MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It was the question asked repeatedly during the first days of the riots: where is the National Guard?
When the Guard showed up in force the Saturday after George Floyd’s death the violence eased dramatically.
On Thursday at a Republican Senate hearing, lawmakers challenged leaders about the timing on some of the decisions made early on.
In the hours after the Minneapolis third precinct fell, the number of National Guard troops the state was considering deploying jumped from just 200 to 700 — 700 is the number of guardsmen trained in civil disturbances.
“As bad as Thursday night was, I wasn’t quite comfortable with going to the governor and saying ‘hey let’s bring on less trained soldiers,” General Jon Jensen of the Minnesota National Guard said.
But just 24 hours later, after the fourth night of violence, the governor asked for the full deployment of more than 7,000 Guard troops. Republicans say that was too late.
“I question the wisdom of the decision-making process when the riots went on for five nights before a sufficient show of force was present,” Senator Scott Newman said.
Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said with the benefit of hindsight, he agrees.
“I don’t disagree with you that we absolutely should have brought people in sooner, that absolutely is the case,” Harrington said.
“I question whether you and the governor failed to recognize the threat to public safety in Minneapolis and St. Paul in time,” Sen. Newman said.
“It’s a fair criticism sir and I certainly respect the criticism,” Harrington said.
While Republicans pressed on the response to the riots, Democrats tried to push on why there had been no hearings on George Floyd’s death.
“We need to look as legislators what we can do to limit and reduce excessive use of force,” Senator Kari Dziedzic said.
Republicans say they are planning additional accountability hearings, but are still working on dates and potential witnesses.
Senators along with House Members are all expected back at the Capitol next week.