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Governor Tim Walz Speaks Amid Protests, Violence in Minnesota. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired May 29, 2020 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:30:59]

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Minnesota Governor Tim Walz beginning his press conference. Let's listen.

GOV. TIM WALZ (D-MN): Good morning, everyone.

This has obviously been the most difficult week in Minnesota in recent history and maybe in our entire history. Our community, especially our black community, is hurting beyond words. Minneapolis and St. Paul are on fire. The fires still smolder in our streets.

The ashes are symbolic of decades and generations of pain, of anguish unheard. Much like we failed to hear George Floyd as he pleaded for his life as the world watched, by people sworn to protect him, his community, our state.

Rolando Castile silenced, unheard. So many other friends, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers senselessly died in our streets. Their voice went unheard. Now generations of pain is manifesting itself in front of the world and the world is watching.

One of the first people I called after seeing the video was Valerie Castile, Philando's mother. We have become friends since the killing of Philando.

For those watching today who aren't familiar, Philando died in front of his loved one and his child, and left them behind and left behind a grieving mother, who has become an advocate for justice, an advocate for reform, but more importantly, an advocate for kindness and decency.

And when I talked to Valerie, she said, first and foremost, seek justice, seek fairness and reach out and show kindness.

What the world saw last night was not that. What the world has witnessed since the killing of George Floyd on Monday has been of visceral pain, a community trying to understand who we are and where we go from here.

I'm joined today by Attorney General Ellison, by Major General Jon Jensen, the adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard, Colonel Matt Langer of the Minnesota State Patrol and Commissioner John Harrington.

I spoke this morning with Reverend Jackson, who, much like Valerie, said a prayer for our state, said a prayer for all of those grieving, said a prayer for peace. And then also said something very important. This is the moment where we start, but every time we get to this place, we never start the process to make sure it doesn't happen again.

And that commitment amongst leaders in our community, watching this happen across the United States, watching another name be added, and for those of us who are old enough to, to Rodney King, to Mike Brown, and unfortunately, now we've added George Floyd.

The situation on the ground doesn't allow us at this time to tackle those issues. The very assets in our community are libraries, are businesses, those non-profits, and government entities, our light rail system are all shut down from this.

We have to restore order to our society before we can start addressing the issues, before we turn back to where we should be spending our energy, making sure that justice is served, justice is served swiftly and that we learn something from what George Floyd gave on Monday.

[11:35:01]

I want to just be very clear, and I'm going to have the team talk about what transitioned last night when the state assumed responsibility over the security near the Third Precinct, where the state secured critical assets, and where the plan going forward to ensure that tonight our buildings do not burn, our citizens are secure.

And that space that we're going to create allows us to get back to the conversation of serving justice and making sure that we're not adding to that list of unheard names. And I want to be very clear and speak to that community.

The very tools that we need to use to get control, to make sure that buildings aren't burned and the rule of law collapses are those very institutional tools that have led to that grief and pain.

I understand clearly there's no trust in many of our communities. And the differentiation between the Minneapolis Police Department that we witnessed losing trust of those they are there to serve is very difficult for people to make standing up here with me. I understand that. I will not patronize you, as a white man, after living those experiences of how very difficult that is.

But I'm asking you to help us. Help us use a humane way to get the streets to a place where we can restore the justice so that those that are expressing rage and anger and demanding justice are heard. Not those who throw firebombs into businesses that our communities of color have worked so hard to build back up that were thriving because of their entrepreneurship and hard work. A library in an area where our children, as we know, are

institutionally put behind and the achievement gap for our communities of color are a shame on this state that we continue to admire by talking about and don't repair it. And that tool to help with that burned last night.

So I want to just call out very, very clearly, as we put a presence on the street to restore order, it is to open that space, to seek justice and heal what happened.

I will not, in any way, not acknowledge that there's going to be that pain, but my first and foremost responsibility to the state of Minnesota is the safety and security of all citizens.

We cannot have the looting and the recklessness that went on. We cannot have it because we can't function as a society.

And I refuse to have it take away the attention of the stain that we need to be working on is what happened with those fundamental institutional racism that allows a man to be held down in broad daylight. And thank god, a young person had a camera to video it. Because there's not a person here listening today that wonders how many times that camera is not there.

These are tough questions. These are things that have been brewing in this country for 400 years.

We have people out there putting themselves on the line to try and put out fires and our firefighters that are under attack. Those are the things I'm asking you, help me restore that order.

