Gov. Tim Walz has criticized union activists who pressured the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation (SPLRF) to ask the Minnesota National Guard to stop using its building as a staging area for its response to the protests over the killing of Daunte Wright.
Around 50 soldiers and armored vehicles arrived at the St. Paul Labor Center on West 7th Street Tuesday, per the Pioneer Press, only for a number of union members from several industries to turn up and demand they be removed from the building.
As they were leaving the newspaper notes some union members were saying "Don't come back!", "Who's house? Our house!" and "Na-na-na-na, goodbye!"
This in turn sparked condemnation from Gov. Walz, himself a former National Guard member, who tweeted: "Let’s be clear: The brave men and women of the Minnesota National Guard are our neighbors.
"They’re teachers, health care workers, and business owners who live in communities across our state. This is unacceptable. They can’t 'go home' — this is their home."
The tactics used by police on those protesting the killing of Wright – including the use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and flashbangs – has come in for criticism from activists, state lawmakers, unions, and city leaders including Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott.
The Minnesota National Guard has been involved in the response to the protests, making use of its soldiers and vehicles to block off streets and provide support as police make post-curfew arrests in Brooklyn Center.
And their wider presence in the Twin Cities for the Derek Chauvin trial, which has doubled in the wake of Wright's death, has left some feeling that Minneapolis and its neighboring cities are under a military-style occupation, with multiple buildings downtown still behind heavy fencing and barricades.
The onset of the protests following Wright's killing by a police officer in Brooklyn Center on Sunday saw the "Operation Safety Net" response to the Chauvin trial move to its next phase – which means more police and National Guard soldiers on the streets – earlier than planned.
Military vehicles have been spotted in recent days deployed in commercial areas – including outside grocery stores – as well as conducting patrols in communities in Minneapolis and beyond, with soldiers seen in parts of south Minneapolis, along Hennepin Avenue in Uptown, and through Loring Park.
It comes after the first two nights of Wright protests also saw looting in parts of the city as the police response was focused on Brooklyn Center, though reports of lootings and burglaries have died down in the past few nights.
Walz on Thursday defended some of the measures employed in response to the protests, saying their use likely prevented the Brooklyn Center Police Department from being overrun and burned by protesters, much in the same way the Minneapolis Third Police Precinct burned in the wake of George Floyd's death.
Among those criticizing the union activists for demanding the National Guard leave the St. Paul building was GOP House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, who called on union leaders to apologize.