Quiet night in Twin Cities; state launches civil rights probe of Minneapolis
Updated: 11:07 p.m.
The streets of the Twin Cities were again calm on Tuesday night. There were no reports of unrest before or after a curfew took effect at 10 p.m. It was the fifth-straight night with a curfew, this one lasting until 4 a.m.
“All, right now, is going well,” said state Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell at an early evening press conference. “That’s a testament to the people of Minnesota.”
He said National Guard troops remained deployed throughout Minneapolis and St. Paul to quell any violence.
Tuesday followed a similar pattern to the previous three days. Throughout the afternoon, thousands peacefully protested the killing of George Floyd while in police custody eight days ago. As darkness fell and curfew approached, demonstrators began to disperse. On this night, many sought shelter from thunderstorms that swept through the area.
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State officials haven’t yet announced whether they will impose a curfew on Wednesday night. Schnell said that Gov. Tim Walz and local leaders would make that decision in the morning.
The relatively calm night came hours after Walz announced that the state is launching a broad investigation into the civil rights record of the Minneapolis Police Department.
The agency intends to probe the last 10 years of Minneapolis police actions and practices for patterns of discrimination against people of color.
Walz and other state leaders vowed the effort would not end in a report tossed on a dusty shelf, and that they saw it as a way to transform policing in Minnesota so that a killing like Floyd’s and the chaos it sparked never happen again.
"This window of opportunity opened,” said Walz. “It won't stay open for long."
The investigation will scrutinize policies, procedures, training and practices of the Minneapolis police, said Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero, noting that it is illegal for a police department to discriminate because of race.
Lucero said she would seek some quick changes in the department while examining longer-term structural problems at the department that would likely ended in a court-enforced consent decree.
Needed changes include an overhaul of the state police licensing board, subpoena power for civilian review boards and a set of “integrity standards” for officers where they can be fired for not telling the truth, said Justin Terrell, executive director of the Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage.
He dismissed the idea that police problems are the result of a few bad apples. “We often hear the rotten apple example. We’re dealing with a cancer. This is what’s going on with law enforcement right now.”
He said he found it frustrating to discover officers tied to the Floyd case had histories of complaints against them.
"It makes no sense that you would continue to give someone with that many complaints a badge and a gun to patrol my neighborhood,” Terrell said, adding: “Send them to your neighborhood if you have that much faith in them.”
John Harrington, the public safety commissioner and former St. Paul police chief and officer, said he supported the review and that policing needed to return to its community roots.
“The cops I’ve worked with since 1977 will tell you they want change,” said Harrington, who is black. “They don't want to work in a flawed system. They don't want to have to be wearing gas masks. They don't want to have to be on riot patrol duty."
MPR News left a message for Minneapolis police union president Bob Kroll seeking comment on the civil rights investigation.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said he supported the state investigation.
“For years in Minneapolis, police chiefs and elected officials committed to change have been thwarted by police union protections and laws that severely limit accountability among police departments, he said in a statement “Breaking through those persistent barriers, shifting the culture of policing, and addressing systemic racism will require all of us working hand- in-hand.”
Floyd’s death ruled a homicide
News of the civil rights investigation comes a day after the Hennepin County Medical Examiner described Floyd’s death as a homicide, saying Floyd went into cardiopulmonary arrest as a Minneapolis police officer kept his knee on the neck of the prone, handcuffed man.
The office also identified “hypertensive heart disease,” “fentanyl intoxication” and “recent methamphetamine use” as other “significant conditions.”
Floyd’s killing while in police custody sparked mass protests in Minnesota and across the country following after video surfaced of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin restraining Floyd as the man pleaded that he couldn’t breathe.
A private, invitation-only memorial service for Floyd is set for Thursday at North Central University in Minneapolis. The Rev. Al Sharpton will deliver the eulogy, and other family members plan to speak.
Floyd family attorney Ben Crump on Monday released an independent autopsy that found Floyd died of “asphyxia due to neck and back compression” and that he died at the scene where Minneapolis police detained and restrained him.
Chauvin faces third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges. His first hearing is set for June 8. He was fired from the force, along with three other officers connected to the incident.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has been appointed as a special prosecutor in the case. Ellison told MPR News that he is asking Minnesotans for patience as he and his attorneys work on the prosecution of Chauvin. Three other former officers who were at the scene last Monday may also be charged with crimes.
Meanwhile, former Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau is calling for a change in the department's union leadership.
Harteau called Kroll, the head of the Minneapolis Police Federation, a "disgrace to the badge" as she shared publicly a letter he wrote to union members. In the letter, Kroll said officers were being made scapegoats for violence in the wake of Floyd's death.
Harteau said the union needs to recognize officer wrongdoing and work toward changing the culture to prevent future tragedies.
