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National Guard could be deployed indefinitely during trial of George Floyd officers in MN

Minnesota National Guard Soldiers guard the state capitol building in St. Paul, Minn., on May 31, 2020, during a demonstration in response to the death of George Floyd on May 25. (Minnesota National Guard photo by Sgt. Sebastian Nemec)
December 21, 2020

The National Guard could be deployed in Minnesota indefinitely next year for the duration of the trial of four Minneapolis police officers connected to the death of George Floyd, according to a document leaked last week.

Dubbed “Operation Safety Net,” the 12-page document details the guard’s response to civil unrest expected to take place before, during, and after the trial of Derek Chauvin, J Alexander Keung, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao, KSTP reported.

The order will be implemented as a “worst-case scenario,” calling for all available guard forces to activate indefinitely. The unspecified time-commitment and resources would be unprecedented, echoing a record-setting year for guardsmen who were called in response to the rioting and looting in the wake of Floyd’s death.

Leading the potential operation is Col. Scott Rohweder, who told KSTP, “It’s very prudent on us to make sure we’re planning for large scale numbers and how we would activate units.”

The operation would be the guard’s fourth deployment in under a year to help quell civil unrest.

Organized by the Minneapolis Police back in July, Operation Safety Net includes a number of agencies near the Twin Cities, an Minneapolis Police Department spokesman said.

“It is a big deal,” Rohweder said. “It’s one of those things where we have to be prepared for that kind of operation and change the paradigm of our thinking to make sure that we’re prepared at any moment’s notice to activate that kind of large scale force.”

The largest domestic deployment in Minnesota history occurred earlier this year when Governor Tim Walz ordered the National Guard’s full mobilization in response to widespread unrest. The number of troops to be activated through Operation Safety Net would be comparable to Walz’s earlier order, but could last significantly longer.

“It’s Governor Walz’s expectation that these long-term planning and coordination efforts will help keep Minnesotans safe,” said Teddy Tschann, a spokesman for Governor Walz.

Certain elements of the operation have already been completed, including moving equipment and vehicles, Rohweder told KSTP.

The expected eight-week trial is scheduled in March, but on Monday former-MPD officer Derek Chauvin requested the trial be delayed in order to provide the defendants with additional time to prepare.

If the schedule goes forward as planned, Walz could active the guard in February, the timeline in Operation Safety Net showed. Early activation will help stage troops.

“That particular piece was part of what we call a warning order, which is what goes out to our operational units to tell them that, ‘Hey, we have to be prepared,’” Rohweder said. “The actual days and times that we put together, we’ve made it very clear to our forces that May was a great example that we can’t predict the day or time of an event to happen.”

Rohweder added, “That’s what we do in the military, we plan for contingency operations to ensure that we’re ready to provide the support the governor might request.”