MINNEAPOLIS—A night after Minneapolis burned, protests on Saturday were mostly calm—until cops and the National Guard moved in with force against those breaking curfew.
The protests in Minneapolis, where 46-year-old George Floyd died after a white cop knelt on his neck for several minutes, began peacefully on Saturday as hundreds of residents marched alongside police officers. But just after the 8:00 p.m. curfew passed and all major highways into the Twin Cities were shut down, police appeared in full gear.
They began to fling tear gas, flashbangs, and rubber bullets at protesters and journalists alike—pushing crowds away from police precincts that had been previously set ablaze the previous nights. While police were ostensibly cracking down on curfew breakers, it’s not clear why they would target journalists, who are exempt from the 8 p.m. curfew and allowed to report from the scene.
“Tonight will be different,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said Saturday evening just after the curfew went into effect. “If you are on the street tonight, it is very clear: You are not with us. You do not share our values. And we will use the full strength of goodness and righteousness to make sure that this ends.”
In one tweet, Minnesota State Patrol warned demonstrators that troopers were moving to secure the Fifth Precinct building and ordered everyone to go home. National Guard Troops continued to advance against crowds, traveling in groups through the smoke and tear gas as they urged people to go indoors after the 8 p.m. emergency notice was sent to all cell-phones in the area to warn about the start of the curfew.
Droves of Guard troops, alongside Minneapolis police officers, swept residential streets after the curfew was enacted—forcing residents inside their homes as they shot paint canisters while yelling “light em up.”
“Get inside, get inside. Get in your house now, let's go!” the troops yelled at one resident, who posted the interaction on Twitter before a gunshot rang out.
One woman overcome with tear gas began vomiting on a sidewalk in front of a building where people inside were ushering protesters to safety. Another woman, trapped between two flanks of officers, was running in near circles, panicked.
“I don’t know where to go,” she screamed. “Please don’t shoot me!”
MSNBC host Ali Velshi was also hit with tear gas and a rubber bullet while reporting on the ground in Minneapolis.
“I’m hit in the leg by a rubber bullet but [I] am fine,” Velshi tweeted on Saturday. “State Police supported by National guard fired unprovoked into an entirely peaceful rally.”
Later, a CNN producer was struck with tear gas as droves of police officers tried to forcibly usher protesters away in a manner host Don Lemon called “a war zone.”
A CBS News crew was also fired upon with rubber bullets, despite being nowhere near the crowds of protesters.
“We were not standing within 500 feet of any protesters at the time, and we had credentials displayed and cameras out,” news correspondent Michael George tweeted, adding that their sound engineer had been struck in the arm.
A Vice News reporter said he was thrown to the ground and pepper sprayed despite repeatedly identifying himself as a journalist and showing his press card.
After the onslaught, small crowds of protesters gathered and screamed at the police as officers in squad cars and vans swarmed from seemingly all sides. A white man on a bicycle circled in front of them and yelled at officers, “I hope you feel good about this you fucking scum! Your mother should have spit you out!”
The man was then confronted by a black woman who demanded to know if he was “KKK” intent on riling up police further. At 9 p.m., protesters continued running northbound toward downtown as more squad cars traveled south to back up officers stationed on Blaisdell Avenue and other north-south streets. Fireworks and continued volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets could be heard in the distance as helicopters hovered above.
President Donald Trump praised the National Guard and their forceful tactics in the Twin Cities on Saturday evening. The praise came just one day after the president issued an apparent call for violence after the first day of protests in Minneapolis, calling protesters “thugs” and vowing that when “looting starts, the shooting starts.”
“The National Guard has been released in Minneapolis to do the job that the Democrat Mayor couldn’t do,” he tweeted Saturday. “Should have been used 2 days ago & there would not have been damaged & Police Headquarters would not have been taken over & ruined. Great job by the National Guard. No games!”