MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Protesters are defying curfew orders in Minneapolis early Saturday morning, and firefighters are trying to put out several business and brush fires throughout the city during the fourth night of unrest after the death of George Floyd.
Gov. Tim Walz addressed the media at about 1:30 a.m. at the State Emergency Operations Center about the growing danger.
"This is not grieving, and this is not making a statement … this is life-threatening, dangerous to the most well-qualified forces to deal with this," Walz said. "This is not about George's death. This is about chaos being caused."
Walz said the largest civilian deployment in the state's history is underway -- three times the size of what was in place during the race riots of the 1960s. Gen. Jon Jensen, head of the Minnesota National Guard, said 1,700 soldiers are prepared to be in Minneapolis Saturday.
A couple hours earlier, the Associated Press reported that the Pentagon had been ordered to prepare troops to be sent to the Twin Cities, a move said to be rare in nature. Officials say U.S. Army soldiers are able to arrive within four hours.
John Harrington, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, said state leaders have intel that may point to agitators -- including white supremacist groups and drug cartels -- possibly playing a role in the anarchy.
Officials said 350 total law enforcement members were on the ground early Saturday morning, but they were grossly outnumbered by protesters and rioters.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey joined the governor, general and commissioner at the press conference, where he also urged rioters to go home.
"If you care about your community, you've got to put this to an end. It needs to stop," Frey said. "You're not getting back at the police officer that tragically killed George Floyd by looting."
The Minneapolis Fire Department took to Twitter late Friday night to assure the public that they're working hard to keep up with the myriad fires. Firefighters were only able to work at scenes with the protection of law enforcement. The owner of the Fade Factory barber shop off West Broadway Avenue and North 24th Avenue told WCCO's Erin Hassanzadeh that when his business went up in flames Friday night, he called 911 and was told something to the effect "we'll add you to the list."
One night after Minneapolis Police's 3rd Precinct building was overtaken and burned down, demonstrators converged about four miles west at and near the 5th Precinct building late Friday night.
At about 11:30 p.m. Friday, law enforcement and the National Guard began slowly moving towards the 5th Precinct en masse in a show of force along Lake Street. National Guard loud speakers announced that arrests will be made if protesters do not disperse.
Tear gas was dispatched into the crowd soon after. Just after midnight, there were reports of shots fired at law enforcement members, but no one was injured in that incident. DPS officials said as of 12:20 a.m., several protesters had been arrested. Ninety minutes later, they confirmed that several officers had been injured by rioters.
At about 10 p.m., a couple hundred protesters began stopping traffic on Interstate 35W. Some four hours later, only looters remained, bringing traffic to a standstill, and targeting semi trucks full of goods.
The gathering at the 5th Precinct started out peaceful, but by 11 p.m. a Wells Fargo branch nearby was looted and set on fire. Looters also breached a boarded-up gas station across from the precinct.
By about 11:25 a.m., fire spread from the Wells Fargo to a post office. The Hibachi Buffet down the block also erupted in flames soon after.
Just before 1 a.m. Saturday, rioters began to set fires to dumpsters, trash bins, furniture and other items on several residential blocks near the 5th Precinct building, moving burning items into the middle of the street. Some neighbors grabbed fire extinguishers and garden hoses to try to put them out before they spread further.
Earlier, protesters taunted members of the Minnesota State Patrol as they held a line near the torched 3rd Precinct right before the 8 p.m. curfew took effect.
Dressed in full riot gear, troopers did not budge, but as soon as guard members appeared, protesters were warned they were in violation of the governor's executive order.
The crowds then followed the National Guard west down Lake Street. All along, the crowd was hit with tear gas, but they continued to move and follow the solders.
The scene was chaotic, with law enforcement spraying tear gas into the crowds, while protesters threw water bottles, and some drivers sped dangerously down Lake Street, with passengers hanging out of the vehicles and throwing projectiles.
Those in violation of the curfew, which lasts from 8 p.m. til 6 a.m. until further notice, can face a misdemeanor charge, which entails 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. St. Paul and several suburbs also instated curfews Friday. St. Paul, which saw dozens of fires and almost 200 buildings looted and damaged Thursday, was relatively quiet Friday, with most residents following Mayor Melvin Carter's orders.
The Minneapolis City Council will hold an emergency meeting Saturday at 12:30 p.m. to discuss Mayor Jacaob Frey's local emergency declaration.
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