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'We Are In A Position Of Strength Tonight': Minnesota National Guard Aggressively Clears Streets; Neighbors Defend Minneapolis Businesses

  • Situation Stable, But We're Not Out Of The Woods Yet
  • "We Are In A Position Of Strength Tonight"
  • Heavy Law Enforcement Presence At 5th Precinct
  • WCCO Photographer Hit By Rubber Bullet, Arrested
  • Tear Gas, Rubber Bullets Used To Clear Out Protesters
  • Curfew Begins In The Twin Cities

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Never before has the Minnesota National Guard been fully mobilized to respond to a crisis in the state, but that is what happened Saturday night, with an unprecedented show of force that aggressively cleared the streets following three nights of unrest since the death of George Floyd.

"Tonight will be different," Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said Saturday evening, not long before the 8 p.m. curfew was set to begin and all major highways in the Twin Cities closed to traffic for the night.

RELATED: Ex-MPD Officer Charged With Murder In George Floyd's Death

Several times Saturday, the governor urged Minnesotans to stay home so that Minnesota National Guard soldiers, police and firefighters could more easily respond to any looting or fires in the metro. Leaders in the state's various religious and cultural communities also urged people to obey the curfew, which expires at 6 a.m. Sunday.

RELATED: MnDOT Announces Closures Of I-35W, I-35E, I-94, I-394 & Hwy 55 Beginning 7 p.m. Saturday

"If you are on the street tonight, it is very clear: You are not with us," Walz said Saturday evening. "You do not share our values. And we will use the full strength of goodness and righteousness to make sure that this ends."

About a half hour after the curfew started, Minnesota National Guard soldiers began firing tear gas, paint rounds and rubber bullets at the groups of protesters violating the curfew in Minneapolis' streets. Many protesters scattered as law enforcement advanced at nightfall. There was no sign of the restraint seen on previous nights. One video posted to Twitter showed law enforcement firing paint rounds at people sitting on their south Minneapolis porch.

WCCO cameras captured the aggressive tactics near the 5th Precinct in south Minneapolis, and on Nicollet Avenue, just south of downtown. There, WCCO photographer Tom Aviles was hit with a rubber bullet and arrested, although he identified himself as a member of the media, which are not subject to the curfew. Aviles was released from custody shortly before 11 p.m.

At a 10:30 p.m. press conference, Minnesota National Guard Gen. Jon Jensen told reporters that law enforcement officers are in a "position of strength" compared to Friday night, when fires burned across Minneapolis and looters raided several stores on the south side. Officials told reporters that several arrests were made Saturday night, although an exact number was not given. Most of the arrests were for violating curfew.

When asked about the arrest of the WCCO photographer, Minnesota Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell said it was "regrettable."

In neighborhoods across Minneapolis, small groups of people formed defences for businesses and communities. One group near the Little Earth community in south Minneapolis told WCCO that people are defending local businesses because the businesses don't have riot insurance. They also said that law enforcement allowed them to keep their watch amid the curfew.

At a press conference around 1 a.m. Sunday, Schnell said the overnight situation was mostly stable, and that Minnesotans could rest a little easier for the night.

"We're not out of the woods yet," he added. "We believe there is the potential for things to pop up, but we have resources that can respond to those and get on things quickly."

President Donald Trump tweeted Saturday night about the deployment of the Minnesota National Guard in the Twin Cities and criticized Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey for not deploying the citizen soldiers earlier. On Saturday, Frey defended the city's response to the unrest this week, saying that Minneapolis was simply overrun with rioters.

The mayor told WCCO late Saturday night that the aggressive approach from law enforcement was to "get our city back." Still, it remains unclear how long the Minnesota National Guard will be needed to keep the peace.

Across Minneapolis and surrounding cities, storefronts boarded up Saturday in anticipation of the fourth night of chaos and violence. Many of the barricaded stores bore spray-painted messages calling for justice for George Floyd, showing support for the protesters.

Floyd, a black man, died Monday after a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes. Floyd pleaded with the officer for mercy, repeatedly saying he couldn't breathe.

Floyd's death sparked protests across the country over police killings of unarmed black men. In the Twin Cities, many of the protests have been peaceful, including one in south Minneapolis on Saturday afternoon. The last several nights, however, have brought escalating violence, with ransacked gas stations and grocery stores, burned banks and restaurants, torched dumpsters, and explosives thrown at law enforcement officers.

RELATED: Officials Blame Differing Groups Of 'Outsiders' For Violence Across U.S.

The rioters are "domestic terrorists," the governor told reporters Saturday, adding that many of the people arrested so far have been from out of state. Earlier in the day, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter III said that all the people arrested in the Capital City on Friday were not from Minnesota. He corrected that hours later, noting that some of the rioters were locals.

Derek Chavin, the ex-Minneapolis police officer who pressed his knee into Floyd's neck, was fired Tuesday after cellphone video of fatal encounter spread on social media. On Friday, he was arrested and charged with manslaughter and third-degree murder.

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