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Minnesota mobilizes state’s entire National Guard amid violence

Minnesota is mobilizing its entire National Guard as the state braces for more protests in Minneapolis over George Floyd’s death. The ongoing protests turned violent on Friday for a fourth night after thousands of demonstrators set cars and buildings on fire, looted local businesses and fired at law enforcement. Minnesota Public Radio reporter Matt Sepic joins Hari Sreenivasan for more.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Good evening and thank you for joining us.

    States and cities across the country are preparing for more demonstrations, calling up National Guard units and considering the federal government's offer to deploy active duty troops after violent protests last night.

    Demonstrations spread after the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nine minutes.

    That officer is now charged with third degree murder.

    Many legal and peaceful gatherings continued today to grieve and demand justice for Floyd and for others.

    But last night, demonstrators set fires, smashed windows, and attacked police officers in many places and officials say in some cases "outsiders" are behind the violence.

    NewsHour Weekend's Megan Thompson begins our coverage in Minneapolis where George Floyd died last Monday.

  • Megan Thompson:

    Cleanup began this morning in Minneapolis after violence rocked the city for a fourth straight night.

    Thousands of protesters took to the streets last night, in defiance of an 8 P.M. curfew, setting buildings and cars on fire, looting local businesses and firing on law enforcement.

    Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was charged yesterday with murder and manslaugher in the death of George Floyd. Floyd died after Chauvin kneeled on his neck during an arrest on Monday. Three other officers involved are still under investigation. Despite Chauvin's arrest, the rioting escalated overnight.

    Police, state troopers and 700 National Guard troops tried to calm the chaos while firefighters worked to contain the blazes.

    Minnesota governor Tim Walz and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey held a press conference at 1:30 in the morning, pleading with protesters to stop.

    Gov. Tim Walz , Minnesota: I'm deeply concerned with the people. You need to go home, you need to go home. This is not about George's death, this is not about inequities that were real. This is about chaos being caused.

  • Mayor Jacob Frey, Minneapolis:

    There is no honour in burning down your city. There is no pride in looting.

  • Megan Thompson:

    This morning governor Walz announced a full mobilization of the Minnesota national guard – activating another 1,000 troops – the largest domestic deployment in the state's history.

    Gov. Tim Walz , Minnesota: Our great cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are under assault by people who do not share our values. Who do not value life and the work that went into this. And are certainly not here to honor George Floyd.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Matt, you were out in the streets last night. What did you see?

  • Matt Sepic:

    Utter chaos. I walked for many miles throughout the Lake Street area in south Minneapolis, which has been the heart of the unrest here in the city. There were fires everywhere a very light law enforcement presence for most of the evening.

    Later on, some National Guard troops were finally able to get through to assist and protect firefighters who were putting out a gas station fire, one of many fires burning in structures along Lake Street.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    What do we know about the people who were responsible for this? What are authorities saying now?

  • Matt Sepic:

    At a news conference this morning, Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter said the number of people that they arrested last night were all from out of town. Governor Tim Walz, Minnesota, says that the demonstrations have moved from legitimate protests and civil disobedience to out and out rioting that has nothing to do with protesting the murder, in his words, of Mr. George Floyd.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Give me an idea of the neighborhoods where this is happening. Who lives there? What's it like for people who are not familiar with the city?

  • Matt Sepic:

    Lake Street is a very diverse area, working class, many immigrant businesses, many people of color. A lot of restaurants. There's a large Hispanic community, Latino community that lives along Lake Street, and much of it now is destroyed. A lot of these businesses that have taken generations to be built are gone in a night of rioting.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Have you seen the size of the peaceful portions of the protest stay the same, increase, decrease the type of people who are coming?

  • Matt Sepic:

    They appear to be the same. There was a protest just before sunset before the curfew yesterday on Interstate 35 W through downtown Minneapolis St. Marks. They closed down the freeway, as you have seen, in past protests, and that dispersed and people walked away.

    And on Thursday evening, there was a similar protest outside the Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis demanding the prosecution of the police officers involved. Again, that was a peaceful protest, the actions that you're seeing with looting and rioting, the governor, other authorities here say this is a separate group of people.

    Many of them do not live here, and they're coming in to foment chaos because they see the tension that has built and the anger that has built following the death of George Floyd.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Matt, give me an idea of the size of the crowds versus the size of the police forces that are trying to contain them.

  • Matt Sepic:

    Governor Tim Walz said in an overnight news conference that police, the National Guard, the Minnesota State Patrol, were vastly outnumbered by looters and rioters who were on the streets. They just did not have the personnel to focus on all of the places that they needed to focus on, to deal with the large numbers of people who were coming into town to foment chaos.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Matt Sepic, Minnesota Public Radio, thanks so much for joining us.

  • Matt Sepic:

    You're welcome.

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