Return to Transcripts main page


Minnesota Attorney General: The Wheels Of Justice Must Turn Swiftly; Minnesota Attorney General: Floyd's Death "Is Absolutely Intolerable"; Minnesota Governor: "My Expectation" That Justice In Floyd's Death Will Be "Swift"; Minnesota Governor: Protesters "Should Expect More Than Words"; Minnesota Governor: My First Responsibility Is Safety Of All Citizens. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired May 29, 2020 - 12:00   ET



JOHN HARRINGTON, MN DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY COMMISSIONER: We take an oath to support constitution and that we believe that our work is absolutely essential to allow everyone's first amendment right to have their voices heard.

We were not deployed, and we have not been deployed and we'll not be deployed to avoid free speech. We'll not and cannot allow unlawful dangerous behavior to continue. I am particularly proud of our relationship with our both the Minnesota National Guard Commissioner for the Department of the Natural Resources and Colonel Langer who works for the Department of Public Safety as Colonel for Minnesota state patrol.

We called and they came. Literally it was that it does not make it much more complicated than that. I said I'm going to need you here in the city and I'm going to need you for two or three days and I may need you longer than that and I can't tell you what I'm going to need you to do yet but I know I need you and they came.

They began preparing readiness to be able to move folks from all over the State of Minnesota, literally from miles and miles away to come to the metro area to prepare to help us keep the peace. Over the course of the day I met with my counterparts in Minneapolis in Saint Paul, to talk about what mission they needed the state to help them fulfill.

The Department of Public Safety at that point was calling to say we are here to support you and we are your partners. Tell us what you need, and we will back fill and we'll fill in the gap. Tell us what you need for resources and we'll help you get it.

We did get some very specific missions and in other cases we got no real mission at all. In the absence of a real mission, we began to identify what are the critical needs were. We task the state patrol, we task DNR, we task the Minnesota National Guard to meet specific missions that we were requested to do.

But we also task them with being flexible because we knew that if things continue to evolve that we might need to pivot and we might need to shift from a static post of guarding critical infrastructures to a fast moving operational approach of restoring order.

About midnight last night I was responding to a call that pivot had to be made where the Mayor of Minneapolis called and said they had no more resources and they were not able to meet the public safety needs and control and behaviors that were occurring on their streets.

They had lost the third precinct and it was concerns about a gas main and there were concerns about continued looting and fires burning throughout the City of Minneapolis and different than our first night of comparable concerns of looting and fires being set in the City of Saint Paul. We had to divide our resources to meet the needs of both of the twin cities.

The task the Governor gave me was simple actually. It was to hold together a team that could go in and keep the peace and protect the people and protect their safety and lives and liberty and to protect property that was being burnt up every minute that we delay.

Sheriff was one of my first calls and Sheriff Hutchinson immediately moved into action to give us support. We already had DNR and we already had state patrol and we already had Minnesota National Guard. We had it available but we hadn't tasked them with what we needed to do yet and we had to create a plan.

Police Chief Matt Cart offered support and Eddie the Chief Police for metro transit offered support. And with that team together we put together a 250 ballpark team to go in and restore order. We created a mission. It was very specific.

I am a mission driven person. We talked about the fact that we're going to be respectful of people's rights. That we were going to keep the peace and make people safe. And that we were going to follow our training and protocols by making a public announcement that they needed to clear the streets.


HARRINGTON: And that if they did not clear the streets, arrests were eminent. We made those announcements repeatedly so that no one would be confused of what our intent was or we were there to do. And then having made our announcements we began to move to clear those streets.

I will tell you that the vast majority of the great people of Minnesota and the great people of Minneapolis who are still having their guts ripped out about Floyd murder, we'll call it a murder because that's what it looked like to me. I don't want to prejudice this from a criminal perspective I will call it as what I see it that way.

They were not the people that were out there on the streets at 3:00 in the morning when we arrived on Lake Street. People that were out there on the Lake Street at 3:00 in the morning weren't the good people of Minnesota and weren't the good people of Minneapolis. There weren't the people that wanting to more - friend and relative and a neighbor.

And when they saw the National Guard Minnesota State Patrol and this team moving down the street a vast majority of them did what we thought they would do, they left. There were a few that decided not to leave. That was the choice that they get to make but we had advised them what that choice would result, and we took action to respectfully and carefully take folks into custody as well as necessary.

