500 National Guard Members Sent to Twin Cities
By Danny R. Johnson, and Roberto Arrington, Minneapolis based Freelance Journalist
MINNEAPOLIS–Minneapolis is in the midst of a third night of unrest in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, with protesters taking over the police department’s 3rd Precinct building late Thursday night.
The break-in happened at about 10 p.m. and was led mainly by a sophisticated and well-organized groups of majority White young people. Helicopter footage showed a large fire burning near the main entrance precinct. Police released a statement, saying in part, “in the interest of the safety of our personnel, the Minneapolis Police Department evacuated the 3rd Precinct of its staff. Protesters forcibly entered the building and have ignited several fires.”
The Minnesota National Guard announced about 40 minutes later that 500 soldiers are in Minneapolis, St. Paul and surrounding suburbs to “protect life, preserve property and the right to peacefully demonstrate.” St. Paul also became the target of looters and fires Thursday evening, with several blazes reported in the city. Thousands of young and diverse groups of Whites and other people of color gathered in downtown Minneapolis early Thursday evening at the Hennepin County Government Center to demand justice for Floyd, before marching down Marquette Avenue.
Peaceful protesters made their way down Nicollet Mall, where several businesses boarded up their first-floor windows, including Target, JB Hudson Jewelers and Haskell’s Wine and Spirits. Jack Farrell, Haskell’s president, says they respect the protest, but if their business gets looted or damaged, he’s not sure if they’d be able to recover — especially in light of their revenue loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This could be the death knell for downtown Minneapolis,” Farrell said.
By about 9 p.m., tensions began to flare up between protesters and law enforcement near the light rail station off 5th Street and Hennepin Avenue.
Some of those protesters took to Interstate 35W just before 10 p.m., leading to the closure of the Washington Avenue exit.
In south Minneapolis, police say there was a shooting at about 8:30 p.m. at the Walgreens pharmacy on the 3100 block of Lake Street, just a few blocks down from the 3rd Precinct protest site.
Within the hour of the shooting, MaX It PAWN shop near the 3rd Precinct erupted in flames.
Earlier, the Target store near the 3rd Precinct, which was looted Wednesday night, became another chaotic focal point, with dozens of people gathered in the parking lot. A car was set on fire just after 7 p.m. Looting spread to St. Paul beginning early Thursday afternoon, with businesses being targeted along University Avenue in the Midway neighborhood. Police have been clashing with looters and protesters for hours. The looting expanded throughout the city Thursday evening, with Grand Avenue businesses in peril. By 8 p.m., there were reports of several fires in the Capitol city.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order Thursday afternoon to activate the National Guard to “to help protect Minnesotans’ safety and maintain peace in the wake of George Floyd’s death.” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey also declared a local emergency late Thursday.
Several businesses in the Twin Cities closed down and boarded up in anticipation of continued riots and looting, including Mall of America and Rosedale Center. Metro Transit announced the suspension of all buses and light rail operation through the weekend.
Protests outside of Minneapolis Police’s 3rd Precinct building Wednesday night turned into a fiery, deadly riot, with dozens of businesses along East Lake Street looted. At least 15 fires were intentionally set in the areas, including at an AutoZone store, a Wendy’s restaurant and an affordable housing complex that was under construction. All three completely burned down.
Police and rioters exchanged rubber bullets and tear gas canisters with a variety of projectiles. Rioters targeted officers, the 3rd Precinct building and squad cars. Businesses several miles west on Lake Street also reported looting, including in Uptown’s densely packed business district along Hennepin Avenue.
An East Lake Street pawn shop owner is now in police custody after allegedly shooting a suspected looter to death during Wednesday night’s chaos.
Forty-six-year-old Floyd, an African American, died Sunday night outside of Cup Foods, near the intersection of East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, after former officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, knelt on his neck for more than seven minutes.
The store’s owner told WCCO he called 911 on Floyd because he had attempted to buy a pack of cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. The owner says he has offered to pay for Floyd’s funeral services.
Protesters also gathered for a third day outside Chauvin’s Oakdale home. Six people were arrested outside his residence Wednesday night for unlawful assembly.
Chauvin was fired Monday by Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, along with the three other officers involved: Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng. Thao was seen standing between Chauvin and bystanders who were recording the encounter, while Lane and Kueng helped restrain the handcuffed Floyd, who repeatedly said he could not breathe.
Several lawmakers and politicians, including Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, have called for the arrest of all four officers and the swift filing of criminal charges. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced early Thursday evening that he was not ready to do so.
“We’re going to investigate [Floyd’s death] as expeditiously, as thoroughly and completely as justice demands,” Freeman said. “Sometimes, that takes a little time and we ask people to be patient. We have to do this right.”