Over 500 National Guard soldiers activated to amid protests regarding George Floyd's death; Frey declares state of emergency in Minneapolis

Smoke rises as fires rage after violent protests Thursday morning in Minneapolis. Photo: KSTP/Ashley Zilka. Smoke rises as fires rage after violent protests Thursday morning in Minneapolis.

Updated: May 28, 2020 11:21 PM
Created: May 28, 2020 03:58 PM

The Minnesota National Guard is being called on to help contain protests in the Twin Cities after a violent past two days after George Floyd's death.

Gov. Tim Walz signed Executive Order 20-65 on Thursday, activating the Guard to help protect Minnesotans and maintain peace. A release from Walz's office says local leaders have requested National Guard resources after extensive damage during protests the past two days.

The Guard confirmed more than 500 soldiers will respond to St. Paul, Minneapolis and surrounding communities.

The Guard tweeted that it was assisting the Minneapolis Fire Department as the Minneapolis Police Department's 3rd Precinct burned Thursday night.

Mayor Jacob Frey of Minneapolis declared a state of emergency earlier Thursday giving him more flexibility to respond to the ongoing protests, KSTP has confirmed. The emergency order will remain in effect until Sunday night. 

It's the first time the National Guard has been activated for a civil disturbance since 2008 when Gov. Tim Pawlenty deployed 300 troops to control riots outside the Republican National Convention.

The National Guard Adjutant General will work with local government agencies to provide personnel, equipment, and facilities needed to respond to and recover from this emergency, according to the news release.

Police issuing dispersal orders in St. Paul as crowds grow

About 200 Minnesota State Patrol troopers will also assist in public safety efforts over the next several days.

The order also declares a peacetime emergency, which activates the State Emergency Operations Center.

"It is time to rebuild. Rebuild the city, rebuild our justice system, and rebuild the relationship between law enforcement and those they're charged to protect. George Floyd's death should lead to justice and systemic change, not more death and destruction. As George Floyd's family has said, 'Floyd would not want people to get hurt. He lived his life protecting people.' Let's come together to rebuild, remember, and seek justice for George Floyd," said Walz.

"As Governor, I will always defend the right to protest," he continued. "It is how we express pain, process tragedy, and create change. That is why I am answering our local leaders' request for Minnesota National Guard assistance to protect peaceful demonstrators, neighbors, and small businesses in Minnesota."

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"The anger and grief of this moment is unbearable," added Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. "People deserve to be seen. People deserve to be heard. People deserve to be safe. While many Minnesotans are taking extensive safety precautions while exercising their right to protest, the demonstration last night became incredibly unsafe for all involved. The purpose of the National Guard is to protect people, to protect people safely demonstrating, and to protect small business owners."

The Minneapolis Fire Department stated firefighters responded to roughly 30 "fire events," including at least 16 structure fires during protests along Lake Street Wednesday night into Thursday morning.

Protests at various parts of the metro continued throughout the day Thursday.

Pictures and videos showed people damaging police cars. St. Paul Police Department tweeted that officers had rocks, liquor bottles and bricks thrown at them in the area of the Target on University Avenue.

Several businesses closed, services halted amid ongoing protests

Several businesses also closed and services halted due to ongoing protests and concerns over the possibility of others.

The Adjutant General of the Minnesota National Guard also released a message Thursday night on the National Guard's Facebook page saying, in part, "The events in our community over the last few days have been deeply troubling and I know many of us are frustrated and angry. I share your outrage and concern."

You can read the full post below.

To the Soldiers and Airmen of the Minnesota National Guard,

The events in our community over the last few days have been deeply troubling and I know many of us are frustrated and angry. I share your outrage and concern.

To those in our organization who feel unseen, I want to re-iterate my commitment to creating an organization that values every person's unique background and experience. I truly believe diversity makes us stronger and I welcome continued conversation about how we can do a better job of fostering a more inclusive environment. The State Equal Employment Office stands ready to assist service members with addressing concerns around discriminant behavior and the overall inclusivity of the force.

For those who wish to express their first amendment right to assemble, I urge you to do so safely and peacefully. Please be aware of your surroundings and be mindful of your personal security, as well as the security of those around you. The last thing we want to do is add to the violence in a community that is already hurting.

If you are out in the community engaged in demonstrations, it is important that you do so as a private citizen and not a representative of the Minnesota National Guard. You should not be in uniform, or in any way identifying yourself as a member of the Minnesota National Guard.

The Minnesota National Guard is being called upon to assist the city of Minneapolis to protect human life and property and to ensure citizens are able to demonstrate safely. We train for this mission and we have an opportunity to come into this terrible situation and provide a calm, professional response for our fellow Minnesotans. I'm proud of the work we do and the community we represent.

-- MG Jon Jensen, The Adjutant General of the Minnesota National Guard

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