Invade, liberate …six of one, half-dozen of the other. After a shocking retreat yesterday evening by National Guard and police from the burnt-out shell of the 3rd Precinct in Minneapolis, rioters again roamed Twin Cities streets freely. A later effort to reassert National Guard and law-enforcement authority appeared to fail as well early in the morning.
Governor Tim Walz told people, “You need to go home,” and also belatedly admitted that he’s in over his head. The riot has taken on characteristics of a “military operation,” and Walz says he doesn’t have enough forces to deal with it:
“The absolute chaos — this is not grieving, and this is not making a statement [about an injustice] that we fully acknowledge needs to be fixed — this is dangerous,” Walz said. “You need to go home.”
Implying that organized outsiders, perhaps including anarchists, white supremacists and drug cartel agents from outside Minnesota, were contributing to the chaos, Walz said, “The sheer number of rioters has made it impossible to make coherent arrests. … The capacity to be able to do offensive action was greatly diminished” by the sheer scope and seemingly organized nature of the assaults.
“The terrifying thing is that this resembles more a military operation now as you observe ringleaders moving from place to place,” he said.
“I will take responsibility for underestimating the wanton destruction and the sheer size of this crowd,” Walz said. He said repeatedly that the sheer scope of the crowds and violence have been shocking, and that there was no way for for authorities to anticipate or prepare for such an onslaught.
“There are simply more of them than us,” he said.
It’s tough to say whether he doesn’t have the numbers, or the will to use the force already at his disposal. Walz and Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey made the same mistake that Los Angeles initially made in 1992’s Rodney King riots, which is to field an inadequate force at first and then quail at its use. In that riot, an initial pullback was not received as a signal of cooperation but a sign of weakness, which incentivized anarchists and nihilists to run wild:
In the hour that followed Moulin’s retreat, the LAPD officers failed to implement virtually every time-honored crowd-control tactic. They failed to take the elemental step of sealing off traffic to Florence and Normandie by cordoning off nearby streets. They failed to confront the mob with a squadron of, say, 50 officers marching in riot gear—which ordinarily will make even a rowdy crowd disperse. They had no field-jail units and buses in place—which would have enabled officers to arrest unruly crowd members and then turn them over to detectives without having to leave the scene to bring arrestees to the station. They failed to use tear gas or pepper gas to disperse the mob. They did not send their vice and narcotics cops in undercover to spy on the mob or place police snipers atop tall buildings in the area. They failed to provide police escorts for firefighters, so they could safely combat early outbreaks of arson. And they failed to secure local gun stores (one of which lost 1,150 firearms during the first night of the riot). Not until 6:43, an hour after the police retreat, did LAPD dispatchers even issue a tactical alert for south Los Angeles, which finally freed supervisors to assign emergency calls to units from other parts of the city.
AWOL brass. The 77th’s lack of preparedness was exacerbated by gaps in the chain of command. In the midst of the biggest crisis of his career, Daryl Gates left police headquarters to attend a fund-raiser in posh Brentwood about 6:20 p.m., temporarily turning over command to a deputy. Meanwhile, two thirds of the LAPD’s 18 patrol captains were out of commission, returning from a training seminar outside the city.
To be sure, a rapid and decisive response by the 77th at Florence and Normandie would not have prevented some kind of disturbance from evolving in Los Angeles that day; isolated incidents of blacks assaulting whites and looting of stores started popping up on a small scale at several locations in South Central about 15 minutes before Denny was beaten. Even so, the prolonged, televised absence of police at the riot’s epicenter virtually invited thousands of would-be looters to believe they could steal and rampage with impunity. In fact, no riot-related fires started in Los Angeles until after the Denny beating—some four hours after the acquittals were announced—and the number and location of lootings mushroomed immediately following the attack on the trucker.
That cost-free environment for rioters of just a few hours gave a nuclear boost to their momentum, one that would take days and a number of lives to overcome. Walz and Frey have given them days of that momentum and cost-free space. Popping up on TV now to announce that the government is too overwhelmed to impose order on its streets isn’t exactly going to help, either. Unless Walz uses the force he has at his disposal, this “military operation” riot will continue.
Failing that, the legitimate military might need to take control. The Associated Press reports this morning that the Pentagon has put Army urban-control units on alert in preparation for possible deployment to the streets of Minneapolis and Saint Paul:
As unrest spread across dozens of American cities on Friday, the Pentagon took the rare step of ordering the Army to put several active-duty U.S. military police units on the ready to deploy to Minneapolis, where the police killing of George Floyd sparked the widespread protests.
Soldiers from Fort Bragg in North Carolina and Fort Drum in New York have been ordered to be ready to deploy within four hours if called, according to three people with direct knowledge of the orders. Soldiers in Fort Carson, in Colorado, and Fort Riley in Kansas have been told to be ready within 24 hours. The people did not want their names used because they were not authorized to discuss the preparations.
The get-ready orders were sent verbally on Friday, after President Donald Trump asked Defense Secretary Mark Esper for military options to help quell the unrest in Minneapolis after protests descended into looting and arson in some parts of the city.
Trump made the request on a phone call from the Oval Office on Thursday night that included Esper, National Security Advisor Robert O’ Brien and several others. The president asked Esper for rapid deployment options if the Minneapolis protests continued to spiral out of control, according to one of the people, a senior Pentagon official who was on the call.
Can Trump actually order such a domestic deployment? Under the Insurrection Act of 1807, yes, and it has been done before. In fact, that’s precisely what happened in the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles. Technically speaking, the law requires an actual “insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy,” but Walz’ comments make that a fairly easy case for the White House to make. It also requires that the emergency deprives US citizens of “a right, privilege, immunity, or protection named in the Constitution and secured by law,” and that “the constituted authorities of that State are unable, fail, or refuse to protect that right, privilege, or immunity, or to give that protection.” Right now, that sounds like a very good description of Minnesota’s position, as businesses burn and the state orders citizens to remain in their homes while disorder prevails.
If Trump does deploy the Army, those troops would not be under Walz’ control either but Trump’s through Esper. Their rules of engagement would likely be quite different than the feckless response we have seen from Walz and Frey over this past week as well. Trump would almost certainly federalize the National Guard in Minnesota at the same time for the duration of the crisis, which will strip Walz of much of his ability to shape events. Not that he’s used much of it up until now.
Under any other circumstances, an intervention by Trump in Twin Cities’ law enforcement would have created howls of outrage from the progressives who populate its leadership, and likely from much of the citizenry as well. Now, after watching the utter incompetence on display in Minnesota the last few nights, one has to wonder whether some of those same people might not toss a few flowers at the feet of soldiers who might be all that’s left between them and getting burned out of their businesses and homes.
So will Trump give the order? Looks like he’s clearing his throat this morning:
Trump would almost certainly prefer not to have to give this order. It would tie his presidency down with all sorts of civic-management issues that no White House would want to manage ever, let alone from 1500 miles away. This is a signal to Minnesota to get its streets under control or else.
Consider that signal received … finally:
BREAKING: Minnesota Gov. Walz orders full mobilization of the Minnesota National Guard, "an action that has never been taken in the 164-year history of the Minnesota National Guard." pic.twitter.com/hsTU80YYEa
— NBC News (@NBCNews) May 30, 2020
Mobilizing is one thing. Having the will to use that force is very much another thing. If all Walz plans to do with a fully mobilized Guard is to conduct bigger retreats, he might as well leave them at home and have Trump call them up instead.