Walz activates Guard as Twin Cities tensions continue

People gather in the Midway Target parking lot Thursday.
People gather in the Midway Target parking lot Thursday.  |  Photo: KSTP-TV

Updated: May 28, 2020 04:44 PM

Gov. Tim Walz has activated the Minnesota National Guard as tensions remain high following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody on Monday.

Local leaders had asked the governor to activate the Guard to protect safety and maintain peace.  The Guard will work with local government agencies to provide personnel, equipment, and facilities. 

"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 in a news release.

Additionally, about 200 Minnesota State Troopers will assist in public safety efforts for the next several days.

Walz signed the order Thursday afternoon amid continued skirmishes.  St. Paul Police reported a fire at a T.J. Maxx store on University Avenue and asked the public to avoid the area.

"We continue to work to disperse the crowds, protect people and protect property. However, our officers continue to be assaulted and the area is not safe," police said on Twitter.

Earlier at the University Avenue Target store, police say a group of about 50 to 60 people attempted to overwhelm the store's staff. Police say the crowd dropped items and fled after being confronted by officers, but there was then a fight in the parking lot.

"The situation in our city right now is heartbreaking & rapidly devolving. I'm angry/sad as anyone & pushing for the officers who killed George Floyd to be arrested ASAP. Destroying places we rely on for jobs, food & medicine won't help us prevent it from happening again," St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter said on Twitter Thursday afternoon.

"Please stay home. Please do not come here to protest. Please keep the focus on George Floyd, on advancing our movement, and on preventing this from ever happening again. We can all be in that fight together," Carter said.

On Wednesday night, one person was killed in what police were investigating as a homicide amidst violence that included looting and setting fires.

Metro Transit is suspending bus and light rail service beginning Thursday afternoon. The U.S. Postal Service says it will not deliver mail nearly 60,000 homes and post office boxes in several Minneapolis neighborhoods.

"The safety of our employees providing this essential service is our highest priority," Postmaster William Jones said in a statement. "Our Postal Inspection Service will review the situation of current events daily and determine whether or not our employees are safe to deliver to these communities."

Elsewhere, Rosedale Center closed Thursday afternoon at the request of local authorities.  The Mall of America, which was already closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, sent some mall employees home Thursday afternoon and said it may not reopen June 1 as planned.

The St. Paul suburb of Maplewood also sent out a Tweet urging people to avoid retail areas "due to the potential for flash looting."

Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove said his department evacuated employees from several Twin Cities locations for their safety.

However, developments Thursday aren't all negative. KSTP-TV's Eric Chaloux reported that volunteers were helping to clean up damaged small businesses on Lake Avenue in Minneapolis, and Callan Gray reported that artists were working on a mural tribute to Floyd.

KSTP-TV and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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