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Breaking: Walz activates National Guard to control rioting in Twin Cities; Update: Mass transit shuts down

Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey had made the request earlier. The spread of attacks into Saint Paul’s Midway probably convinced Tim Walz to finally make the call. The governor issued an executive order authorizing the National Guard to impose order on the streets in the wake of rioting the last two days, an offshoot of protests over the death of George Floyd while in police custody:

Gov. Tim Walz has signed an executive order activating the Minnesota National Guard “to help protect Minnesotans’ safety and maintain peace in the wake of George 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. As George Floyd’s family has said, ‘Floyd would not want people to get hurt. He lived his life protecting people.’ Let’s come together to rebuild, remember, and seek justice for George Floyd,” Walz said.

Walz also issued a peacetime emergency order to allow for greater coordination:

The National Guard Adjutant General will work with local government agencies to provide personnel, equipment, and facilities needed to respond to and recover from this emergency, according to the news release.

About 200 Minnesota State Patrol troopers will also assist in public safety efforts over the next several days.

The order also declares a peacetime emergency, which activates the State Emergency Operations Center.

The plan — thus far — is to allow for peaceful demonstrations while keeping a lid on everything else. “As Governor,” Walz said in his statement, “I will always defend the right to protest.” Walz claimed that the National Guard and state trooper will be on hand to protect the protestors just as much as the surrounding businesses. Just how realistic is that plan, though? Once violence starts, police will have to disperse the crowds in order to put an end to it, or even attempt to corral it.

Until this afternoon, the demonstrations and the violence had mainly been concentrated in the Seward neighborhood. Just a couple of hours ago, however, “flash” attacks on police cars in the Midway retail area of Saint Paul began occurring, over four miles away from Minneapolis PD’s 3rd Precinct:

St. Paul police are asking people to avoid parts of the city as crowd sizes increase Thursday. …

Meanwhile, dozens of people tried to loot the Midway Target in St. Paul Thursday.

According to St. Paul Police, a group of 50 to 60 people tried to overwhelm the store’s staff. However, police arrived and confronted the group, and the people then dropped the items they’d grabbed and fled. …

The group also attempted to go into nearby small businesses but were stopped by police.

KSTP has the video from their traffic helicopter, and one of the people in the chopper wonders aloud why the National Guard hadn’t yet been deployed:

That turned out to be a pretty good question.

The city of Maplewood, which is 13 miles to the east of the precinct, warned its citizens not to go to retail outlets either. That is well into the suburbs, not just from Minneapolis but even St. Paul. If they’re worried about this, then …

In a tweet, the Maplewood Police Department warned that “Due to the potential for flash looting in Maplewood, Police are urging people to avoid retail areas until further notice.”

St. Paul police dispatched about 40 officers to aid Minneapolis firefighters battling scattered blazes throughout the south side Wednesday night. Those officers since have returned to St. Paul.

Suburban malls and businesses in Roseville and Maplewood closed Thursday afternoon in anticipation of looters. Target in Roseville closed midafternoon, with one employee saying looters had already attempted to break in.

Police squads, lights on, barred entry into parking lots at both Rosedale and Maplewood malls. Visitors pulled up to storefronts expressing confusion and frustration when they were denied entry.

In other words, batten down the hatches for tonight. Fortunately, our hatches have mostly been battened down anyway, thanks to the COVID-19 restrictions. The National Guard has its work cut out in this instance; perhaps the best we can hope is that this gives an opportunity for cooler heads to prevail before more people end up dead.

Update: This might help quiet things down for tonight:

All bus service throughout the Twin Cities was suspended at 4 p.m. Thursday, joining the halting of light rail lines earlier in the day in anticipation of upcoming demonstrations, a Metro Transit spokesman said.

The extraordinary move came after two days and nights of sometimes violent unrest that has persisted since the death of George Floyd at a Minneapolis intersection after he was pinned by the neck by a police officer.

While transit spokesman Howie Padilla declined to attribute the suspensions solely to the street violence, “obviously, we take into consideration whatever situations call for, and if we have to err on the side of public safety for riders and employees, we’re going to do that.”

It was necessary to impose the shutdown beyond Minneapolis and St. Paul, where the vast majority of the unrest has occurred, because “this is not limited to any single geographic area,” Padilla said.

When will it restart? They’re, um … not saying yet. The only mass transit still running are trains to the airport and the last evening train to the northern suburbs, probably just to ensure most people can get back home for the night.

Update: I guess people could still drive to the protests or riots, but … that’s easier said than done, as our colleague Julio Rosas showed us earlier:

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