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Minnesota AG Ellison to take over Floyd case, plus six other takeaways from Sunday

Among other things, Gov. Tim Walz thinks the three other former Minneapolis Police officers involved in the Floyd case should also be charged with crimes. And that he appreciated a call from Jay-Z.

Gov. Tim Walz
Gov. Tim Walz on Sunday: “We’re going to be extending the curfew into this evening as well as some of the operational moves that will continue to be put out today like the closure of the major highways.”
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan

1. Walz is transferring responsibility for prosecuting former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin from the Hennepin County Attorney to Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.

On Saturday, during a press conference to urge people to abide by the 8 p.m. curfew, Justin Terrell, the executive director of the Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage, stood next to Walz and urged him to give the prosecution of Chauvin — the former Minneapolis Police officer accused of killing George Floyd  — to  Ellison. A group of Minneapolis City Council members joined other local officials calling for the same.

On Sunday, after also being asked by members of George Floyd’s family to transfer the case, Walz announced he’d arranged to do just that. Walz said Ellison, with the cooperation of Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, will take the lead in pursuing any prosecutions coming out of Floyd’s death. “We’ve heard you loud and clear,” Walz said.

In a video that captured the incident, Floyd is heard telling Chauvin he can’t breathe and bystanders can be heard urging Chauvin and three other officers at the scene to relent and help him. The 46-year-old Floyd later died, sparking widespread condemnation and five days of protests in Minnesota and around the world. The three other officers at the scene with Chauvin were also fired, but they have not yet been arrested or charged.

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“The siblings of George Floyd asked me personally,” the governor had said earlier in the day. “It would be incredibly negligent in the environment that we’re in for me not to make sure we’re exploring every option.” 

2. Walz was happy with the actions of the State Patrol and National Guard, with notable exceptions

“We are not done yet,” Walz said. “We’re going to be extending the curfew into this evening as well as some of the operational moves that will continue to be put out today like the closure of the major highways.”

Walz seemed satisfied with the performance of the State Patrol, the National Guard and other police agencies involved in the street clearance operation Saturday night — with some notable exceptions. Walz again had to apologize for the on-camera arrest of a journalist — this time it was WCCO photographer Tom Aviles. 

But he was pleased that what had happened Thursday and Friday night didn’t happen Saturday night. “The past week was one of the most difficult and trying weeks in the history of our state,” Walz said. “This morning in Minnesota the sun came out as it does this time of year, the trees are budded out, the flowers are up, the promise of summer after a long winter is there.” 

He thanked Minnesotans for following the curfew but also for getting together to protect each other and complement “the most-complex public safety operation in the state’s history.”

“They did so in a professional manner, they did so without a single loss of life and minimal property damage,” he said of troopers, guardsmen and other law enforcement agencies. 

State Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said the plan was to pre-position small, fast-moving teams to respond to threats quickly as well as larger forces used to systematically clear streets of those who stayed out past 8 p.m. “We got innovative last night,” Harrington said.

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Among the arrested were people with weapons. One officer was fired upon by a shooter armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen, the adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard, said he had 4,000 soldiers and airmen in the cities and that more will be arriving. Also helping were sheriffs departments from neighboring counties. “It was a dangerous night, it was a dangerous action, it was dynamic, it was unpredictable … but as you know our plan was different, it was unified, we were committed,” Jensen said. “And though we are never perfect, and we are oftentimes our hardest critics, I stand at the back side of last night and say our goal was accomplished.”

In a widely shared video, law enforcement shot a group of people with paint rounds as they stood on their porch in a residential neighborhood. 

State Patrol Colonel Matt Langer said: “These aren’t particularly pretty actions we take.”

“We always look at these types of situations, there’s always lessons learned, never a single one of them has gone by that’s perfect,” Langer said. “But as long as we’re continuously improving, both our training and our practices and learning, that’s all we can ask for.”

