MN National Guard Says They Had No Clear Direction As They Were Deployed Thursday Evening

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — After a third night of riots in the Twin Cities caused destruction in both Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz says “the world is watching” and order needs to be restored.

On Friday morning, Walz addressed the continuing unrest alongside other state officials, including Major General Jon Jensen of the National Guard.

Walz began the press conference by saying, “The chapter that’s been written this week is one of our darkest chapters,” and acknowledged the pain and emotion being felt across the world — and in Minnesota.

The press conference came shortly before it was announced that fired officer Derek Chauvin was taken into custody in connection to the George Floyd’s death. Reaction from state leaders on the arrest is expected throughout the day.

The following is what occurred prior to the arrest announcement at the morning news conference:

“Our community, especially our black community, is hurting beyond words, Minneapolis and St. Paul are on fire. We failed to hear George Floyd as he pleaded for his life while the world watched, by people sworn to protect the people of our community and our state,” Walz said. “And now generations of pain is manifesting itself in front of the world, and the world is watching.”

Walz says that tackling issues of trust with the black community is being hindered by the “situation on the ground”.

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“We cannot have the looting and recklessness that went on,” he said. “It’s time for us to clean our streets.”

When asked if martial law should be considered, Walz responded by saying, “Certainly, all those tools are there.”

RELATED: Violence Spans Twin Cities: 3rd Precinct Overtaken & Burned, CNN Reporter Arrested

Late Thursday night, about 500 soldiers from the Minnesota National Guard arrived in the Twin Cities to “protect life, preserve property and the right to peacefully demonstrate.” Walz earlier signed an executive order to activate the National Guard.

Attorney General Keith Ellison, who was also at the news conference, stressed that the National Guard is “not the same group” that the protesters are angry with, and just last week they were doing work to help out during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Major General Jon Jensen of the Minnesota National Guard said there was no clear direction as soldiers were deployed in the evening hours.

“What traditionally comes with the request is the layout of capability needed and exact the problem trying to be solved,” Jensen said. “Typically the request for the guard and that type of information come at the same time, sometimes it lags.”

Jensen said while they knew roughly what they had to do, the element of clear direction was “lacking”.

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“I was very concerned about being asked to move to an unfamiliar area of Minneapolis under the cover of darkness,” he said.

Jensen said soldiers eventually had missions to protect the State Capitol, assist the Minnesota State Patrol and Minneapolis firefighters.

As far as a plan for Friday evening, Walz says the state will lead in the response and “there will be no lack of leadership” during the day’s demonstrations.

“If [the local response] would have been executed correctly, the state would not lead on this,” Walz said.

A plan is expected to be released in the afternoon.

When asked about Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey’s decision to abandon the 3rd Precinct, Walz said he was informed on the decision but did not agree with it.

Despite criticism of the local response, Walz did say that Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter “are doing everything they can in a situation that is unprecedented.”

After daybreak Friday, soldiers, accompanied by the Minnesota State Patrol, began clearing people out of the area around the 3rd Precinct. Around 6 a.m., troopers arrested a black CNN correspondent, Omar Jimenez, and his crew as they reported on the unrest in city live on air. A white correspondent nearby was not arrested, the network said.

CNN reported that Jimenez was released before 7 a.m. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz personally apologized to the network’s president, accepting full responsibility.

“There’s no reason this should have happened,” Walz said. “I’ve failed you last night.”

Walz says protecting journalists covering the scene is crucial because they’re the key to ensuring the issues being protested are fixed.

Both Walz and Ellison stressed that the George Floyd case must be carried out quickly and fairly, with Ellison saying, “the wheels of justice must turn swiftly.”

Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington also spoke, and issued strong words on George Floyd’s death, calling it a “murder.”

“That’s what it looked like to me,” he said. “I’ll call it as I see it.”

Harrington also spoke on riots, saying officers will not be deployed to stifle free speech, “but we cannot allow unlawful behavior.”

The death of Floyd has ignited unrest and outcry across the country.

Walz said he spoke with Reverend Jesse Jackson Friday, who like Valerie Castile, said a prayer for the state of Minnesota.

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