In a Sunday op-ed for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Minneapolis mayoral candidate Sheila Nezhad called on Gov. Tim Walz to rescind his activation of Minnesota National Guard troops ahead of anticipated unrest during the trial of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin, because the troops’ presence increase violence.
In her op-ed, Nezhad said the National Guard’s presence in Minneapolis in May 2020 “only led to more violence and gave little benefit to the city.” Troops were deployed at the time in response to protests that broke out following the death of George Floyd, a black man killed in police custody when Chauvin kneeled on his neck.
Rioters had destroyed businesses, injured law enforcement officers, and set fire to the Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct, among other violent and destructive acts. Gov. Walz was among the first to call up his state’s National Guard troops to respond to the unrest, and numerous other states throughout the country followed in his footsteps when demonstrations moved nationwide.
Nezhad criticized the National Guard for failing to stop a semi-truck from driving onto a highway where demonstrators had blocked traffic. The truck driver, Bogdan Vechirko, brought his truck to a stop before any demonstrators were harmed, and he was initially released in June without charges, but now faces charges of making threats of violence and a gross misdemeanor count of criminal vehicular operation.
“It’s important to point out that this truck was not stopped by the National Guard and State Patrol, and easily could have been thus allowed to threaten residents as a 50 ton battering ram,” Nezhad wrote.
In her op-ed, Nezhad wrote, “It was community members, not the National Guard, who were on the front lines. Mutual aid groups set up tents and tables to provide food and water, and to distribute flashlights and generators when power was cut to ‘riot’ areas. Neighbors met each other, some for the first time, to organize block patrols and make sure everyone had someone to call when they needed help.”
“Street medics, myself among them, bandaged wounds, and offered physical and emotional support to those under duress. Our grief was met with humanity, not helicopters and Humvees,” Nezhad added.
Nezhad continued, writing, “Let’s not forget that our current law enforcement system is why Frey and Walz are wrongly responding with even more law enforcement. It is time for accountability for Derek Chauvin and the Minneapolis Police Department.”
Nezhad is an activist member of Reclaim the Block, and MPD150, two groups that have campaigned to defund the Minneapolis Police Department. On her campaign website, Nezhad has said she favors public safety alternatives like “mobile mental health teams.”