MINNEAPOLIS — Tensions continue to mount on night three of sustained demonstrations across the Twin Cities metro following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
While most of the protests have been peaceful, both honoring the late Floyd and the social justice movement, some factions have left vandalism, fires and looting in their wake.
People rioting have breached the Minneapolis Police Department's Third Precinct and set the building on fire as of reports coming in around 10:30 p.m. Thursday night.
Minneapolis Police Spokesperson John Elder said in a statement that they had evacuated staff from the building due to safety concerns shortly after 10 p.m.
According to Elder, "Protesters forcibly entered the building and have ignited several fires."
Reporter Danny Spewak described the facility surrounded by flames on Twitter.
The City of Minneapolis put out a tweet Thursday warning citizens to stay away from MPD's Third Precinct building, citing unconfirmed reports of cut gas lines and explosive materials in the building.
Weighing in on Twitter, President Trump blamed the emergent social disturbance on a lack of local leadership, and threatened to send in the federal National Guard unless the city was brought under control.
The president went on to tweet, "These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!"
In a 1 a.m. press conference Friday morning, Frey said rioting posed an imminent threat to the safety of the officers and staffers within MPD's Third Precinct, forcing him to make the decision to evacuate the compound.
“Symbolism of a building cannot outweigh the importance of life or the public,” Frey said. “We could not risk serious injury to anyone … brick and mortar is not as important as life.”
The Mayor went on to say that the people of the Third Precinct could continue to expect to see a police presence, and that public safety services and resources to the public would remain intact.
However, he went on to say that progress during this crisis would not come from the government alone. “We additionally need help from the community. We need to make sure that people are looking out for our city right now. It's not just enough to do the right thing for yourself. We need to make sure that all of us are upholding the ideals that we stand by.”
Although the mayor acknowledged the pain and frustration in recent days, he made it clear, the devastation is unacceptable. “What we have seen over the past couple of nights in terms of looting is unacceptable. These are businesses. These are community institutions that we need. These are banks that people rely on to get cash, grocery stores that people rely on to get food … We need to ensure that they are protected.”
Frey said this is one of the most difficult situations the city of Minneapolis has ever been through, and that Minneapolis would pull through with a united front, stating both his chief of fire and chief of police have his 100% support.
Earlier in the day, people had gathered at the intersection of 38th and Chicago in downtown Minneapolis at the scene of Floyd's death. In one location, Minneapolis artists worked to paint a mural of Floyd.
"Hopefully, it’s a reminder that this should never happen again, and people need to step up in every way that they can to stand up against these corrupt systems," said Xena Goldman, one of the artists.
In Minneapolis, a powerful moment occurred. An entire crowd just went silent, took a knee and raised a fist in remembrance of George Floyd.
Elsewhere, shopkeepers and business owners were forced to clean up in the wake of vandalism and fires that were reported throughout the Twin Cities.
In one of the many examples, Gus from Augie’s in downtown Minneapoils off Hennepin Avenue told KARE 11 protesters shattered a door to the BuzzMart despite their pleas. Luckily he says they, and some of the crowd, deterred anyone from entering.
Business owners along Lake Street in south Minneapolis spent Thursday cleaning up debris and boarding up windows after a night of protests, fires, looting and damage.
Some business owners in south Minneapolis spent the previous night trying to protect their businesses from looters. Thursday night as more destruction spread, some businesses placed signs in their windows letting people know they were a minority-owned business.
In the wake of mounting tension, Governor Tim Walz announced Thursday he had signed an executive order to activate the Minnesota National Guard at the request of local leadership.
Executive Order 20-65 authorizes the guard to work with local government agencies to provide "personnel, equipment and facilities" to help respond to the present emergency, according to a news release put out by the governor's office.
“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,” said Governor Walz.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced Thursday that he had asked Walz to activate the guard to help local law enforcement, as protests escalated into violence and looting overnight Wednesday.
In a statement put out on the Minnesota National Guard's Twitter handle, Major General Jon Jensen said, "We are ready and prepared to answer the Governor's request. We are currently in process of assigning and preparing units to respond."
The press release also states nearly 200 Minnesota State Patrol troopers, along with State Patrol helicopters and fixed wind aircraft, will be at the disposal of state, county and local community public safety agencies.
According to the release, the state's response will be conducted from the State Emergency Operations Center. Already activated under the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the site will now serve the dual task of helping to coordinate public health needs, as well as addressing safety issues surrounding the evolving tensions in Minneapolis.
Frey and other city officials held a news conference earlier Thursday to address protests and unrest happening across Minneapolis.
“The emotion-ridden conflict over last night is the result of so much built-up anger and sadness," Frey said. "Anger and sadness that has been ingrained in our black community, not just because of 5 minutes of horror, but 400 years.”
Frey said that in the coming days there will be an all-out effort to restore peace in the city.
City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins stepped to the podium and said people have rights to express their anger, but should not do so by causing violence.
"We need peace and calm in our streets and I am begging you for that," Jenkins said. "I have spent the last 41 years as a resident of this city and this is my home. And we cannot allow outsiders or our own Minneapolitan residents to destroy our city. So we want to work together to ensure that people have their voices heard in a safe manner. And that's my commitment."
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said he cannot allow criminal acts to threaten the safety of the city. He said he wants to create safe spaces for people to gather and grieve the death of George Floyd.
"I know that our community is in trauma and that they are trying to find ways to heal," Arradondo said. "Even prior to Mr. Floyd's death we have had a community that has been in trauma for quite some time. What I cannot allow as chief is for others to compound that trauma."
Arradondo said most people gathered peacefully but that there were groups of people who were causing destruction.
"The vast majority of people that have come to gather have done so peacefully," Arradondo said.
He added that there were people involved in the overnight unrest who did not appear to be local.
"There were certainly people who were involved in the activities last night who were certainly not recognized as being part of the city."
Mayor Frey added that businesses that were looted and damaged are "staples in the community."
"But more important, in the time of a pandemic they are essential for community needs," he said.
Multiple buildings, including businesses, homes and a construction site were engulfed in flames Thursday morning as fire crews across Minneapolis worked to contain the blaze.
The Minneapolis Fire Department says 911 logs show engines responded to approximately 30 fire events during the unrest along East Lake Street, including at least 16 that involved structures on fire. During those responses engines and equipment suffered damage from rocks and other objects thrown at them.
Minneapolis fire personnel remain on scene Thursday putting down active fires and remaining hot spots.
Fires broke out at businesses in the area of Lake Street after demonstrations following the police-involved death of Floyd turned chaotic. An AutoZone, a Cub Foods, and an apartment complex under construction were reportedly among the structures impacted by the fires. St. Paul Police spokesman Steve Linders confirmed that approximately 40 St. Paul officers had been deployed to protect and aid Minneapolis firefighters trying to put down the fires.
Reports of looting and property damage began Wednesday night, as a peaceful protest following the death of George Floyd turned "from bad to worse," according to KARE 11's Deevon Rahming, who was on scene for a number of hours.
A spokesman for Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey confirms that the mayor has requested the assistance of the National Guard to help regain control of the situation.
In other developments, multiple reports say the Rev. Jesse Jackson is headed for Minneapolis, and is expected to hold a news conference around 1 p.m. The Rev. Al Sharpton posted on his Twitter account that he is headed for the Twin Cities as well.
Earlier Wednesday, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo urged people observing or participating in protests to do so with safety in mind.
Arradondo says he is supportive of peaceful demonstrations, but says a small minority of those out on the streets are not focused on that, and emphasized that his department will not allow the safety of city residents to be jeopardized.