Minnesota Governor Tim Walz urged an end to the violence over George Floyd’s death that has shut down libraries, businesses and the light rail system, as it was taking attention away from the institutional racism that led to another loss of life.
“We have to restore order to our society before we can start addressing the issues,” Walz said at a Friday press conference. “Before we turn back to where we spend our energy, making sure justice is served swiftly and making sure we learn something from what George Floyd gave on Monday.”
Days-long unrest in response to Floyd’s death turned violent as protesters and law enforcement clashed and looters entered hundreds of businesses in the area. On Thursday night, rioters set the Minneapolis Police Departments’ 3rd Precinct building on fire.
Walz activated the National Guard, and more than 500 soldiers were brought in to “provide safety and protection” to people in the Minneapolis area. Minnesota National Guard Adjutant General, Major General Jon Jensen, said troops were trained to “protect life, preserve liberty and ensure people’s right to peacefully demonstrate.”
The governor acknowledged during Friday’s press conference that it’s difficult for people to differentiate between the Minneapolis Police Department–where the four officers were employed–and the National Guard. As a white man, he said he wouldn’t patronize people of color by claiming to understand their experiences, but asked that everyone help them to “use a humane way” to restore the streets to a place where people who are demanding justice can be heard.
“It’s time for us to clean our streets. It’s time for us to execute today in a way that shows respect and dignity to communities. I’m going to ask a lot of help today of the folks that want to see it,” Walz said. “It is my expectation that justice for the officers involved in this will be swift, that it will come in a timely manner and that it will be fair.”
Pursuing justice for Floyd’s death and addressing the institutional racism that allowed him to be killed in broad daylight cannot be done as the situation on the ground stands now, Walz said. He acknowledged that there is immense amounts of pain and change is needed. But Waltz also said the looting and burning of the city was taking attention away from building a future for Minnesota and answering the tough questions.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison also urged people to not take the anger they have at the Minneapolis Police Department out on the National Guard. He reminded them that a week ago, members of the National Guard were helping with COVID-19 testing. “Please remember this is not the group that you associate with unfair conduct,” he said.
Newsweek reached out to the Minneapolis Police Department for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.
On Monday, officers were called to the scene after receiving a call that Floyd, a 46-year-old man, allegedly tried to use a fake $20 bill at a store. They arrived around 8 p.m. local time and handcuffed Floyd after asking him to get out of a car he was sitting in.
In a video posted on social media, Floyd is seen on the ground with his face pressed to the pavement as an officer, later identified as Derek Chauvin, presses his knee into the back of Floyd’s neck. Floyd repeatedly told officers he couldn’t breathe and when told by one of the officers to “get up,” the 46-year-old said, “I will, I can’t move.”
Officers called EMTS around 8:30 p.m., after Floyd stopped moving, and the 46-year-old was pronounced dead at the hospital an hour later.
All four officers–Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng–were fired from the Minneapolis Police Department on Tuesday. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey called it “the right call,” but their termination did little to squelch calls for justice.
Demands are mounting for the officers to be charged, and while officials have promised to deliver justice, they’re also urging people to be patient. Ellison told CNN on Friday that without an “airtight case” it could fall apart. And while Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman was appalled by the video, he said police brutality cases can be complex and he needs to be able to prove an officer violated a criminal statute.
Walz thanked God during the briefing that someone was on the scene with a camera to videotape the encounter.
“There isn’t a person here or listening today that wonders how many times that camera’s not there,” he said. “These are tough questions, these are things that have been brewing in this country for 400 years.”