State Patrol Colonel Matt Langer
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
State Patrol Colonel Matt Langer: “These aren’t particularly pretty actions we take.”
3. Not everybody thought the night went so well

Minnesota state Sen. Jeff Hayden, interviewed after a press conference called to discuss police reform and community investment on Sunday, said that some of the law enforcement tactics used Saturday night were heavy-handed. I trust that the governor and commissioner Harrington are reviewing their plans and refining it, ” he said. “And hopefully recognizing that standing on your porch is maybe not a violation, guarding your community if you feel like there hasn’t been a presence here is not a violation … But I think it did send a strong message to those folks who were hell-bent on destroying our community that that wasn’t going to be tolerated.”

4. Walz thinks the three other officers involved in the death of George Floyd should also be charged with crimes.

Walz has joined with his public safety commissioner as well as the two mayors in calling Floyd’s death “murder.” While he said he understands it could prejudice a prosecution, he said the video seems clear to him, and the charge against Chauvin includes a murder charge.

On Sunday he said that he thinks the other three officers who stood by while Floyd died and did nothing to intervene, despite police policy, should be charged as well.

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“I’ll let the prosecutors decide, but I do think that’s warranted,” he said. “Do I think it will calm things? That primal scream for justice will stay there. I think it would start to move us forward but I would be naive to believe it would stop a lot of that.”

5. The administration has backed away some from claims that much of the violence was caused by out-of-state actors.

Walz has said that not only does he believe groups of people from out-of-state — motivated by anarchist or white supremicist politics — have been involved looting and violence, but that they have been involved in more expansive efforts to sow chaos, specifically referencing a denial of service attack on state computer systems Saturday.

Harrington said that there were 25 arrests made by 2 a.m. Sunday in Hennepin County and 30 in Ramsey County. Of those, 20 percent were from out of state, including Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois and Michigan. Among those arrested were people in cars without license plates, without lights and with windows blackened.

State Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
State Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said that there were 25 arrests made by 2 a.m. Sunday in Hennepin County and 30 in Ramsey County.
Sunday, Walz said that while he still thinks there are infiltrators, there may not be as many as feared. “I think candidly that I want to believe it’s outside more and that might go to the problem we have in saying it can’t be Minnesotans, it can’t be Minnesotans who’ve done this,” Walz said. “The catalyst that started all of this was the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota and that was our problem. In saying there were outside forces is not to deflect and pretend we don’t have that.”

6. Walz and the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul are concerned about the state’s reputation.

These briefings are being carried live on cable networks and being watched across the country. That might explain the long soliloquies that open them, with Walz explaining the ongoing issue of police misconduct, the anger it has caused and how Minnesotans are trying to respond.

“Many of you across the world may be getting your first look at who we are,” Walz said Sunday. “And that’s unfortunate, but it’s real. And we’ll take that look.” 

He then noted the high ranking of the state’s public schools, a state with lakes “so pristine and clear that some are 40-feet deep and you can see the bottom and drink from them.”

He said that the ore mined here built the country and the agricultural products fed millions. He noted the presence of many Fortune 500 companies and the Mayo Clinic. “We innovate and we’re passionate people,” he said. 

But he then noted that many of the superlatives of educational achievement, home ownership, life expectancy and personal income only apply to white residents. “But if you take a closer look and peel it back, as this week has peeled it back, all of those statistics are true if you’re white,” he said. “If you’re not, we rank near the bottom.”

Likewise, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said it is important to acknowledge both the positive and the negative “in talking about who we are and seeing who we are.”

“For those of you who are seeing Minneapolis for the first time, you saw us at five minutes of our worst followed by a week of great difficulty,” Frey said. “However I also want you to see some of the positives.” 

He said Saturday featured a peaceful demonstration as well as neighbors helping clean up the debris from the overnight riot. And he complimented the many who abided by the curfew.

7. Jay-Z wanted to talk

Walz said he got a text from Van Jones, a CNN news commentator and attorney, who said Jay-Z wanted to talk. “He called and I said again, it was so incredibly human,” Walz said. “It wasn’t Jay-Z, international celebrity. It was a dad and quite honestly a black man whose visceral pain” was being expressed.

“’Justice needs to be served here,’” Walz said he was told. “He knows that the world is watching. How Minnesota handles this is going to have an impact across the country. He was passionate, he was gracious, he was grateful.”