Army Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen, the head of that state’s Guard, told reporters in a recent call that federal authorities on May 28 notified Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz about the threat. Jensen said Walz approved arming the Guard in response to the warning and that troops were now carrying ammunition on their persons.
“Our soldiers are currently carrying ammunition in their magazine pouches,” Jensen said, according to Military.com. “We don’t talk about rules of engagement,” he said, adding that troops, as a rule, “cannot greatly exceed the force” with which they may be threatened.
Jensen also said he didn’t see the need for immediate deployment of federal active-duty troops.
“At this time, we have not asked for the Department of Defense to give us active-duty forces to support this operation,” he said, adding that if violent protests continue, there may come a call for help from National Guard units in other states in the form of military police.
At least 4,400 people have been arrested nationwide as peaceful protests expressing grief and anger over the police custody death of George Floyd have in many cases been marred by looting, violence, and arson.
Struggling to cope with the civil unrest, local law enforcement was reinforced by around 5,000 members of the National Guard, which deployed to 15 states and Washington, according to Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau.
“The hardest mission we do is responding in times of civil unrest,” Lengyel said in a statement.
The Minnesota National Guard wrote on Twitter that it had deployed more than 4,100 personnel to the area and expected this would increase at least twofold.
“This is a significant increase over the 700 on duty Friday. We live here. We work here. We serve here. We’re all in,” the tweet stated.
We now have more than 4,100 — quickly moving toward 10,800 — Minnesota Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen supporting our friends and neighbors in the Twin Cities. This is a significant increase over the 700 on-duty Friday. We live here. We work here. We serve here. We’re all in. pic.twitter.com/WorKOI9ZCa
— MN National Guard (@MNNationalGuard) May 31, 2020
Lengyel said Guard members perform various mission sets including traffic control, support to law enforcement, and assistance with extinguishing fires burning as a result of the rioting.
“Aircrews were using forest fire equipment, including helicopter water buckets, to put out building fires at protests last night,” Lengyel said, adding that the overall mission of the Guard members is to ensure safety.
“We’re here to help and assist local authorities,” Lengyel said. “Our troops are here to protect life and property, and preserve peace, order and public safety.”
Over the weekend, thousands marched peacefully in Phoenix, Arizona, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, with some calling for an end to riots and looting, while fires burned near the White House, stores were looted in Southern California, and disturbing footage of violent acts flooded social media, including of a mob beating an elderly female shop owner in Rochester, New York.
Another disturbing incident caught on camera took place in Dallas, Texas, where a man reported to be a store owner defending his shop with a sword was set upon by a mob and beaten unconscious.
The unrest began with peaceful protests over the May 25 death of Floyd, a black man, who gasped for air as Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, restrained him with a knee to the neck and head area for nearly nine minutes.
Chauvin, fired from the Minneapolis Police Department, was later charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, though that did little to stem the fury.
President Donald Trump, in a May 30 speech at Florida’s Cape Canaveral, said he spoke to Floyd’s family to express sorrow for his death. He added that the officers involved in the incident have been dismissed, one of them had been charged with murder, and that charges could be brought against the other three.
“I stand before you as a friend and ally to every American seeking justice and peace,” he said. “And I stand before you in firm opposition to anyone exploiting this tragedy to loot, rob, attack, and menace.
“Healing, not hatred, justice, not chaos are the mission at hand,” Trump said.
“I understand the pain that people are feeling. We support the right of peaceful protesters, and we hear their pleas,” Trump said, calling on law enforcement to get tough on those responsible for acts of violence and vandalism, adding that “the memory of George Floyd is being dishonored by rioters, looters, and anarchists.”