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'We were abandoned': Pentagon emails show National Guard was ready to deploy before 2020 Minneapolis protests

Pentagon emails in the hours before protests in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis turned destructive show leaders were warned the situation could turn deadly and that the Minnesota National Guard was ready to help.

“We were abandoned,” a local government official said of the response to the protests in a Wilder Research report ordered by the state in the aftermath of the protests, according to a Military.com report Sunday. “By the time the National Guard even came, most everything had quieted down.”

Emails obtained by the Minneapolis Star Tribune show that on the morning of May 28, 2020, just days after the death of Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, U.S. Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel warned top Pentagon leaders that the situation in the city was likely to become dire. Minneapolis police expected roughly 75,000 protesters to descend on the city the weekend after Floyd’s death, which had already sparked mass outrage.

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Rioters in Minneapolis outside police building

Flames from a nearby fire illuminate protesters standing on a barricade in front of the Third Police Precinct on May 28, 2020 in Minneapolis during a protest over the death of George Floyd. (Getty)

Lengyel told Pentagon officials, including Deputy Secretary of Defense David Nordquist and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, that the Minnesota National Guard had 200 military police officers on standby ready to assist local law enforcement should they be called.

“They are prepared to be armed should MPD and the Governor request it,” the email said.

The emails show that the Minnesota National Guard was preparing to move on the city, with units setting up command stations in Monticello, Stillwater and Arden Hills. However, Adjutant General of the Minnesota National Guard Jon Jensen said in emails that the Guard units were still waiting on orders from Minneapolis police and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz.

“After last night’s violence, things have been accelerated by the state Director of Public Safety,” Walz said in an email on the morning of May 28. “We have worked with Minneapolis PD before — we supported them extensively during super bowl 52 in 2018 — we know their leadership and they know us.”

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Jensen said that Minnesota’s state police and other law enforcement agencies were already supported Minneapolis police through mutual aid agreements, but that the National Guard could provide an additional 200 military police officers to be “the reserve of the reserve.”

“Once we get our mission set from MPD I’ll follow up,” he said. “Right now: anticipate 200 [military police] for multiple days.”

George Floyd riots

A building goes up in flames during the George Floyd riots. (Getty Images)

However, the National Guard’s response to the crisis was delayed, with help failing to reach the city until after many of the riots had already dissipated. While the 75,000 protester number failed to materialize, the numbers that did show up were able to overwhelm local law enforcement, vandalizing and setting fire to several city buildings as Minneapolis residents attempted to defend their homes and businesses with baseball bats and garden hoses.

By 10 p.m. on May 28, police surrendered the Third Precinct, and the country watched as the police building was set on fire in a blaze that eventually would result in a total loss of the building.

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“No joy,” Milley wrote in an email as the police building burned, also noting that he had just met with then-President Donald Trump and needed Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to “call me ASAP.”

Mark Milley, joint chiefs of staff chairman, at podium

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

In the aftermath of the failure, leaders struggled to pass blame to others, with Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Fray saying he requested the governor send in the National Guard the night before.

“He did not say yes,” Frey would later tell the Star Tribune of his request. “He said he would consider it.”

However, after action reports revealed that the city also failed to follow two policies that dictate how to request help from the National Guard in the event of a large-scale disturbance, including a failure to call Office of Emergency Management, which meant Guard commanders “could not initiate the deployment because they had not received sufficient actionable information.”

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“We needed some specificity,” a government official said in the Wilder Report. “We were trying to understand what did Minneapolis need, so we can articulate that to something that is executable to General Jensen and the Minnesota National Guard.”

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz speaking at lectern

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Nevertheless, a National Guard spokesperson told Military.com that authority to deploy the National Guard ultimately rests with the governor.

“The governor’s office directs the National Guard to respond — when and where,” the spokesperson said. “That’s how any state will tell you it goes.”

The offices of Frey and Walz did not immediately respond to a Fox News request for comment.

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