And it was a very limited and very structured and extremely disciplined approach making those arrests. I am proud of the fact that despite what you have seen over the last few days of gas and canisters and foggers, almost no chemical agents were necessarily to be used last night.

We did it the old fashion way. Command presence, a uniformed presence and a clear intent to keep the peace and store order and keep people safe. My task today is a little different having accomplished that mission and I think we secured those streets and I appreciate the fact that I right now got National Guard folks still holding that ground that we took last night.

We need to keep that ground and we need to prepare for what may come today. Our task today as we are bringing together a unified command of metro area Police Department and Sheriff Department and other law enforcement jurisdictions and other public safety entities into a multi-agency command center where we'll create a plan that will keep peace and maintain the peace and prevent further lawless behavior in the City of Minneapolis and in City of Saint Paul and in the surrounding suburbs.

We're going to do this the right way. We're going to do it with full knowledge that our oath is to serve the State of Minnesota and serve the communities and to protect them. We are fully confident that we can do that mission and that we can do it while still ensuring that the constitutional rights of those who need to have their voices heard and we need to freely assemble can be protected.

I can tell you that no one could have heard Mr. Floyd's voice in the chaos of the screaming and the shouting and the fires at 1:00 in morning on Lake Street. My job is to make sure that tonight that the community is safe and our team is ready and prepared, keep it safe. With that, I am very pleased to introduce the Colonel of Minnesota State Patrol Colonel Matt Langer.

COLONEL MATT LANGER, MINNESOTA STATE PATROL: Thank you, Commissioner. My name is Matt Langer and I have the honor and privilege of serving as Chief of the Minnesota State Patrol. I don't need to rehash what the Commissioner went through in terms of the details he provided on the role of the Minnesota State Patrol as it pertains to the City of Minneapolis this week.

I was thinking about what to say about this week and difficult is the first word that comes to mind and it does not represents everything that has occurred this week well enough but it represents the challenges that Minnesota State Patrol has faced in the last couple of nights as we have worked hard to combat the lawlessness and the dangerous behavior and the criminal activity that has occurred both in the City of Minneapolis and other places.


LANGER: Let's speak specifically to last night because as you've heard certainly after midnight between midnight 1:00 am Governor Walz asked the State Patrol to lead an advantage in the City of Minneapolis to quell the unrest that was occurring in and around the third precinct.

There were many challenges in that area. One of the main challenges in that area was that there were fires set and the Minneapolis Fire Department was unable to get there and extinguish those fires because they were shelled by those that were demonstrating and choosing to make life difficult for everyone who is trying to improve the condition.

For as the Commissioner explained we have some of the team both with the State Patrol, the DNR, University of Minnesota, Transit PD and Upper County Sheriff's Office and the National Guard and we assembled a team quickly, swiftly, strategically and we descended into the City of Minneapolis with one goal in mind to as safely.

And quickly as possible recover the ground that had been lost the lawless activity and make it safe again and then restore order clean the area and get it presentable so that we can move into the future tonight and beyond with a much different picture of what it means to be a resident citizen and your ability to demonstrate peacefully.

That's a mission that we took on that's what we did overnight it was difficult and dangerous work for everyone involved. The people that are demonstrating those that are caught in the middle of it and demonstration without the desire to demonstrate and the first responders they're trying to do good work.

We had a few presents suffered minor injuries. I'm thankful they're only minor they stayed on the line and continued their good works because we needed every single one of them to do this job. We remain ready were there today with the National Guard.

We're doing our best to hold that ground well and to make sure that we restore order clean that spot up to the better than it was before and to continue our efforts to make sure that public safety is of paramount concern as we move forward both tonight and into the future and then work together to restore order across the entire City of Minneapolis.

Just as a side note we had a couple missions other places last night of course our responsibility at the State Capitol and we also assist in the City of Saint Paul with some lawless behavior that was occurring on University Avenue where some of our mobile response team assets.

One thing I know is that we have troopers in the metropolitan area from all across the State of Minnesota. There was an opportunity that we have for the Governor to make a staffing boost that is within the purview of the Executive Branch and within the ability of State Patrol to do on very short notice.

