Na­tional Guard re­sponds to vi­o­lence in Twin Cities

Calm urged af­ter black man’s death in po­lice cus­tody

Orlando Sentinel - - Front Page - By Tim Sul­li­van and Amy For­l­iti

MIN­NEAPO­LIS — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz called in the Na­tional Guard on Thurs­day as loot­ing broke out in St. Paul and a wounded Min­neapo­lis braced for more vi­o­lence af­ter ri­ot­ing over the death of a hand­cuffed black man in po­lice cus­tody re­duced parts of one neigh­bor­hood to a smok­ing sham­bles.

The Min­neapo­lis un­rest rav­aged sev­eral blocks in the Longfel­low neigh­bor­hood, with scat­tered ri­ot­ing reach­ing for miles across the city. It was the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive night of vi­o­lent protests fol­low­ing the death of Ge­orge Floyd, who gasped for breath dur­ing a Mon­day ar­rest in which an of­fi­cer knelt on his neck for al­most eight min­utes. In footage recorded by a by­stander, Floyd can be heard plead­ing that he can’t breathe un­til he slowly stops talk­ing and mov­ing.

An­other protest was an­nounced for Thurs­day night near county of­fices in down­town Min­neapo­lis. Some stores in Min­neapo­lis and the sub­urbs closed early, fear­ing more strife. The city shut down its light-rail sys­tem and planned to stop all bus ser­vice out of safety con­cerns.

Around mid­day Thurs­day, the vi­o­lence spread a few miles away

to a Tar­get in St. Paul’s Mid­way neigh­bor­hood, where po­lice said 50 to 60 peo­ple rushed the store at­tempt­ing to loot it. Po­lice and state pa­trol squad cars later blocked the en­trance, but the loot­ing then shifted to shops along nearby Univer­sity Av­enue, one of St. Paul’s main com­mer­cial cor­ri­dors, and other spots in the city.

St. Paul spokesman Steve Lin­ders said au­thor­i­ties have been deal­ing with un­rest in roughly 20 dif­fer­ent ar­eas through­out the city.

“Please stay home. Please do not come here to protest. Please keep the fo­cus on Ge­orge Floyd, on ad­vanc­ing our move­ment and on prevent­ing this from ever hap­pen­ing again. We can all be in that fight to­gether,” St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter tweeted.

Walz called for wide­spread changes in the wake of Floyd’s death.

“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,” Walz said.

By Thurs­day morn­ing in Min­neapo­lis, smoke rose from smol­der­ing build­ings in the Longfel­low neigh­bor­hood, scene of the worst vi­o­lence. In a strip mall across the street from the po­lice’s 3rd Precinct sta­tion, the fo­cus of the pre­vi­ous night’s protests, the win­dows in nearly every busi­ness had been smashed, from the large Tar­get depart­ment store at one end to the Planet Fit­ness gym at the other. Only the 24-hour laun­dro­mat ap­peared to have es­caped un­scathed.

“WHY US?” de­manded a large ex­panse of red graf­fiti scrawled on the wall of the Tar­get. A Wendy’s restau­rant across the street was charred al­most be­yond recog­ni­tion.

“We’re burn­ing our own neigh­bor­hood,” said a dis­traught Deona Brown, a 24-year-old woman stand­ing with a friend out­side the precinct sta­tion, where some protesters were shout­ing at a dozen or so stone-faced po­lice of­fi­cers in riot gear. “This is where we live, where we shop, and they de­stroyed it.”

“What that cop did was wrong, but I’m scared now,” Brown said.

But oth­ers in the crowd saw some­thing dif­fer­ent in the wreck­age.

Protesters de­stroyed prop­erty “be­cause the sys­tem is bro­ken,” said a young man who iden­ti­fied him­self only by his nick­name, Cash, and who said he had been in the streets dur­ing the vi­o­lence. He dis­missed the idea that the de­struc­tion would hurt res­i­dents of the largely black neigh­bor­hood.

“They’re mak­ing money off of us,” he said an­grily of the own­ers of the de­stroyed stores. He laughed when asked if he had joined in the loot­ing or vi­o­lence: “I didn’t break any­thing.”

