ST. PAUL — The state took over the effort to restore order in the Twin Cities early Friday, May 29, after looters broke into or burned down dozens of businesses as protests around the death of George Floyd continued into their third day.
Gov. Tim Walz on Friday told reporters that local officials in each city called upon the state for help in securing Minneapolis and St. Paul on Thursday as looters broke into and stole from hundreds of stores and set fires to dozens of structures. He said the strained communication between state and local agencies and delay of city officials calling for backup an "abject failure."
Walz said National Guard leaders weren't called in to assist Minneapolis police until after officers evacuated the Third Precinct because it was overrun.
The governor and Minnesota National Guard Adjutant Gen. Jon Jensen said guardsmen and the State Patrol were called in to help officers in Minneapolis at 12:15 a.m. Friday and were onsite around 3 a.m. There wasn't a clear plan or directive as to how they should respond initially, Jensen said. And while Jensen prepared to send in guardsmen during the day Thursday to assist local officers, that call didn't come until much later.
"We never got such mission assignment. We never got such mission description," Jensen said. "I can't just march my soldiers into Minneapolis and say this is what Jon Jensen believes we need to do."
Republican lawmakers in the state and President Donald Trump in the early hours of Friday morning called on the state to step in. And they criticized Walz for not stating more publicly what officials were working on behind the scenes.
“Above all else, this is a failure in leadership,” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, told reporters. “And that leadership falls on Gov. Walz’s shoulders.”
Walz on Friday said he was confident National Guard, State Patrol, Department of Natural Resources and other local agencies would be able to restore order to the two cities over the weekend.
The governor said he would take responsibility if widespread looting and arson fires continued into the weekend and on Friday afternoon.
"We cannot have the looting and the recklessness that went on. We cannot have it because we cannot function as a society," Walz said. "My top priority now is the immediate security to make sure what happened the last 48 hours does not happen tonight."
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter on Friday imposed a curfew in the area Friday night and Saturday night beginning at 8 p.m. and running through 6 a.m. to deter additional break-ins. Gov. Tim Walz issued an executive order for the two cities implementing the curfew and setting a $1,000 fine or 90 days in jail penalty for those found traveling that aren't going to work, seeking medical care or are exempt by working in law enforcement, health care, journalism or government.
The comments came moments before the Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington returned to reporters after the news conference had ended to announce the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension had taken one of the former officers involved in the incident into custody. Derek Chauvin, the officer shown kneeling on Floyd's neck in a viral video, was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter Friday.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said investigations into their involvement were ongoing. The four police officers involved at the scene Monday were fired Tuesday.
Walz and other members of his cabinet on Friday also noted the potential tension in bringing in additional law enforcement officers to monitor protests when the actions of a police officer sparked their anger, frustration and trauma. Attorney General Keith Ellison said protesters should associate guardsmen with the work they've done helping administer COVID-19 tests to underserved communities and not connect them to Minneapolis police.
"This is not the group you associate with unfair conduct but is a group that was just a week ago was trying to make sure Minnesotans could survive," Ellison said.