In rebuke of city leadership, Gov. Tim Walz says state has taken over

State Patrol officers stand guard in front of a burned down apartment building on May 29 in Minneapolis. Law enforcement surrounded the area around the Minneapolis Police Third Precinct headquarters after riots broke out. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

Gov. Tim Walz said Friday he has taken over responsibility for the restoration of order in the Twin Cities in an extraordinary rebuke of city leadership. 

“The state is the lead element right now,” said Walz, who apologized for not communicating with the public Thursday night as fires torched buildings across the Twin Cities. “There will be no lack of leadership” tonight, Walz said. 

Walz was joined other state officials, including Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington, who called the death of George Floyd  — under the knee of Officer Derrick Chauvin — “murder.” 

A short time later, Chauvin was taken into custody and faces charges of murder and manslaughter, according to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. 

Walz acknowledged the nation and state’s long history of racial injustice but said the government needs to protect community assets. “The situation on the ground doesn’t allow us to tackle those issues,” he said, referring to racial injustice. “The very assets in our community, our libraries, our businesses, those nonprofits and government entities, our light-rail system, are all shut down from this. We have to restore order,” he said. 

Walz activated the National Guard Thursday, but their presence was largely unseen, including as the Third Precinct headquarters was burned to the ground. 

Attorney General Keith Ellison asked Minnesotans to accept the presence of the Guard for the sake of safety. “I hope that the community who is protesting, will protest peacefully but not see this as another occupation by a military force,” Ellison said. “I am asking that of our community.”

Lt. Gen. Jon Jensen of the Minnesota National Guard said he was given no clear orders from city leaders in Minneapolis and Saint Paul for much of Thursday, and said he did not have the legal authority to unilaterally order his soldiers into the cities.

Neither Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey nor St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter were in attendance. 

And in their absence, the state officials all but blamed them for doing nothing to quell the arson and looting that damaged and destroyed businesses, including many small, minority-owned businesses.

The finger pointing was an extraordinary schism in local DFL politics, as both cities have been critical in the party’s longstanding success in statewide races. 

Walz is suddenly facing a chorus of criticism from both Republicans in the Legislature and the media for Thursday’s lack of police presence and communication with the public.