Minnesota National Guard soldiers were armed and the guard’s top general has requested military police units from out of state after he said the FBI received a “credible, lethal threat” against forces amid protests over the death of George Floyd during an encounter with Minneapolis police, according to reports.
The threat was made on May 28, according to Gov. Tim Walz. It was decided after that point that soldiers would be armed with live ammuniton in response to it.
The reported threats come after officials U.S. sought to determine Sunday whether extremist groups had infiltrated police brutality protests across the country and deliberately tipped largely peaceful demonstrations toward violence — and if foreign adversaries were behind a burgeoning disinformation campaign on social media.
An antifa activist group disseminated a message in a Telegram channel on Saturday that encouraged people to consider Minnesota National Guard troops “easy targets,” two Defense Department officials said. The message encouraged activists to steal “kit,” meaning the weapons and body armor used by the soldiers. The officials were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
As a result, soldiers with the Minnesota National Guard were armed during their mission at protests across the state Sunday, the officials said. The soldiers are sometimes armed but had not been since they moved into parts of the state that had been besieged by riots in the last few days. The troops do not have the authority to make arrests, and are there to act mostly as extra security for police.
More than 4,100 National Guard soldiers and airmen moved into the Twin Cities amid unrest in the metro over George Floyd’s death at the hands of police.
As the 8 p.m. curfew went into effect Saturday night, large crowds remained on the streets in Minneapolis and around 8:45 p.m., officers began to fire tear gas, rubber bullets and flashbangs to disperse crowds near the Minneapolis Police Department's Fifth Precinct.
Soldiers stood guard throughout the night protecting major sites in the Twin Cities including the state capitol.
Much like Minneapolis, the National Guard have been requested to major cities such as Atlanta, Los Angeles and Dallas, among many more as curfews are implemented to mitigate further vandalism and looting.
George Floyd died on May 25 in Minneapolis after former officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck. Chauvin was seen in a video kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he repeatedly said “I can’t breathe.” The officer continued to press his knee onto Floyd’s neck even after he lost consciousness. None of the other officers at the scene attempted to check on Floyd until after the ambulance arrived, despite bystanders’ pleas.
Floyd later died at the hospital. His was the latest in a series of deaths of black men and women at the hands of police in America that set off protests across the nation.
Chauvin now faces murder and manslaughter charges.
The three other police officers present when Floyd was detained have been identified as Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao, all of whom were fired following the incident.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.