We will do that under state leadership and state guidance. You will hear directly from them, that once that decision was made around 12:15 last night, and that first mission was executed around 3:45 at the Third Precinct, we will see a difference. So I'm asking you and you'll hear from them to talk about this.

I also want to think about what happens when we don't have that. People that are concerned about that police presence, of an overly armed camp in their neighborhoods that is not seen in communities where children of people who look like me run to the police, others have to run from. So I understand that that's out there.

But last night, I got a call from a friend and a dedicated public servant. Senator Torres Ray called in her district and it was on fire. There weren't any police there. There weren't any firefighters. There was no social control. And her constituents were locked in their house wondering what they were going to do.

That is an abject failure that cannot happen. We must restore that order to that.

Senator Torres raised her whole life on these issues of inequities and making sure people's voices are lifted up. What she understands is none of us can lift those voices, none of us can tackle these problems if anarchy reigns on the street. I want to address an issue and this one is on me and I will own it.

Earlier this morning, when this mission was carried out under my direction to re-secure the Third Precinct, to do so in a manner of which I was proud of how it was executed by this team, no injuries and no loss of life, a reestablishment to put the fires out for those businesses, a CNN reporter, a crew, was arrested by the state patrol.

[11:40:13]

A few minutes after hearing that, I was on a call with CNN President Jeff Zucker, who demanded to know what happened. I take full responsibility. There's absolutely no reason something like this should happen. Calls were made immediately. This is a very public apology to that team. It should not happen.

And I want to be clear for those of you listening. I think our Minnesota reporters know this. I am a teacher by trade, and I have spent my time as governor highlighting the need to be as transparent as possible and have the press here. I failed you last night in that.

And it does not escape me that we are here on the catalyst that lit the spark by what happened with a police detainment of George Floyd. And the idea that a reporter would have been taken while another police action was in play is inexcusable.

So to CNN, to the CNN team, to the journalists here, this is about having a plan. And that's what these folks are going to talk about. This is about having an aggressive approach to understanding what the community needs, to not coming in heavy handed with them, but to create space where the story can be told.

In a situation like this, even if you're clearing an area, we have got to ensure that there's a safe spot for journalism to tell the story.

The issue here is trust. The community that's down there that's terrorized by this, if they see a reporter being arrested, their assumption is something is going to happen that they don't want to be seen. That is unacceptable.

We will continue to strive to make sure that accessibility is maintained, that not only that, the protection and security and safety of the journalist covering this is a top priority, not because it's a nice thing to do, because it is a key component of how we fix this. Sunshine, disinfectant, and seeing what's happening has to be done.

So, again, I appreciate President Zucker's call. I appreciate his understanding in a situation that he was rightfully incredibly angry, a that falls squarely on me. I will go forward to make sure it doesn't happen again.

It's time for us to clean our streets. It's time for us to execute today in a way that shows respect and dignity to communities. I'm going to ask for a lot of help today of those folks who want to see it.

It is my expectation that justice for the officers involved in this will be swift, that it will come in a timely manner, that it will be fair. That is what we've asked for.

I have been in contact with Hennepin County attorney, and I am confident that those very things I just said will happen.

We will continue at the BCA to do a fair, a full, and a swift gathering of all of the evidence involved. But I would reiterate again, for so many of us, not all that is done in every other case where all that evidence is gathered before. And I would ask that the swift justice be carried out.

So, Minnesotans, your pain is real. The chapter that's been written this week is one of our darkest chapters.

And we can choose a few things. We can choose to try and get past this. We can choose to put a force out there and stop things from happening.

We can hope that in the midst of COVID-19 or something else, it passes by and we don't have to turn that mirror to look at the harsh reality of those underlying gaps, whether it be health care disparities, whether it be educational disparities in our communities of color, whether it be policing disparities in our community of color, whether it be wealth, acquisition in our communities of color are all very real.

We pride ourselves on a state of openness. We pride ourselves on a state of being friendly. I talked a lot about one Minnesota. That was not on display last night.

I don't naively think everything heels and heals and you come to the forefront and say it will be better. This is a community that demands and should expect more than words. They should expect results.

Lieutenant Governor Flanagan and I have tried to make equity the center of everything we've done. But obviously, in Minneapolis, on Monday night, there wasn't a lot of equity for George Floyd. His family is probably wondering where the one Minnesota is for them.

[11:45:10]

And that's on us, us as Minnesotans, us as the governor and the team that works with me to put the things in order, to establish order in our streets, to establish and rebuild trust in our communities, to lift those voices up to be heard, not pleading for their lives, but demanding the changes necessary so no one else is put into that position.

