Walz asks Trump for 'major disaster' aid following unrest

Guard members secure the area as firefighters continue to douse flames.
Members of the National Guard secure the area as firefighters continue to douse flames on May 30 in Minneapolis. Protests continued following the Memorial Day killing of George Floyd.
Julio Cortez | AP Photo file

Gov. Tim Walz requested money Thursday from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help Minnesota rebuild and repair fire damage from the unrest that followed the killing of George Floyd.

Walz asked President Donald Trump to declare a “major disaster” because of extensive damage to public infrastructure following Floyd’s killing on May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee against the handcuffed Black man’s neck for nearly eight minutes. Four since-fired officers have been charged in the case.

A preliminary assessment found more than $15 million of eligible damages directly related to the fires. Around 1,500 businesses were damaged. Among the public structures destroyed was a Minneapolis police station that was a focus of the protests. The city has not decided whether to rebuild it.

“While many areas suffered damage, Minneapolis bore the brunt of the destruction,” the governor wrote in a letter to Trump that was sent via FEMA’s regional administrator. “Deliberately set fires were used to wantonly destroy local businesses, public buildings, and other property.”

Current estimates of the total damage exceed $500 million, the governor wrote, “making this the second most destructive incident of civil unrest in United States history after the 1992 Los Angeles riots.”

The federal assistance would reimburse local governments for damage to public buildings and equipment, debris removal and emergency protective measures.

Walz wrote that the financial challenge of recovering has been made even harder by the impacts on the state budget from the cononavirus pandemic. A projected $1.5 billion budget surplus in February was soon wiped out by a projected $2.4 billion revenue shortfall, he noted.

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