The full Minnesota National Guard was activated for the first time since World War II after four nights of sometimes violent protests that have spread to other US cities following the killing of a Black man by a white Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his neck.
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz said the deployment was needed because outsiders were using the demonstrations over the death of George Floyd to spread chaos, and that he expected Saturday night’s protests to be the most intense so far.
Walz said he also considering the potential offer of federal military police, but he warned that even that might not be enough.
“We do not have the numbers,” Walz said. “We cannot arrest people when we are trying to hold ground.”
Walz blamed much of the destruction in Minneapolis on Friday night on well-organised, out-of-state instigators whose goal was to “destabilise civil society”.
He said he believed a “tightly controlled” group of outside agitators, some white supremacist groups and drug cartels were to blame for some of the violence in Minneapolis, but he did not give specifics when asked by reporters. He said as many as 80 percent of those arrested were from outside the state.
Minnesota National Guard General Jon Jensen said all the state’s guardsmen had been activated, and that 2,500 of them would be mobilised by noon. “It means we’re all in,” Jensen said.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon on Saturday ordered the army to put military police units on alert to head to the city on short notice at President Donald Trump’s request, according to the Associated Press news agency, citing three people with direct knowledge of the orders who did not want their names used because they were not authorised to discuss the preparations.
The death on Monday in Minneapolis of George Floyd has sparked demonstrations, some peaceful and some of them violent, in many cities across the nation, including one in Washington DC, on Friday.
From Minneapolis to New York City, Atlanta and Washington, angry protesters took to the streets over the treatment of minorities by law enforcement.
The demonstrations broke out for a fourth night despite prosecutors announcing on Friday that the policeman involved in Floyd’s death, Derek Chauvin, had been arrested on third-degree murder and manslaughter charges.
Graphic video footage taken on an onlooker’s cellphone and widely circulated on the internet shows 46-year-old Floyd – with Chauvin’s knee pressed into his neck – gasping for air and repeatedly groaning, “Please, I can’t breathe,” while a crowd of bystanders shouted at police to let him up.
Three other officers have been fired and are being investigated in connection with Monday’s incident, which reignited rage that civil rights activists said has long simmered in Minneapolis and cities across the country over persistent racial bias in the US criminal justice system.
In Detroit late on Friday, a 19-year-old man was shot dead at a demonstration by a suspect who fired from a sports utility vehicle then fled, local media reported. Police made no immediate comment.
Many of the protesters chanted, “No justice, no peace,” and some carried signs that read, “End police brutality” and “I won’t stop yelling until everyone can breathe”.
Thousands of demonstrators also filled the streets of New York City’s Brooklyn borough near the Barclays Center arena. Police armed with batons and pepper spray made scores of arrests.
In lower Manhattan, demonstrators at a “We can’t breathe” rally demanded legislation to outlaw the chokehold used by a city police officer in the 2014 death of Eric Garner, who was also Black.
White House demonstration
In Washington DC, police and secret service agents deployed in force around the White House before dozens of demonstrators gathered across the street in Lafayette Square.
President Donald Trump said early on Saturday that he had watched the protest from his window, and, if the demonstrators had breached the fence, “they would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen.”
“That’s when people would have been really badly hurt, at least,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Many Secret Service agents just waiting for action.”
Trump accused Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser of refusing to send police to help the US Secret Service, although the Washington Post reported that city officers did help control the later gathering.
The mayor’s office and the DC police did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
On Friday, Trump drew a warning from Twitter and condemnation from Democrats after posting a comment that “looting leads to shooting,” suggesting protesters who turned to looting could be fired upon.