Saturday, May 30, 2020
GOVERNOR BLAMES NIGHT OF ARSON AND LOOTING ON THE 'VISCERAL PAIN' SUFFERED BY THE BLACK COMMUNITY
In an unusually swift move, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman on Friday afternoon announced criminal charges against the Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd Monday – an act caught on video and seen around the world, turning Minneapolis and St. Paul into a tinderbox as angry demonstrators set a police station ablaze and looted and destroyed several businesses.
Derek Chauvin, 44, was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter four days after pinned his knee on Floyd's neck for several minutes at the intersection of E. 38th St. and Chicago Avenue as Floyd, who was handcuffed, told him he couldn't breathe. Bystanders also begged Chauvin and three other officers at the scene to relent, but their calls went unheeded as Floyd grew unresponsive and later died.
Freeman said a criminal complaint will be released later, but "I didn't want to wait any longer to share the news that he's in custody and charged with murder."
Three other officers involved in the detention were also fired, but they have yet to be arrested or charged.
Freeman explained that Chauvin was the first charged because "we felt it was important to focus on the most dangerous perpetrator. I must say this case has moved with extraordinary speed."
A somber Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz vowed to restore order Friday after what he termed the “abject failure” of a third night of protests and violence in response to George Floyd’s death in police custody, an incident that sparked looting and blazes across the Twin Cities.
The governor and the state’s top law enforcent officials acknowledged challenges in coordination and lines of command between various state, county and city agencies that led to delays and sometimes confusion in the response to a rampage that included the breach and fiery destruction of the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct headquarters Thursday night.
Jon Jensen, Adjutant General of the Minnesota National Guard, said there was a lack of clarity on the “mission” of the Guard in responding to the protests ahead of time. He had some concerns before soldiers were even dispatched. “We never got such mission description,” he said.
Walz, facing criticism over the lack of a visible police and Guard presence Thursday night as dozens of buildings in Minneapolis and St. Paul were burned or looted, called the episode “one of our darkest chapters.”
The night of destruction and urban unrest, unlike anything seen in the Twin Cities in decades, put the DFL governor and the city’s two mayors on the defensive about a response that many residents saw as shockingly slow and inadequate. Walz and other state and city leaders also came under criticism for their relative silence through much of the previous evening.
President Donald Trump, who spoke with Walz Thursday night, weighed in on the rioting, singling out Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey for a “total lack of leadership” and saying he would send in the federal troops to “get the job done right.”
Walz called Trump’s remarks, including a tweet threatening to shoot looters, as “unhelpful.”
He called for balancing the outrage over the violent protests with an understanding of the despair and lack of trust that led to them.
“What the world has witnessed since the killing of George Floyd on Monday has been a visceral pain, a community trying to understand who we are and where we go from here,” he said. “We have to restore order to our society before we can start addressing the issues, before we turn back to where we should be spending our energy: making sure justice is served.”
Nevertheless, Walz faced mounting criticism from Republicans calling for a more forceful response to the looters who dominated television images that brought the cities national attention.
Minnesota House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, raised concerns about the coming weekend. “There has been a disturbing lack of leadership and clear plan on how we’re going to prevent further chaos with the weekend approaching,” he said in a statement. “City and state leaders knew that there would be more looting and riots last night, but took no visible steps to prevent the destruction.”
Republican Party Chair Jennifer Carnahan said “Minneapolis is in a state of disorder.” “It’s traumatizing and scary and sad and depressing and devastating,” she said. “Our leaders @GovTimWalz and Mayor Frey have disappeared. How long will it take to undo this damage?”
Walz and Guard official indicated that they initially took their cues from local officials as to where to deploy and how.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey held a news conference shortly after 1 a.m. and said the decision to evacuate the 3rd Police Precinct in Minneapolis was his to protect the lives of officers and protesters.
“This is one of the most difficult situations that our city has been through,” he said. “I’m not going to stand up here to tell you that there are easy answers to it.”
Adding to the sense of confusion, Walz was forced to intervene early Friday in the State Patrol arrest of a CNN crew trying to cover the protests on Lake Street in Minneapolis. Walz publicly apologized to CNN President Jeff Zucker and the news media for the detention of the journalists, which was captured on live television.
They were among the only arrests seen during a night of widespread looting and arson. “I take full responsibility,” Walz said, calling the episode “inexcusable.”
Walz promised a more coordinated law enforcement response if disturbances continue into the weekend, when more protests are planned. Walz and some protest leaders called for demonstrations to remain peaceful. Officials hoped that the arrest Friday of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin in connection with Floyd’s death might help calm tensions.
State Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington called Floyd’s death at the hands of police a “murder” during a morning news conference with the governor. “That’s what it looked like to me.”
Democratic leaders in the Legislature had expressed frustration earlier about a news conference called Thursday afternoon by U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald and Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, where they promised a “robust” investigation but did not announce any charges.
“The county attorney needs to file charges and the officers must be arrested as soon as possible, House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler tweeted. “The case must be won, and legal standards met in order to get a conviction, but we need to have a clear statement that a murder trial is coming. Now.”