Gov. Walz calls for full mobilization of the Minnesota National Guard; says many protesters from out of state

UPDATE 9:15 a.m. – Gov. Walz has called for the full mobilization of the Minnesota National Guard. Minneapolis Mayor Frey in a media briefing said that many protesters are from out of state. St. Paul Mayor Carter in the same media briefing said that all protesters arrested Friday night in to Saturday morning are from out of state.

Minnesota state officials addressed the continued violent protests in Minneapolis early Saturday morning and gave a bleak picture of the resources available to quell the ongoing arson and chaos in response to the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by a white police officer.

Gov. Tim Walz said the state is in the midst of the largest deployment of the Minnesota National Guard in state history. For context, he said the National Guard contingent currently working to get crowds of protesters under control is three times larger than the force deployed in the 1960s during the race riots.

Minnesota National Guard Adjutant Gen. Jon Jensen said the state was prepared to deploy 1,000 civilian soldiers; with even larger crowds expected Saturday afternoon, he estimated the force would likely be around 1,700 soldiers.

On Thursday, 500 National Guard soldiers and airmen were activated, and another 200 were activated Friday night, according to a release from the National Guard.

Officials said they underestimated the number of protesters who would be out.

"I will take responsibility for underestimating the wanton destruction and size of this crowd," Walz said.

Walz said the sheer scope of the chaos in Minneapolis, along with the time it takes to mobilize National Guard forces from across the state and the mobile nature of the crowds made it difficult to direct emergency forces.

"There’s simply more of them than us," he said.

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Walz said the activity Friday night and Saturday morning "resembles a military operation with ringleaders moving from place to place."

Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said groups of protesters were active in several sites throughout the city and that command had to direct forces to priority areas. He named the Minneapolis Police Department’s 5th Precinct at Nicollet Avenue and 31st Street as one such example.

"We simply did not have enough officers and personnel to meet all those missions safely and successfully," he said.

Earlier in the night, the federal Department of Defense alerted military police to be ready to deploy to Minnesota within four hours. Walz said he would work with the president to use federal resources if necessary to control what he called an "unprecedented threat to our state."

Walz thanked Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who also joined the news conference, for his efforts, specifically commending him for "executing together" with St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter.

Frey took the podium and expressed his sorrow at the state of his city.

"Minneapolis, I know you are reeling," Frey said. "Due to lack of sleep and heartbreak for seeing the events over the last couple of days, I’m reeling, too."

He closed his comments by urging Minneapolitans to stop the destruction and focus their energy toward peaceful demonstrations.

"I know in my heart that we can do it because I know in my heart that Minneapolis is everything we believe it to be," he said.