My hats off to those troopers that responded, those DNR officers that responded from all across the State of Minnesota come for an unknown period of time and to work very, very hard to make Minnesota what we believe it should be a safe place for everybody. Thank you.

GOV. TIM WALZ (D-MN): I would note before we take questions and we'll try to make sure we answer everyone or as many as you need to ask. I would note to the reporters here in Minnesota it was about three weeks ago I stood in front of you and I as - we passed 500 deaths by COVID- 19 and said that on about the 29th of May we would pass 1000 that will happen today.

So in the midst of this pandemic we are still working that. We believe again numbers are down, ICU bed capacity is stable and we are doing everything we can and as you heard from the folks speaking the vast majority of people out there who were expressing their first amendment rights in the rage over what happened to George Floyd were wearing masks and were trying their best to social distance and not touch things.

I would before I go to questions note that the desire to get back to normal it's so overwhelming for everyone when so many Minnesotans which said what else could happen? We've witnessed this but I think it's an important time to pause about that is. The problem is for so many of us thinking that normally is what we want to go?

Normal was not working for many communities. Normal was not working for George Floyd pre-COVID-19. It's certainly not working now. And so, I think as you heard the Attorney General talk about that work that we're trying to look at to use this as a point and not just rhetorically but a point to make those changes. With that Mary will start.


WALZ: Well, I certainly don't think it's important to be on TV. I think what you expected me to do is to be there is we were in a support role as state law shows and once we became apparent to me that the City of Minneapolis would not be able to complete that I was directing the state to take that over this is my responsibility.



WALZ: Well I think obviously if you think I didn't that's probably the case as a reporter but I think in the moment of making sure as those decisions were being made and that we were staying in the lane that we were asked to support this and has it deteriorated it was a total five.

There was a decision last night that we made is to come in front of you at that time because that was a transition point because what you're seeing now is the state is the lead element now starting at 12:05 last night in those first missions that were carried out.

So I think for many of you, you should know I try and make myself as available as possible. I think it was important for me to be getting the data and the feedback. I was watching where you were saying? And to be quite candid when the when the third precinct was abandoned it seemed at that point in time that was a time to move.


WALZ: No, I stayed in the residence where I work from I have all the electronic tools and we were on all night. And as I said we were taking calls and adjusting and I was able to track as the situation evolved on going down.

There was a dangerous task that I tasked the State Patrol and the National Guard to go down and take that. Those of you who are watching that as I was as the lawlessness were burning down the third precinct or whatever. That can't be allowed to happen it took a little while to plan this to get going. But that's where I was at to make sure

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Walz, there were millions of Americans and Minnesota certainly watching on their TV screens as this unfolded last night. There was almost a complete lack of visibility of local police, state police and National Guard after much fanfare about how the National Guard was coming in?

People watched building burn public and private. How could there not have any clear mission for the National Guard when this - when they were called in and you knew things were going to happen last night?

WALZ: Yes, I hold up my leadership come back up there. You're absolutely right. And I think that speaks to itself that by but shortly after 10:00 it became apparent that that structure would go the way this works is as the Mayor's asking and they take charge and lead on the missions.

All of the folks come up here said I see that too. I think the decision to make to not engage. And I want to just be clear there's philosophically an argument to be made that an armed presence on the ground in the midst of where we just had a police killing is seen as a catalyst.

My point to that was is we don't need a catalyst it's already burning. And so this is trying to strike that balance. And so I am in total agreement with that you will not see that tonight. There will be no lack of leadership and there will be no lack of response on the table.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So a follow up, shouldn't there have been a National Guard presence on every corner in those areas last night as a deterrent as opposed to having them come in --?

WALZ: I'll answer this. Went up potentially but the decision on that as it's made from the city and on this one I think I would agree with them. We saw the first night decisions were made up until about 8:30 last evening it appeared that things were relatively peaceful on that.

There was a decision during the day whether did you occupy the entire city and shut it down after those 24 hours? In retrospect I'm assuming that yes, we would say that. But at the time and again we will not know what is proving the negative what if simply started those that movement faster and we've seen it moved out of the third precinct? But yes, certainly it's a valid critiquing point. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, you know there's a whole. You're talking about making a decision at 10:00. Why are you making the decisions that are coming up with these scenarios these things are happening just up the street --?

