Minnesota Gov. Walz pledges justice for George Floyd as protests move into second day

A protester stands near Chicago Avenue and 38th Street in south Minneapolis at the intersection where police detained George Floyd. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer

Gov. Tim Walz condemned the death of George Floyd — a day after protests erupted at Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct Tuesday night — saying he too shared the frustration with Black Minnesotans who are once again seeking justice for one of their own.

“Watching any of the video of what happened to George Floyd and then watching citizens come out last night, I, too, share that urge of just a primal scream of when you watch humanity erased in front of you,” Walz said in his first in-person remarks about the in-custody death of Floyd, broadcast live on Facebook Monday evening as the Memorial Day weekend was winding down. “It is almost inexplicable how you respond.”

It was another of anguish, angry protest and condemnation, as Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey called for the arrest of Derek Chauvin, who could be seen on video with with his knee in Floyd’s neck just before his death. 

Joining Walz were Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, who appeared by video feed, Attorney General Keith Ellison and Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington.

“My heart aches for Mr. Floyd’s family and friends,” Walz said, pledging a comprehensive review of the incident by local, state and federal authorities. 

Walz, the first-term DFL governor, spoke in measured terms about the case, saying he did not want to unduly inflame tensions or prejudice the investigation. 

“I want to be incredibly careful that anything I say from this office does not jeopardize a fair journey towards justice,” he said. “So while my personal emotions are real, and I’ll validate them, I also trust that our system of justice is predicated on exactly that: a fairness for everybody involved.”

The strongest words came from Ellison, a former congressman for Minnesota’s 5th District, and Flanagan.

“The reason that there’s so much outrage connected to it is because it is part of a larger pattern,” Ellison said. “We can talk about Jamar Clark or Philando Castille, but we can go all the way back to Rodney King. We can go back to my city that I grew up in, Detroit, Michigan.”

He added: “What we’re dealing with is not an isolated case. We’re dealing with a systemic problem.”

Flanagan, a former member of the Minnesota House, said “no one should be treated differently by law enforcement due to the color of their skin, and no one should live in fear of law enforcement because of the color of their skin.”

As protests at the 3rd Precinct moved into their second night, Ellison urged protestors to remain civil after dramatic standoffs with police officers Tuesday night. Officers fired tear gas, marking rounds and other projectiles to disperse protestors, some of whom were seen defacing police vehicles at the station. 

Demonstrators at the precinct on Wednesday included Audy Morris, a 38 year old St. Paul resident who demanded reforms like requiring that police officers live in the city that they work. 

The Star Tribune reported in 2017 that just 8% of Minneapolis police officers lived in the city, with many living in suburban cities like Anoka, Andover and even Hudson, Wisc. 

 “We need community police officers,” Morris said. “We don’t need officers who have no stake in our community. It’s easy to kill a kid that they don’t know. But it’s harder to kill a kid if you know his momma lives around the corner from you.”

Tamika Rogers, also of St. Paul, joined the demonstration in the Longfellow neighborhood Wednesday night, saying she watched Tuesday night’s protest unfold online through social media. 

“I have eight kids that I’m concerned about when I leave this earth,” she said. She  hopes to see peace and understanding arise from Floyd’s death. 

Minnesota has been here before. 

In November 2015, Minneapolis police shot and killed Jamar Clark, touching off weeks of protests that became an encampment at the Fourth Precinct in North Minneapolis. Officers 

Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze would not be charged, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced five months later in March 2016.

That July, the death of Philando Castile was captured for the entire world on Facebook Live. Falcon Heights police officer Jeronimo Yanez fired seven shots at Castille at close range, striking him five times. Yanez was charged in November 2016, and acquitted by jury the following summer. 

Though state officials have not yet officially identified the officers, media reports have named them as as Derek Chauvin; Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J Alexander Kueng

The four officers involved in Floyd’s death were fired Tuesday, and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey on Wednesday called for Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman to charge Chauvin. 

Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.
Max Nesterak
Max Nesterak is a reporter for the Reformer focusing on labor and housing. Most recently he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.
Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens is a data reporter with the Reformer. Rilyn is a Minnesota native and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.