'He was a good man': Family of Floyd calls for justice
The mother of Floyd’s daughter called for justice at a Minneapolis news conference on Tuesday afternoon.
Roxie Washington, who lives in Houston, spoke through tears while her 6-year-old daughter stood by her side.
“I want everybody to know that this is what those officers took. … I want justice for him. No matter what anyone thinks, he was good. And this is the proof he was a good man,” she said, motioning toward her daughter.
Floyd was born in North Carolina but spent most of his life in Houston. Washington said that Floyd loved his daughter and kept a connection with her after he moved to the Twin Cities several years ago.
“Gianna does not have a father,” Washington said. “He will never see her grow up, graduate. He will never walk her down the aisle. If there’s a problem she has and she needs her dad, she does not have that anymore.”
Minneapolis Public Schools sever ties with city police
The district’s board voted Tuesday night to end its relationship with the Minneapolis Police Department, which had been scrutinized for years.
The district's recent budget put over $1 million toward funding 11 school resource officers.
Community members, some school leaders and the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers had called for the district to cut ties with the police.
“The officers of the Minneapolis Police Department have demonstrated they do not share that value with the educators, families, or students of Minneapolis. We call on the district to sever all financial ties with the department, including school resource officers,” two union leaders said ahead of the vote. “Instead, our district should spend its money on people who can meet the needs of our students, including providers of mental health supports and education support professionals,”
The University of Minnesota took a similar action last week.
Report: Feds say extremists targeted Minnesota
A memo issued to law enforcement by the Department of Homeland Security says extremists may have been targeting Minnesota during the demonstrations and riots that followed Floyd’s death.
The online political magazine Politico obtained the memo and published details. It said that white supremacists online were urging others to shoot into crowds of demonstrators to provoke more violence in Minneapolis.
It also said federal investigators had been alerted to a threat to storm and set fire to the state capitol last week.
Department of Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell, part of the state leadership responding to the crisis, declined to discuss details, but acknowledged the state had responded to the report.
“There has been talk of various different groups so we are mindful of this, and therefore we take the actions to protect these core and critical infrastructure sites,” he said.
Harrington, the state’s public safety commissioner, on Monday downplayed some of the public’s reports of outsider violence. “I was hearing crazy stuff — the Klan was marching down the street. It didn’t happen,” he said, adding that some of it was being “deliberately planted as misinformation."
Minneapolis police have also been asking residents to keep an eye out for suspicious activity and potential threats, like caches of flammable materials left outside, but said Monday “there are no credible threats against private residences.”
Walz continued to walk back early comments that the bulk of the arrests made during the looting and mayhem were not people from Minnesota when, in fact, they were.
The governor conceded that he "got out over my skis a little bit" when he said most of the people doing the serious damage were not from Minnesota. While arrest data isn't the only metric, "we need to get a better understanding of this,” he said. “We need to actually know who it was."
Peaceful protests; Walz pulls back Guard
With a curfew again in effect, Twin Cities streets were mostly quiet Monday, especially compared with the four chaotic nights that followed Floyd’s killing.
St. Paul police said 65 people were arrested in front of the Capitol on curfew violations.
Earlier in the afternoon, some 2,000 people peacefully gathered in front of the governor’s mansion in St. Paul before an unspecified security threat ended that gathering and had protesters move down Summit Avenue toward the State Capitol.
The memorial at the storefront where Floyd was killed last week continued to be a calm gathering place where chants of “What's his name? George Floyd!” filled the air Monday. Terrence Floyd dropped to his knees at the site of his brothers killing as many others joined him.
“I understand y’all are upset. I doubt y’all are half as upset as I am,” said Terrence Floyd, who lives in New York. “What are y’all doing? ... That’s not going to bring my back at all.”
He described the Floyd family “peaceful” and “God-fearing,” urging calm protests at this time with hopes that justice will follow.
“My brother moved here from Houston. He loved it here,” Terrence Floyd said. "So, I know he would not want you all to be doing this.”
Addressing the crowd, he said he did not understand why the three other officers who arrested Floyd and who were fired with Chauvin have not also been arrested and charged.
“In every case of police brutality the same thing has been happening. You have protests, you destroy stuff ... so they want us to destroy ourselves. Let’s do this another way,” he said, encouraging the crowd to vote and to educate themselves. “Let’s switch it up, y’all.”
On Monday, Walz announced a pullback in National Guard operations.
Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen, head of the Minnesota National Guard, confirmed the Guard will begin pulling back some of the 7,000 members currently mobilized but cautioned “this is not an order to return the entire organization back home” and that it could be reversed if situations warrant.
As protests became more peaceful, Metro Transit is resuming its bus and Northstar Commuter Rail services Wednesday, which have been temporarily suspended due to unrest in the Twin Cities. The agency said that they are planning to start restoring Blue and Green Line service on Thursday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.