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Minnesota National Guard Soldiers Activated, Ready To Respond To Unrest In Minneapolis

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minnesota National Guard soldiers are on standby and prepared to respond to any civil unrest in Minneapolis, where tensions have risen since the fatal police shooting of a Black man in Uptown earlier this month and the death of a protester in the neighborhood over the weekend.

Lt. Col. Scott Hawks said Wednesday that 100 soldiers with the 257th MPs have been activated to respond to any unrest in the city. While the troops are not currently in Minneapolis, they are prepared to respond if needed.

The activation comes after Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey sent a formal request Wednesday to Gov. Tim Walz, asking that Minnesota National Guard assets be available to "assist in ensuring calm and order throughout the city."

The mayor specifically asked that the soldiers work in teams with Minneapolis police, focusing on property protection and traffic.

The city's Uptown neighborhood has experienced nights of protest since the June 3 shooting of Winston Boogie Smith Jr. According to investigators, deputies working in the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force shot him atop a parking ramp after he allegedly fired a gun inside a car.

The lawyer for the woman who was with Smith at the time disputes that, saying that she didn't see a gun on Smith or in the vehicle.

Tensions in the neighborhood spiked Sunday night, when an SUV plowed into a group of protesters, killing one woman and injuring three others. Nicholas Kraus of St. Paul was charged Wednesday afternoon with second-degree intentional murder for the death of 31-year-old Deona Knajdek, a mother of two.

Records show that Kraus has a suspended license due to multiple DWIs, and investigators believe he was intoxicated when he sped into the barricade protesters placed in the street, hitting a car and pushing into protesters.

According to a criminal complaint, the 35-year-old told police that he floored the gas pedal when approaching the barricade, thinking he could clear it.

Following Knajdek's death, protesters repeatedly set up more makeshift barricades in Uptown, blocking traffic in the area and forcing businesses to close. Police responded by tearing down the barricades only to have protesters erect them again.

Protesters say they want the busy Uptown intersection of Lake Street and Hennepin Avenue shut down to traffic, creating a space similar to that at 38th and Chicago in south Minneapolis, known as George Floyd Square.

The mayor said Tuesday that reopening the Uptown intersection is a matter of safety.

"We can't have a major commercial corridor like this shut down," he said. "We can't have unauthorized closure of our streets, period."

Smith's death is the latest fatal incident involving Black men and law enforcement in the Twin Cities. Last year, the murder of George Floyd sparked days of mass protest and nights of looting and arson. Since his death on May 25, 2020, George Floyd Square has been closed to traffic, even as the city has tried to reopen it in recent weeks.

In April, protests also erupted in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center, where an officer fatally shot 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop. The officer in that shooting, Kim Potter, is charged with manslaughter and has resigned.


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