Updated: June 01, 2020 06:30 PM
Created: June 01, 2020 12:04 PM
Gov. Tim Walz on Monday provided an update on the state's response to civil unrest and protests, and also implemented a new curfew order.
Walz said for Monday and Tuesday, a curfew will be in place from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
He noted that some peaceful protesters have remained out past the curfew the past two nights but appreciated how they respected law enforcement's orders and also how law enforcement allowed those who remained peaceful to continue mourning George Floyd's death.
"It was gratifying to see how citizens approached it and how our law enforcement officers approached it," Walz said.
Walz also praised the work law enforcement has done the past two nights, restoring order to the Twin Cities after a few violent nights prior.
Semi drives into crowd on I-35W
The governor also touched on the semi that barreled onto Interstate 35W where protesters were marching on the closed down highway. Walz said he thought he was going to witness dozens or hundreds of people killed and was thankful nobody was injured. Walz said authorities had closed the highway but it closed in sections and the driver went around the closure before braking when he saw the crowd. That driver was taken into custody.
Walz also noted the driver said protesters were protecting him after he stopped. "I think that speaks volumes," Walz said.
Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said they've determined the driver of the semi had turned onto I-35W before crews had closed that portion of the road. Authorities have determined the driver was speeding, he saw the crowd initially, and "it looks like he panicked," Harrington said. After the driver saw someone fall in front of him he slammed on the brakes. Harrington said the driver has been interviewed and the investigation remains ongoing. However, it isn't believed that the man tried to drive into the crowd to hurt protesters.
"We don't have any information that makes this seem like it was an intentional act," Harrington said.
Harrington also said officials are working to go through various reports that are circulating on social media about the protests and violence. He said there are at least two confirmed reports of vehicles without license plates being stopped and they're still working through many more unconfirmed reports. With evidence being collected, Harrington said he's hoping they'll eventually be able to specifically confirm or deny who's causing the violence, where they're from and if they're part of some group.
Thus far, Harrington said a majority of the people arrested in protests have been from Minnesota.
Second phase of 'Stay Safe MN' begins
With more businesses able to reopen Monday as part of the second phase of the "Stay Safe MN" order, Walz touched briefly on COVID-19.
"Minnesota, this is our chance," the governor said.
While noting this is a time for people to get outside and enjoy restaurants and summer activities, Walz urged people to maintain social distancing and continue to follow health guidelines, such as wearing a mask.
Walz also asked protesters to pay attention to their own health and to isolate if they experience symptoms of COVID-19.
National Guard partially demobilizing
Adjutant General of the Minnesota National Guard, Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen, said Monday the National Guard has been given approval for partial demobilization, meaning part of their forces will begin to pack up and return home. However, many will remain activated and continue to help keep peace in the Twin Cities.
Jensen the same number of soldiers on the ground Sunday night in Minneapolis and St. Paul will remain there for an unspecified amount of time, even as they begin to let some Guardsmen return home. He added that if the situation worsens again, they may be reactivated, but as they demobilize part of the unit, the number of on the ground soldiers in Minneapolis and St. Paul won't change.
He noted that the National Guard is the last agency called in to help with law enforcement because they aren't a normal law enforcement agency. With that, they're the first out, and because the full Guard was mobilized over the weekend and the work over the weekend, they're just starting to try to get back to a normal state.
According to Jensen, after the Guard was activated and deployed, the level of violence didn't continue to escalate as it had been. Because the Guard was fully activated over the weekend to handle the violence, they created a capacity that wasn't needed because they stabilized the situation in the Twin Cities.
"I don't think any citizen of Minnesota wants thousands of Guardsmen to be sitting in their armory away from their homes, away from their families, away from their employers, just waiting for what we believe and what we hope is a downturn on violence," Jensen said.
He noted that's also why the curfew was lowered from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. to the new order Walz announced Monday — 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. Jensen said citizens responded to pleas from law enforcement and government officials to stay inside and stop the violence, and now they can start to respond accordingly.
He added that not letting unneeded Guardsmen return home would be "wasteful."
Officer fires at vehicle overnight
Authorities also talked about an incident Sunday night when a vehicle drove at officers.
Jensen said it happened at about 9:48 p.m. near Washington Avenue and I-35W. A vehicle moving at a high rate of speed drove at Guardsmen and police officers.
Jensen said initial questioning indicates authorities used verbal and non-verbal signals to get the vehicle to stop but it continued driving at them. Non-lethal methods were then used to try to slow the vehicle but it continued at a high rate of speed. Finally, a soldier fired three rounds to try to stop the vehicle, which then changed course and fled the scene.
An investigating officer has been assigned as is the case all times a weapon is discharged by an officer, Jensen said.
Community begins moving forward
Jensen also talked briefly about the community and its willingness to readily help clean up from some of the destruction that occurred in the past week.
"We've seen the devastation of a community and we've seen great citizens," Jensen said, adding that the National Guard is proud to be a small part of those helping to clean up and start rebuilding.
As for moving forward, Walz noted many fundamental changes are needed and, "It's going to be a long road."
"We will be defined by how we respond to what happened to George Floyd last Monday night," Walz said.
After restoring peace to the Twin Cities, the state will now start to take the first step in a long journey toward making that change a reality.
Copyright 2020 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company