So I would like at this time to turn it over to Minnesota's attorney general, Keith Ellison.

KEITH ELLISON, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Governor, thank you.

Martin Luther King said many years ago that riot is the way that the unheard get heard. He didn't condone it, but he said to the nation, as a person who always protested peacefully, don't just dismiss that and ignore it and relegate it to just criminality and bad behavior. Actually ask yourself, what's going on there. And is it something that

we as a society absolutely must pay attention to? I think we must pay attention to it.

I'd like everyone to recognize the fact that the National Guard just a week ago was administering COVID-19 tests to help people, to help people. The presence you see on the street, don't react to them the way you might react to the Minneapolis Police Department. It's not the same group. They have different leadership, different authority. And their job is to try to bring peace and calm back again.

Please remember that this is not the group that you associate with unfair conduct. But it's a group that, in fact, just a week ago was trying to make sure that Minnesotans could survive and thrive and live because we are still in the middle of a pandemic.

It is that sense of service, where they get involved when it comes to natural disasters, storms, floods, rains, diseases, now they have to restore order on the streets.

And I hope the community who is protesting will protest peacefully but not see this as another occupation by another military force. It really is to make sure there's calm and peace and that everybody can operate peacefully. So please accept it as that. I am asking that of our community.

It is essential -- and I've said this before. Everybody keeps asking the question: When, when, when, when, when? This is a perfectly legitimate question. It is important to know that, under Minnesota statutes, the primary jurisdiction for criminal prosecution is with the county attorney in which the offense occurred.

And I believe that the message has been sent and received that the wheels of justice must turn swiftly. Not unjustly. But expeditiously, thoroughly, fairly but swiftly.

It's important that the people have confidence that accountability, no matter who you may be, is how we live in Minnesota.

Let me also say that this prosecution, this investigation, this criminal process is important as it is -- and it is, and the whole country and the whole world is looking at it -- cannot solve the problem, as the governor so eloquently said. Events like this start and they come to a conclusion, but we never start the process of real reform.

I will submit to you that myself and Commissioner Harrington, under the leadership of the governor, have already started a process on the working group on preventing and reducing deadly force encounters with the police.

We have a report that we want attention from the legislature and the entire community to focus on so that we can really get to the bottom of this when it comes to issues of use of force, when it comes to officer wellness, when it comes to community healing and training issues, all kinds of things that bear on this issue. And it's not just those things. We believe -- I believe that the real

work of our working group is the implementation of this. And that really begins in earnest is more important, I think, thank ever.

[11:50:10]

So I just want to -- as I conclude my remarks, I just want to say that we have to have a situation where Lake Street, a precious jewel of our state, is a place where Minnesotans can walk again, where businesses can be safe again.

But I want to be clear that if the message was, this situation with Mr. Floyd is intolerable and absolutely unacceptable and must change, that message has been received as well.

The governor, myself, the lieutenant governor, all of us are committed to that long-term change. I spoke to many legislatures and feel the exact same way. People in the philanthropic community feel the exact same way.

So I think we are going to do some real changing. We're not just going to fix the windows and sweep up the glass. We're going to fix a broken, shattered society that leave so many people behind based on their historical legacy of being in bondage, in servitude, in second- class citizenships, and now fraught with disparities from everything to incarcerations, to houses, to wages, to everything else.

So with that, I want to hand it over to General Jensen, Major General Jensen who will further elaborate.

Thank you very much.

MAJ. GEN. JON JENSEN, ADJUTANT GENERAL, MINNESOTA NATIONAL GUARD: Good morning. I Major General Jon Jensen. I'm the adjutant general of the Minnesota Army National Guard. And I've been the adjutant general since November of 2017.

And what I'm describe this morning very quickly is the actions of the Minnesota National Guard since we were mobilized under Governor Walz's executive order.

Like many Minnesotans, I woke up yesterday morning to the news the Minneapolis mayor had requested National Guard support. The only difference was I opened my phone and there was a text from Commissioner Harrington. It wasn't the newspaper or the morning news that notified me of that.

Immediately yesterday morning, I made contact with the commissioner and we begin playing on the potential employment of the Minnesota National Guard in support of Minneapolis.

For those of you who may not understand how mercy management works in Minnesota, I am going to take a quick moment to explain that.

In Minnesota, county emergency management coordinators, the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul and Rochester and Duluth may request National Guard support for the state of EOC.

