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Minnesota governor expects ‘swift’ justice in Floyd death as ‘fires still smolder’

Pool photo
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz speaking at a news conference.
Minneapolis police station fire
Protesters stand in front of a burning police precinct in Minneapolis.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota -- Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz expressed his concern Friday over the protests that have rocked his state and the black community which, he said, is "hurting beyond words."

"Minneapolis and St. Paul are on fire. The fires still smolder in our streets.  The ashes are symbolic of decades and generations of pain, of anguish, unheard," Walz said during a news conference.

The governor addressed the state's response to protests and public safety concerns as thick smoke hovered over Minneapolis after cheering protesters torched a police station that officers abandoned.

The fire came during a third night of violent protests that flared over the death of George Floyd. The handcuffed black man pleaded for air as a white police officer knelt on his neck.

RELATED STORY & VIDEO: Protesters upset by black man’s death set fire to Minneapolis police station

Walz said he has an expectation that "swift" justice will be carried against the police officers involved in the death of George Floyd.

"It is my expectation that justice for the officers involved in this will be swift, that it will come in a timely manner, that it will be fair. That is what we've asked for. I have been in contact with Hennepin County attorney, and I am confident that those very things I just said will happen," Walz said.

John Harrington, commissioner of Minnesota's Department of Public Safety, called the death of Floyd a murder during Friday's news briefing.

"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 the 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'm just calling what I see at that point," Harrington said.

He indicated he was putting together a "unified command" of several different law enforcement and public safety entities to prepare for more protests Friday and this weekend.

Harrington said he is going to do this "the right way" by keeping in mind the oath to protect communities.

"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 who need to freely assemble can be protected," he said.

The focus of many of the protests has been the 3rd Precinct station. A spokesman said police abandoned it late Thursday to protect employees. Protesters later entered the building, where fires were then intentionally set.

The Minnesota Army National Guard was securing the precinct on Friday morning to allow crews to "come in and begin the cleanup of that area," said Adjutant General Jon Jensen, who added that the Guard would continue to operate in the city for as long as necessary.  

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