The protests that be­gan Wed­nes­day night and ex­tended into Thurs­day were more vi­o­lent than Tues­day’s, which in­cluded skir­mishes be­tween of­fices and protesters but no wide­spread prop­erty dam­age or loot­ing.

Mayor Ja­cob Frey ap­pealed for calm. “Please, Min­neapo­lis, we can­not let tragedy beget more tragedy,” he said on Twit­ter.

Protests also spread to other cities. In Cal­i­for­nia, hun­dreds of peo­ple protest­ing Floyd’s death blocked a Los An­ge­les free­way and shat­tered win­dows of Cal­i­for­nia High­way Pa­trol cruis­ers. Mem­phis, Ten­nessee, po­lice blocked a main thor­ough­fare af­ter a racially mixed group of protesters gath­ered out­side a po­lice precinct. The sit­u­a­tion in­ten­si­fied later in the night, with po­lice don­ning riot gear and protesters stand­ing shoul­der-to-shoul­der in front of of­fi­cers sta­tioned be­hind a bar­ri­cade.

Amid the vi­o­lence in Min­neapo­lis, a man was found fa­tally shot Wed­nes­day night near a pawn shop, pos­si­bly by the owner, au­thor­i­ties said.

Fire crews re­sponded to about 30 in­ten­tion­ally set blazes dur­ing the protests, in­clud­ing at least 16 struc­ture fires, and mul­ti­ple fire trucks were dam­aged by rocks and other pro­jec­tiles, the fire depart­ment said. No one was hurt by the blazes.

There was no sign of po­lice at the de­stroyed shop­ping cen­ter, though a cou­ple dozen were out­side the precinct house. One man stand­ing out­side the build­ing was us­ing a bull­horn to shout. “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe. Mama, I can’t breathe,” re­peat­ing some of Floyd’s pleas for re­lief.

Across from the precinct, some­one had spray-painted the side­walk in red: “Where’s hu­man­ity?”

Floyd, 46, died as po­lice ar­rested him out­side a con­ve­nience store af­ter a re­port of a coun­ter­feit bill be­ing passed. The U.S. At­tor­ney’s Of­fice and the FBI in Min­neapo­lis said Thurs­day that they were con­duct­ing “a ro­bust crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion” into the death and mak­ing the case a pri­or­ity. The an­nounce­ment came a day af­ter Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump tweeted that he had asked an in­ves­ti­ga­tion to be ex­pe­dited.

The FBI is also in­ves­ti­gat­ing, with a probe fo­cused on whether Floyd’s civil rights were vi­o­lated.

The of­fi­cer who knelt on Floyd and three oth­ers were fired Tues­day. The next day, the mayor called for him to be crim­i­nally charged.

Frey ap­pealed to Gov. Tim Walz to ac­ti­vate the Na­tional Guard, a spokesman con­firmed Thurs­day. The gov­er­nor’s of­fice did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment. Walz tweeted for calm Wed­nes­day night, call­ing the vi­o­lence “an ex­tremely dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion” and urg­ing peo­ple to leave the scene.

The last time the Minnesota Na­tional Guard was called out to deal with civil un­rest was in a backup role dur­ing the 2008 Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion in St. Paul. The most com­pa­ra­ble sit­u­a­tion to the cur­rent dis­tur­bances hap­pened when the Guard was called up to deal with the ri­ots in Min­neapo­lis in 1967, a sum­mer when anger over racial in­equal­i­ties came to a boil in many cities across the coun­try.

The Minnesota Na­tional Guard was also called out dur­ing protests against the Viet­nam War in the 1960s and early 1970s and dur­ing a 1986 strike by Hormel meat­pack­ers in Austin.

JENN ACKERMAN/THE NEW YORK TIMES PHO­TOS

Peo­ple gather at Cup Foods on Thurs­day in Min­neapo­lis near where Ge­orge Floyd was de­tained by po­lice.

Xena Gold­man helps paint a mu­ral of Floyd on the side of Cup Foods.

JENN ACKERMAN/THE NEW YORK TIMES

Res­i­dents gather Thurs­day around a makeshift me­mo­rial to Ge­orge Floyd in Min­neapo­lis.

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