Military crackdown looms in Minneapolis to stop looters, fires and violence
Minnesota officials called out the state’s entire National Guard on Saturday for the first time since World War II to defend the Twin Cities against an onslaught of looting and violence that escalated this week following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police.
Some of the state’s 13,200 National Guard troops were still training, officials said, but more than 2,400 were expected to hit the streets Saturday night to prevent further destruction.
Hundreds of National Guard forces did little to quell unrest overnight as crowds ignored an 8 p.m. curfew and swarmed streets and the interstate, surrounded a police precinct, broke windows and looted businesses amid random gunfire. Residents on Saturday emerged to survey the damage, some roaming smoky neighborhoods with brooms as volunteer cleanup crews.
At a morning briefing, Gov. Tim Walz — an Army National Guard veteran — and city officials sought to distinguish between civil rights protesters angered by Floyd’s death and the suspects responsible for looting, fires and vandalism.
Crowds overnight included peaceful protesters carrying Black Lives Matter and Justice for George signs. Many were young people of various races who said they were upset not just by Floyd’s death, but by police brutality in the Twin Cities — just the type of crackdown officials planned late Saturday. Many wore masks to guard against COVID-19, blasted music from passing cars, chanted and created a street party atmosphere with drinking but few fights.
But the crowds also included masked bandits who looted and tagged buildings with anarchist slogans, calls to abolish the police and foment revolution. They walked streets largely free of police with impunity, toting bags and boxes of looted goods past homes where residents watched from their windows, sheltering in place. East Lake Street, a busy thoroughfare on the city’s south side, was blocked overnight by marches and then fires. Business owners — some armed — guarded properties as looters could be heard plotting and then repeatedly trying to break in.
“Everything that we believe in, they are trying to destroy,” Walz said, insisting that most were from out of town, including several dozen arrested overnight.
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, who is black, said rioters were using protesters “as human shields.”
“Just by virtue of being part of a crowd that people looking to destroy our communities can hide in, that is aiding these people,” Carter said.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who has been a target of President Trump’s criticism since protests began, likened officials urging residents to stay home to London during the Nazi’s Blitz of World War II.
“By being out tonight you are most definitely helping those who seek to wrong our city,” he said. “We can’t do it alone.”
The governor said he planned to hold a noon briefing with local civil rights and faith leaders.
“We have true demonstrations planned today,” he said, but stressed that an 8 p.m. curfew announced Friday and largely ignored would be strictly enforced. “If you are out after 8 p.m., you are aiding and abetting these folks and giving them the cover they want.”
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