Minn. governor fully mobilizing National Guard, blames out-of-state protesters for violence

State officials said that around 80 percent of those arrested in the Twin Cities on Friday had come from outside Minnesota

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By Phil McCausland

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said Saturday that he would fully mobilize the Minnesota National Guard for the first time since World War II to bring an end to the "wanton destruction" protests that he blamed on protesters from outside the state.

The state had pulled together 700 troops on Friday for the protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in police custody.

But it was not enough, Walz said. By noon on Saturday, Walz said that 2,500 guardsman would be activated, noting that it was "nothing short of a blessing" that no one had yet been killed in the violence.

Full coverage of George Floyd’s death and protests around the country

In Minneapolis on Friday night, demonstrators ignored a curfew and vows of a forceful police response to take to the streets for a fourth straight night. Banks, gas stations and even a post office were destroyed.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said Saturday that protests which were peaceful earlier in the week have now turned toward "wonton destruction and chaos."

Demonstrations that descend into violence are not about "George Floyd's death or inequities or historical traumas to our communities of color," the governor said.

That led to his decision to mobilize the National Guard as well as ongoing conversations with Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

"Our tactics again are to try and reduce loss of life and restore order," he said.

Friday's chaos, Walz said, had "made a mockery" of George Floyd's death and the protests were no longer about inequality and dangerous policing practices.

Joined by the mayors of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Walz appeared angry at times in response to the disorder.

"Our great cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are under assault by people who do not share our values, who do not value life and the work that went into this and are certainly not here to honor George Floyd," the governor said. "They need to see today that that line will stop and order needs to be restored."

The mayor of St. Paul said that while that city was quieter Friday night than the previous night, he has been told that all of those arrested were from out of state.

State officials said that around 80 percent of those arrested in the Twin Cities on Friday had come from outside Minnesota

While "there's a group of folks that are sad and mourning" about Floyd, Mayor Melvin Carter said, "there seems to be another group that are using Mr. Floyd's death as a cover to create havoc."

A protester adds materials to a fire of a building that once housed a check cashing business May 30, 2020, in St. Paul, Minn.John Minchillo / AP

John Harrington, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, said there were approximately 40 arrests across St. Paul and Minneapolis on Friday night. He said some of those protesting had been linked to white supremacist groups and organized crime.

"We will always respect everyone’s First Amendment rights, but those rights stop at the end of a Molotov cocktail thrown into an open business," Harrington said. "Those rights stop at the point that you loot the liquor store in the neighborhood."

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State and local leaders were working in cooperation with the federal government to attempt to identify those people and organizations aiming to cause "chaos," officials said.

"The people that are doing this are not Minneapolis residents," Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said. "They are coming largely from outside the city outside the region to prey on everything we have built."

Frey also emphasized that the nation is still in the grips of the coronavirus pandemic as the protests rage, and that these crises had stacked on top of each other.

He said that he hoped that everyone would abide by the city's curfew on Saturday night. Otherwise, residents might provide "cover" to those who aim to cause damage.

"By being out tonight you are most definitely helping those who seek to wrong this city," he said.