ST. PAUL — In the early hours of Sunday, May 31, officials said Minnesota law enforcement have gotten a hold on the Twin Cities' days-long string of riots, stealing and arson fires.
Minnesota Department of Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell told reporters at 1 a.m. Sunday that residents can "rest a little easier" after officials substantially beefed up police and National Guard presence and operations Saturday. The increased policing came following four days of protesting 46-year-old George Floyd's death in police custody on Monday night.
While some protests remained peaceful, many sparked confrontations between demonstrators and police. Incidents of violence, looting and arson began cropping up around the metro, some of which officials pin on potential outside criminal groups intent on causing more mayhem.
Early Sunday, Schnell said public safety officials do not see themselves as "out of the woods" yet, but things were better off in the hours prior to a 1 a.m. press conference than earlier this week. Most of the groups that officers intercepted were smaller than in previous nights, he said -- between five and 20 people each. He also said earlier Saturday that officers successfully scattered a group congregating near the Minneapolis Police Department's 5th Precinct.
Officials did not immediately have available updated arrest numbers. Schnell said the number was "in the dozens," but added that the booking process has taken longer than usual.
Many of the arrests as of late Saturday were for curfew violations, though a tweet from the state Department of Public Safety said that it arrested several individuals for gun violations.
Schnell said he was not positive of the exact number of additional officers out patrolling the Twin Cities Saturday night, but said the number was "in the hundreds."
He also gave credit to Saturday night's relative return to normalcy to residents' "incredible levels of compliance" with Saturday night's 8 p.m. curfew, as well as a commitment to protecting their neighborhoods. Whether to extend the curfew beyond Saturday night is left to Gov. Tim Walz and local officials, he said.
"Do I think we’ve made progress tonight? Yes. Do I think we will have a better sense as we get into this tomorrow? Yes," Schnell said. "Ultimately, the goal is to restore the situation to a point where regular, normal police operations are adequate."
Hours earlier, Walz told reporters that Minneapolis and St. Paul were in for a "long night," and was followed by other state officials who projected a sense of early optimism over their grasp on the situation.
Local, county and state public safety agencies reported fires and arrests in different parts of the cities throughout the night, but Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen, head of the Minnesota National Guard, said late Saturday that the service branch was "in a position of strength." The Minnesota Department of Transportation closed several major interstates and highways into the Twin Cities from 7 p.m. Saturday until 6 a.m. Sunday.
Walz earlier Saturday order a full mobilization of the Guard, the first in its history in Minnesota. Guard news releases indicate that approximately 2,500 airmen and soldiers are assisting local authorities this evening. An additional 7,000 to 10,000 may be deployed.
Per an executive order Walz signed Saturday, public safety departments from jurisdiction are adding to the numbers of local ones already at work. Schnell and other officials stressed, however, that the night was still young.
"Some of the groups that are here are in it for the long haul," he said.
Prior to nightfall, demonstrators struck a mostly peaceful tone on Saturday. Officials have expressed support for such protests and have gone as far as to condemn the nature of Floyd's death outright.
Floyd, who was black, died Monday evening following a confrontation with police officers responding to a counterfeiting incident reported by a south Minneapolis convenience store. Officers located him inside a vehicle matching one described in the initial call to police.
Derek Chauvin, 44, the white officer who a bystander captured on video kneeling on a handcuffed Floyd's neck shortly before he died, was fired this week, arrested and charged with murder in the third degree and manslaughter. Walz and others have decried the act as a murder, and a protest that started in Minneapolis briefly boiled over in neighboring St. Paul this week before spreading to other U.S. cities.
Amid the calls for justice reform, however, are widespread reports of destructive behavior. But many communities have rebounded to clean up battered storefronts and buildings under the light of day.
Government officials at the state and local level, including Walz and the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul, have said repeatedly now they have reason to believe that groups from outside the region and with ties to organized crime may be responsible for looting and riots that were carried out amid protests over Floyd's death in recent days.
State and city officials have been evasive, however, about the source and validity of the intelligence that suggested outside groups are infiltrating demonstrations. Walz said that he still believed the intelligence to be credible but left open the possibility that information collected during arrests made tonight may ultimately suggest otherwise.
A message sent to the DPS requesting more information on claims of outside actors was not immediately returned.
In anticipation of further unrest, more and more local business owners throughout the metro area have responded by boarding up shop throughout the Twin Cities area before nightfall. Major highways leading into the cities were scheduled to close to through traffic beginning at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
Though criticism has been leveled at the law enforcement response to this week's more violent events, officials insisted that Saturday night would be different. In addition to a heftier police presence on the ground, Walz said that airborne surveillance methods would be used as well.