So in accordance with that, the Minneapolis Mayor, Mayor Frey, made that question of the National Guard.

What traditionally comes with a request, though, is a lay out of capability needed and exactly the problem that's trying to be solved. Typically, the request for the guard and that type of information comes at the same time. Sometimes it lags.

So when it lags, what we do is we begin preparing for a unknown mission. In this case, we sort of knew what we may be doing as it related to civil disturbance in Minneapolis.

But it's very important that we know exactly what we're being asked to do so we make sure that we have the right equipment, we mobilize the right number of soldiers, and the right numbers of soldiers and airmen to support those soldiers that are going to conduct the mission. That element was lacking.

But with the governor's decision to allow me to continue to plan, we began notifying soldiers early yesterday morning of a pending mission.

Once we notified our soldiers, again with the governor's approval, we began mustering our soldiers and began moving them into the metro area, knowing that the most likely probability of employment was going to be Minneapolis.

As we met as a senior team yesterday afternoon, the one topic that continued to be discussed was the lack of clarity and the lack of the mission and description of what the Minnesota National Guard needed to do.

My concerns to the governor was twofold. One, I didn't know what special equipment I may need to accomplish this mission.

And, two, I was very concerned of being asked to move to an unfamiliar area of Minneapolis under the cover of darkness. I wanted to get out when there was still daylight, when my solders and my airmen could become familiar with the terrain and familiar with their mission.

[11:55:12]

We never got such a mission assignment. We never got such a mission description.

Yesterday, we performed four missions in support of the governor's executive order.

The first mission came from the governor directly. That came when we were notified of an immediate and pending threat of the state capital. My immediate advice to the governor was to assign that mission to the Minnesota National Guard. He agreed. With one caveat and that was the state patrol also wanted to support that mission. So in cooperation with of the state patrol, we began that mission.

The second and third mission came together. It came from St. Paul. Specifically, it was to provide security for the Ramsey County Law Enforcement Center and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

The key part of that security was to ensure that St. Paul police officers were not required to secure those facilities and they were, therefore, relieved of that duty and able to respond throughout the city of St. Paul throughout the day.

The last mission we did receive yesterday evening was an escort mission of the Minneapolis Fire Department. The concept of the operation that we would move and link up with the Minneapolis Police Department. And as they went into unsecure and dangerous areas that we would secure the area so they can perform their life-saving and property saving missions. We continued to do those missions through the evening.

As the governor indicated, about a quarter after midnight this morning, the governor authorized a law-and-order mission into the Third Precinct. What we call in the military a clear and security mission.

So under the leadership of the state patrol and the Department of Public Safety, the Minnesota National Guard was assigned a task and a mission in support of the state patrol. We would follow the state patrol and we would help secure the area that they cleared.

Our soldiers remain in that area as I speak now, still on that mission, still securing that location so people can come in and begin with cleanup of that area.

Now, we also picked up one other mission with the city of Minneapolis. I won't cover the exact details but it is ongoing right now with the Minneapolis Police Department.

And I am proud of the relationship of Minnesota National Guard and the Minneapolis Police Department that goes back to Super Bowl LII, just two years ago. Chief Rondo and I worked together during that Superbowl. So we had the opportunity to serve together. And I have a lot of respect for him.

We'll continue to operate in Minneapolis until such time the governor relieves us of that mission. We'll do so in support of the Department of Safety and the Minnesota State Patrol.

So that's just a little bit of the background of what the Minnesota National Guards did since yesterday morning when we were first notified of a possible deployment, through the deployment and through our mission set last night and then early this morning.

My recommendation this morning to the governor was that I continue to do the state capital mission and that I continue to do the mission in support of the Minneapolis Fire Department. I believe both of those are a very critical mission, both to the state and to Minneapolis.

And then we'll conduct follow-up missions again in support of the Minnesota State Patrol and Department of Public Safety.

So at this time, I would like to introduce the commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, Commissioner John Harrington.

JOHN HARRINGTON, COMMISSIONER, MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: Good morning. I am John Harrington. I'm the commissioner of the Department of Public Safety.

Governor Walz tasked me to prepare options and capacities and capabilities to respond to the civil unrests, protests, but more importantly and really more directly, to the unlawful behavior of the arsonists, the thieves, the burglars, the vandals who were tearing apart the city of Minnesota.

[11:59:50]

I want to make it clear that I think that's a clear line of demarcation that we were operating under. Because it is fundamental to the Department of Public Safety and it's fundamental to the state patrol that we take an oath to support the Constitution.