Minnesota Governor Tim Walz has called in National Guard units after law enforcement failed to “provide safety” in Minneapolis as furious protests over the police killing of George Floyd erupted into vandalism, arson and looting.
Meeting an earlier request from the city’s mayor to bring the situation under control, the Guard was activated on Thursday in the wake of intense street confrontations and chaos the night prior, which saw a number of businesses burned down and destroyed and at least one man killed, reportedly a looter.
“Unfortunately, some individuals have engaged in unlawful and dangerous activity, including arson, rioting, looting, and damaging public and private property,” the governor’s office said in an executive order, stressing the need for “peaceful demonstrations.”
“These activities threaten the safety of lawful demonstrators and other Minnesotans, and both first responders and demonstrators have already been injured.”
Largely peaceful demonstrations kicked off on Tuesday near the location of Floyd’s killing, but by Wednesday night had escalated into full-blown riots in the area around the 3rd police precinct headquarters. The events inspired similar actions in nearby St. Paul and even beyond the state, with heated protests staged in California and Mississippi as well.
In anticipation of further unrest, the Twin Cities public transit network – encompassing Minneapolis and St. Paul – has been shut down, including its light rail system and bus services. While Thursday has yet to see the same level of turmoil as the previous day, minor skirmishes between police and demonstrators have broken out at a St. Paul Target, with additional reports of looting in broad daylight.
Floyd was killed in police custody on Monday, with his final moments alive captured on film, showing him pinned to the pavement with an officer’s knee to his neck as he repeatedly complained of trouble breathing. Protesters, as well as Floyd’s family members, have demanded the four officers involved in the killing be tried for murder, some vowing to continue demonstrating until that demand is met. Though the officers have since been fired and the Department of Justice is now looking into the case, no charges have yet been filed.