One week before the Minnesota National Guard was deployed to racial justice protests in Minneapolis, the organization released a statement about two members who’d made racist statements in a Snapchat video.
“You'll learn the military is racist as shit, so get used to it now you fucking piece of shit,” one of the guards-members said in the clip. The remark did not appear to be issued in condemnation of prejudice: The woman was responding to members of a military group chat who’d chided her friend, also in the Minnesota National Guard, for using a racist slur.
The Minnesota National Guard deployed Thursday to act as crowd control in the explosive protests, which began Tuesday after a Minneapolis police officer was filmed kneeling on the neck of 46-year-old George Floyd just prior to his death. The officer was arrested on murder charges on Friday. But hours earlier, President Donald Trump fanned fears that the military might inflame tensions in a city that had just seen a police precinct burned down, implying that the force should kill people who steal from stores.
Further complicating the Minnesota National Guard’s role on the ground are allegations of racism within its own ranks, including the two women featured in last week’s video, as well as a former member of a white supremacist group the force declined to fire last year.
Protesters in Minneapolis have spent the week decrying repeated deaths of African-Americans in police custody. Those protests have led to or else provided cover for property damage, including thefts from a Target and other looting. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey must “get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right,” Trump tweeted. He added a phrase associated with previous crackdowns on black protesters, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” though he subsequently sought to walk back his Twitter barrage on Friday.
But the use of the National Guard as an additional and extra militarized police force, has left some activists worried the deployments will result in new violence. When the Missouri National Guard prepared to deploy at protests in Ferguson in 2014, troops referred to protesters as “enemy forces,” documents from the mission revealed.
“They’re here like shoot-to-kill,” Danika Holloway, 28, of South Minneapolis, told The Daily Beast Friday afternoon. “Someone is going to get hurt.”
It doesn’t help that at least some Minnesota National Guard members have recently been accused of straight-up hate. On Twitter last week, National Guard recruit Abdo Hamed uploaded screenshots and video he said were recorded after a fellow recruit said “the n-word in this military GC [group chat] I’m in.”
Hamed uploaded video the other recruit had allegedly posted after he confronted her. “If you think that’s racist, you’re a niggly-wiggly,” a young woman says in the clip.
According to screenshots Hamed shared, most members of the military group chat told the guard member to stop the slurs. “It is unbecoming of someone who wears the uniform and is unprofessional,” one wrote.
“That is [w]hat me and my friends call them sooo ok I really don’t care what you think sorry not sorry,” replied the woman accused of using slurs. She later uploaded a video featuring a friend, who was also in the Minnesota National Guard.
“You'll learn the military is racist as shit, so get used to it now you fucking piece of shit,” the other woman said, apparently to members of the group chat.
In a statement last week, the Minnesota National Guard condemned the statements.
"The content of these statements does not represent the values of the Minnesota National Guard or the high standards we expect of our service members," the organization said. "We are currently looking into this matter to determine the most appropriate actions moving forward."
A spokesperson told The Daily Beast the incident was still under investigation.
Last year, the Minnesota National Guard also came under scrutiny when the Huffington Post reported that a member was involved in the white supremacist group Identity Evropa. Identity Evropa associates have been linked to multiple violent crimes and were heavily involved in the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The member, Andrew James Schmidt, placed recruitment flyers for the hate group around a college campus, and used a picture of the Nazi Reinhard Heydrich as his profile picture online. The Guard declined to fire Schmidt, stating that his involvement with Identity Evropa occurred before joining the military. In a statement to the Huffington Post, the Guard said Schmidt was not among the 500 members deployed to Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Schmidt told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune in June 2019 that he was no longer part of Identity Evropa, and that he was “ashamed and embarrassed” of his participation. But just months earlier, he’d been telling members of the group about his military training.
“Last day in Minnesota before army basic training. Wish I could have made it to LoPF19,” he wrote in February of that year, in reference to Identity Evropa’s Leading Our People Forward event. “Looks like a lot of fun!”
With reporting by Solomon Gustavo