WALZ: The leadership of communities is led by local leadership, their police force. They were at that time had sources in reserve they were not being requested. They were not being requested. And I'm on with them the reason we're standing here today is if this would have been executed correctly the state would not lead on this.

The state would have supported those and they would have moved forward that did not happen. So now today we're taking that were making the decision to go and do it moving forward. And again I would go back to Tom's question. Had I known that we were not going to see that or the capability to do it should the state have come in?

Potentially, but I want to be very clear. This with the exception of the state troopers who have a very specific statutory requirement on the highways order is to the local police and sheriffs. We do not have a built in police force. General Jensen is not a police force. DPSS experts in there but these are not the police force that is on their streets with their people.

And so that's a decision that was made. It was in reserve and yes keeping in mind as this unfolded the request came from Saint Paul for the guard to be activated at 5:00. I had moved on a warning order earlier than that to be prepared.

You're really supposed to wait until you get that and start moving a man. That wasn't going to be possible. So by 5:00 yesterday our guard troops were coming from all over. They were getting activated because of the events that happened the night before and we were prepared to carry out those missions and we were - they were there.


WALZ: And as you heard some of these folks in those missions never came.


LT. GENERAL. JON JENSEN, ADJUTANT GENERAL, MINNEAPOLIS NATIONAL GUARD: Yes. Yes, again as it relates to emergency management in Minnesota. County Emergency Management coordinators do exactly what you just asked. They define what they need and what they want.

And then that negotiated with the state EOC and the Department of Public Safety along with the agency they're asking for. It's not always the National Guard in this case it is a National Guard. The reason why to negotiate with National Guard is to make sure that we have the capability to do the mission that's being asked.

So yes, we are always in support of the local leadership the local civilian leadership. I have no authority to self deploy the Minnesota National Guard anywhere in the State. I have no authority whatsoever and so I follow exactly what you laid out.

Civilian leadership, civilian elected officials make the request and then we work with them because if I'm not accomplishing their task and their mission, I risk failure of mission. I also risk the chance that I might break the law, right?

I can't just march my soldiers down into Minneapolis and say hey this is what Jon Jensen believes we need to do. That's not how our government works and that's not how our military responds and reports to legitimate civilian leadership. And so what you asked was exactly right, that's exactly how it's supposed to work.


WALZ: I think that's a question you'll have to ask Mayor Frey.


WALZ: I think that the commitment to hold the third was not one that I felt comfortable with and it's one we discussed during the day.


WALZ: That the potential that the third precinct would not be held that's correct.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor, following up on that we were told the same thing from sources that police third precinct went - all before knew that they would be evacuating at some point essentially the directive that they felt they were carrying was they were allowed to take over and - what is your response to that tactic, given what we saw last night?

WALZ: Well obviously that, what's that the turning point where we were prepared and that's where we moved in. That's what we did not believe the third should be given up and that's why it's not in that area was taken aback by the force that we put together starting at 12:15 executed about 3:40 am.

I simply think that this - I'm like all of you watching it you can't have civil order deteriorate and then you have to make a calculated decision about does force going in there escalate it? Does it stop it? Does it endanger civilians and the force going in there?

And those are decisions as you heard again it is local police departments is how this works? We are not a police force at the state. We have abilities to come back and back fill. The closest we have to that police force is the State Patrol but that's not their normal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE). Why allow getting that point? I understand what you're saying but as people are watching, that is the question they're asking us?

WALZ: Yes, 8:30 to 10:00 that was a decision to go and it took time to build a force to be able to go to. Because again we're seeing it and there was no definitive answer whether they were going to. And I'm seeing what you were seeing there were still officers in the third precinct. At least I believe until maybe you can correct me on this till 9:00 or so maybe 10:00.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you considered those additional tools, additional powers, curfews and any sort of martial law orders to increase the authority?

WALZ: Certainly, tools are there and I think what we'll do is that what the planning stage is right now. I don't want to take these folks too long from what they're doing. That's what's being done over the last 24 hours as we prepare for this.

But once again the order structure of this and many of us have been involved in these. I spent 24 years in the National Guard myself. I'm very familiar of how these works? I'm very familiar what General Jensen's asking about when my troops get their mission, they get their mission or they get a warning order they know what they're going to need to do?

