walz said that he still believed the intelligence to be credible but left open the possibility that information collected during arrests made tonight may ultimately suggest otherwise.
Early in the evening Walz expressed their support for peaceful protesters and made a final appeal for them to stay at home overnight.
"I am asking each and every Minnesotan to be clear about this. These are not our neighbors. These are not the people that put in the work to build Lake Street, to build community," Walz said.
In anticipation of further unrest, local business owners throughout the metro area have boarded up shop throughout the Twin Cities area. Minneapolis, St. Paul and many surrounding suburbs instituted an 8 p.m. curfew on Saturday. The Minnesota Department of Transportation also announced major interstates and highways into the Twin Cities would close at 7 p.m. until 6 a.m. Sunday.
All four of the officers involved in the incident Monday, meanwhile, have been fired. One, Derek Chauvin, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter Thursday.
None of the other officers have been charged — all sources of anger for assembling crowds. Near the police station, Joseph urged the crowd to stay vigilant to fight for justice but to fight against impulses to destroy the community. He said agitators, most of them white, were causing most of the problems.
A constant vigil at the site where Floyd died has been free of serious violence or fires, which community leaders say is because people there are wary of outsiders and people are directing their anger toward change.
“It takes something other than what’s inside us as individual human beings,” said The Rev. Brian Herron, one of the people leading some of the vigils. Outside the Fifth Precinct building, Joseph also alluded to a bigger cause and urged the crowd to disregard the narrative that people were destroying their own communities.
However, he also directed blame toward racism within police departments across the U.S. “We’re standing amid a war zone that they started,” he said.
People work Saturday to help clean up outside a bank building that was burned Friday night near the Fifth Pricinct building in Minneapolis. pic.twitter.com/IZpVHZst00— John Molseed (@JMolseed) May 31, 2020
Rallies and demonstrations remained peaceful through much of Saturday afternoon but even people attending them said at the time that they were afraid what might occur after sunset despite the ongoing 8 p.m. curfew.