Even as curfews continue some Minnesota National Guard soldiers could begin returning home on Monday, Gov. Tim Walz said after a tense but largely peaceful night in the aftermath of George Floyd's deadly encounter with police.
A reduced curfew will be in place Monday and Tuesday from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., the governor said. Plans to continue nightly road closures were under review.
But the plan for some National Guard units to return home as soon as Monday afternoon could change if the security situation worsens, National Guard Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen said. He emphasized that the Guard's presence in the Twin Cities on Monday will look the same as it has the last two nights. Other units, which have been waiting at armories to step in if needed, could return home.
More than 7,000 members of the Guard were called up for duty — some preparing food or handling logistics — in recent days, Jensen said. But now the state is in "a much more stable position," he said.
As people gather for protests across the nation, and as some have turned violent, Walz said he is getting calls from other state leaders.
"The rest of the country looked at us and they just got so spooked. They are wondering, they are calling me, 'What do I do? What should I do?'" he said. Walz said he told them they will need a large-scale coordinated response from law enforcement to stem violence, but that is not the answer to the real problem of systemic racism.
Walz said that was discussed during Tuesday's call with President Donald Trump and other governors, where he Trump called governors "weak."
"My point to him was … Saying the world was laughing at the states who aren't taking action — I said, 'No one's laughing here. We're in pain, we're crying. We saw a man lose his life in front of them," he said.
"I also shared with the president that a posture of force on the ground is both unsustainable militarily, and also unsustainable socially, because it is the antithesis of how we live," Walz said.
The continued curfew Monday coincides with the reopening of more businesses in the state. Walz had previously issued an executive order forcing bars and restaurants to close to stop the spread of COVID-19. But starting Monday the dining establishments were allowed to offer outdoor dining, and salons and barbershops can open with limited capacity.
"This is a time for community to gather outside," he said, and he wants to get some of those gatherings going on again in the early evenings.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey asked people to keep the peace, but push for change. "Let's keep that sense of urgency and lack of patience going forward," Frey said.
More events are being planned this week to protest Floyd's death and commemorate his life. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman has brought criminal charges against former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, who was captured on video kneeling on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes before he died. Chauvin is white and Floyd was black.
Chauvin faces counts of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The case was turned over Sunday to state Attorney General Keith Ellison.
Walz noted that Floyd's funeral is planned for Thursday, and that it will be "an important event."
Attorneys representing Floyd's family released findings Monday of their own independent autopsy that showed Floyd asphyxiated while Chauvin had his knee on his neck. The autopsy challenged preliminary results from the earlier examination by the Hennepin County Examiner's Office that George Floyd was not strangled.
Attorney Ben Crump said earlier that the first examination's findings "do not address in detail the effect of the purposeful use of force on Mr. Floyd's neck and the extent of Mr. Floyd's suffering at the hands of the police."
Walz's remarks Monday followed a week of protests, some violent, across the Twin Cities. About 150 protesters were arrested near I-35W and Washington Avenue in downtown Minneapolis Sunday night after they failed to heed the 8 p.m. curfew.
That came after a tanker truck barreled in the direction of thousands of protesters gathered on the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis, scattering the crowd and narrowly missing what could have been a mass casualty tragedy. Bogdan Vechirko, 35, of Otsego, was taken into custody.
State Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said that though that there is evidence that Vechirko was speeding, it did not appear to be an intentional act.
Walz praised the actions of the protesters, who he said protected the driver after his truck was surrounded by the shocked crowd. Officials expressed amazement that nobody was hurt in the incident.
"We got lucky," Harrington said. "Or there was something miraculous there."
Many residents in the Twin Cities were still on edge Sunday night as rumors circulated of extremists coming into the metro from elsewhere and possible flammable items being stashed in neighborhoods.
Walz said he got "out over my skis" when he said over the weekend that most of the destructive rioters were people coming from outside area. He said they are still trying to get a better understanding of the situation.
Harrington said police only documented two vehicles without license plates in the metro — though community members and reporters have seen more. Harrington said they did have evidence of some propane tanks, like those used for a grilling, being stashed around Minneapolis.
Jessie Van Berkel • 651-925-5044