If you listened very closely Wednesday night, you could almost — almost — hear residents of Minneapolis and St. Paul heave a collective sigh of relief.
More than a week after the death of George Floyd at the hands of police, after days and nights of protests and marches and fires and looting and curfews and the deployment of National Guard troops and the charging of four former police officers with murder and aiding and abetting murder, the Twin Cities experienced a second night of relative calm. While state and community leaders said much more remains to be done, there was a sense that the grip of the past week is loosening.
On Wednesday, Attorney General Keith Ellison announced the addition of a more serious second-degree murder charge against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was shown on a witness’ video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes. Ellison also announced that the three former officers involved in Floyd’s arrest were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Walz thanked Minnesotans for their sacrifices to stay home and keep their neighborhoods safe, but he wasn’t ready to ease up just yet. He extended the curfews in Minneapolis and St. Paul for two more nights, 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., on Wednesday and Thursday out of continuing public safety concerns.
“Minnesotans need more than ever to lean on their neighbors, show up for their communities, and add their voice to this urgent conversation on addressing our systemic problems,” the governor said in a statement. “Yet they’ve made those sacrifices to stay home through the curfew to help keep our neighborhoods safe.”
People who have abided by the curfew are creating a space to allow state leaders to focus on other priorities, Walz said, priorities such as the civil rights investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department, charging the other officers involved in Floyd’s death and introducing changes that need to be made during the upcoming legislative special session.
In at least one sign of a return to normal in the Twin Cities area, Metro Transit restarted some service Wednesday morning. Buses began rolling again at 4 a.m. Wednesday after service was halted late last week over concerns for the safety of riders and employees.
Blue and Green Line light-rail service was to resume at 6 a.m. Thursday, the agency announced.
“I ask for — and I thank you for — your continued patience as we work to restore service,” Metro Transit General Manager Wes Kooistra said in a statement. “Please know that we are eager to return to fulfilling our mission to get people where they need to go. We recognize that reliable transportation is especially important in areas where food and other services are now harder to come by, and we will do all we can to meet those needs.”
Transit spokesman Howie Padilla said that despite the extension of nighttime curfews until before dawn Friday, “we expect to have service at the same levels and times as we have had during the COVID-19 epidemic.”
Some bus routes that usually travel in areas where unrest broke out in recent days may need adjusting. That includes the intersection of E. 38th Street and S. Chicago Avenue, where Floyd was detained by police and where a sprawling memorial on the pavement now dominates the space.
Various suburban transit agencies are also moving closer to normal operations.
Floyd’s death on May 25 prompted many days of protest in large areas of Minneapolis and St. Paul that included acts of looting, arson and property damage along with peaceful expressions of grief and outrage. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives National Response Team arrived in Minneapolis this week to investigate who was responsible for starting the fires during the riots.
While the unrest has ebbed since the mobilization of thousands of National Guard troops and the imposition of nightly curfews, nonviolent gatherings and activities have continued largely without incident. Protests have continued — outside the governor’s residence, on the grounds of the State Capitol and outside the offices of the Minneapolis Police Federation. Protesters there demanded the resignation of the union’s president, Lt. Bob Kroll.
Kroll has been an outspoken critic of the city’s liberal leadership, which he faults for being anti-police and holding back on needed resources and manpower. In a recent letter to the rank-and-file, he blasted the city’s handling of the riots following Floyd’s death, saying officers had been made “scapegoats” for the continued violence.
City leaders, in turn, have blasted Kroll for opposing reform and lacking empathy for the communities police serve.
Other statewide unions including Education Minnesota and the Minnesota Nurses Association joined the AFL-CIO in calling for Kroll’s resignation.
The Star Tribune, too, has drawn criticism. A protest in front of the news company’s offices on S. 3rd Avenue in downtown Minneapolis on Wednesday evening featured civil rights attorney Nekima Levy-Armstrong encouraging people to cancel their subscription to the newspaper.
The paper “regurgitates the news releases that come directly from the police department,” she said afterward. In the case of George Floyd, she said, “They put out that news release without any investigative journalism, without talking to black witnesses to get a different narrative.”
The protest drew thousands of people, nearly enough to fill the city block of S. 3rd Avenue between S. 7th Street and S. 6th Street.
Chief Hennepin County Public Defender Mary Moriarty also spoke, telling people, “This is a moment in history … We in the system need your help. We need you to help us. I vow to you that I will keep speaking out about systemic racism.”
Monique Cullars-Doty is the aunt of Marcus Golden. He was shot and killed in 2014 by two St. Paul police officers. She said the “media repeated multiple lies from the St. Paul Police Department.”
“They’re not investigating, they’re just putting out false narratives as if they’re an extension of the law enforcement agencies,” she said. “Their goal in doing that when the police try and demonize our loved ones is to justify the homicide.”
Staff writers Jessie Van Berkel and Matt McKinney contributed to this report.