In first interview since deployment, head of Minnesota National Guard sees BLM as a ‘humanitarian movement’ the guard stands for
The man in charge of leading the Minnesota National Guard says his troops will forever be connected to the Black Lives Matter movement and will now consider the ongoing peaceful protests a humanitarian issue, not a political one.
Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen made the remarks during his first sit-down interview since the guard was called on to help calm one of the most chaotic stretches in Minnesota’s history.
“I believe I’m connected to George Floyd because of what my organization was asked to do. And as a result, I’m now partially responsible for the changes that we are going to make in Minnesota and in the country,” Jensen said during a wide-ranging interview with 5 INVESTIGATES.
The activation of the Minnesota National Guard on May 28 started with just a few hundred troops to support local law enforcement. But it turned into a full mobilization as the violence and unrest escalated in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
Armed soldiers and airmen embarked on a total of 47 missions during the largest domestic deployment in the guard’s history.
“What we’ve been able to do is help move the conversation from the streets of Minneapolis and St. Paul into the appropriate place. The appropriate place for these discussions is in the halls of our government,” Jensen said.
But before the discussion reached the halls of government, the world watched as the government became overwhelmed.
The first night the Guard was activated did not go exactly as planned. Troops embarked on four specific missions that night mostly in St. Paul, but Jensen said instructions came late from Minneapolis city leaders.
“My question was to do what? Give me a task and we’ll work through that. Look, I knew that the city of Minneapolis was very busy that night… but without proper tasking from the mayor of Minneapolis, I have no authority to just come into the city,” Jensen said.
In an email, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo told 5 INVESTIGATES that the city understood the process of communicating with the guard and that MPD had been working that afternoon to develop the mission.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has also acknowledged that city resources were overwhelmed.
“As the governor himself has repeatedly stated, no city could have handled this crisis on its own and we were grateful for the partnership and support from the state,” Frey said in a statement.
Once the violence finally began to fade, the missions for the National Guard evolved into more of a support role for protestors who were peacefully demonstrating.
Some soldiers were seen taking a knee in solidarity and Jensen said the experience has forever changed the Guard.
“I think as it relates to Black Lives Matter, we allowed people to make that a political issue and we, too, willingly agreed that it was a political issue and we were unwilling to stand up for the values of our organization and say, Black Lives Matter. So we have to be very careful and not let other people define our narrative. Define what our values mean to us. And if you look at BLM as a humanitarian statement and not a political statement, it fits exactly into the department of defense and what we stand for,” Jensen said.