I then as an enlisted soldier would start working with my troops to make sure they were packing the proper equipment. Check it out and be ready to go drill through the things we needed to do. Those never came in many cases so.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We weren't asked to help and then it hit someone you work why in the situation - help? Why not take a proactive approach?

WALZ: Well, we are and again I think if we've seen two days ago, yes, maybe yesterday I'll be the first to tell you that. I think in any of these things if you're not second guessing and if you're not looking at the decisions were made you're going about this all wrong.


WALZ: I think the lessons learned potentially so. But again at that time we got to count on our partners in this as they say things are going. And I'm not sure that quick moving group of anarchists that was moving so quickly.

One of the things we said if you think about this to prevent this from happening like at the Superbowl or the RNC 18 months of planning went into that. 18 months of planning and pre-positioning. 18 months of joint powers agreements. 18 months of lining up the materials that were there to make sure all those situations could be there.

Because my situation on this is once you lose control like that, I'm deeply concerned that the bad actors. And I want to be very clear. We own this. We own this in Minnesota but there certainly has people saw this unfold the concern was yesterday how many people would make their way here who are simply in that business?

So yes, I think it's a valid question. I think for me as I look at that the point is I have to operate in real space and in real time. And by last evening was the second day we saw it and from 8:30 or during the day until 8:30 we did see this in Saint Paul. We continue to ask what was happening in Saint Paul.

The State Patrol was tasked on many of this and they did stop a lot of that along the target in some of those. That was what was being asked from them. But it happened from about 8:30 at night when the sun went down. When what I saw was that the person breaching the barrier at the third and then the decision to pull back out of there. So who was to ask? I got to make sure I get to everybody.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Governor, so it sounds like you were going to allow demonstrations tonight, protests and stuff these would be in violation of standing orders against congregation's more than ten people?

WALZ: No, we're not - we're not allowing any of those. And we've said it. I think the idea - again the absurdity in the middle of COVID-19 were we have worked so dang hard as a state to keep people from congregating. If you think you could but it goes back to this conversation we've had Minnesota.

This takes a social compact of people agreeing to do this. And I want to just say this. Watching what happened to George Floyd I had people say to hell we're staying home on that. I'm going out because this can't happen again.

The idea that we would go in there and break up those people expressions of grief and rage was ridiculous. The problem was of not having in place with an expectation that a crowd that big over such a volatile issue we have seen this happen in city after city whether that was Ferguson, whether that was L.A. we've seen these things that was a thing what we started planning, started asking.

But again, you're seeing holes in planning that's for darn sure as states and cities and counties on these things start to happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are the rules for the rest of the day and tonight?

WALZ: If that's what's being worked on right now. And we certainly - this is the plan that will be presented to me. I think we want to be prepared to present that to Minnesotans here by 2:00 or so. What I can tell you is a lot of it is going to be the operational things that you would expect to happen that were asked. They will be there. There will be a presence out on the quarters. We will start to do that.

But I'm going to ask again. I need to ask Minnesotans those in pain and those who feel like justice has not been served yet, you need to help us create the space so that that justice will be served. And it's my expectation that it'll be sift and that were able to maintain that order.

And so that plant will start to happen today, and it will include we will think of all the tools that are there. I want to come back to that again. The more of those things you use the more those are viewed as the oppressive things that lead too much of this in the first place.

What we're trying to separate is the lawful first amendment aggrieved citizens who need to express that from the folks who are clearly. I'm telling you what, the farthest thing from peoples on their minds of their burning down a family owned store at 3:00 am on Lake Street was George Floyd and that's what we've got to get at. Want to go front there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, question to you and a question to General. First of all for me concerned is this --. (INAUDIBLE)

WALZ: I candidly I don't think this is a secret to anybody that the tension between the Minneapolis Police Department and many of their communities is a pretty well-known thing and I am certainly - I don't know any way to express it other than that they had lost faith in them and felt that they were part of the problems.

And certainly, seeing a uniformed Minneapolis police officers need on George Floyd neck on Monday, pretty much tells you where the public is thinking towards that. So I don't think you could think it was a mistake of who was leading that down there and that it changed the tone that was there.

So I am concerned. I think it would be disingenuous. I know this is painful. This is hard. There is going to be recriminations.