MINNEAPOLIS — The Minneapolis Police Department's Third Precinct building was overrun by rioters on Thursday, May 28, and forced officers' evacuation as demonstrations continued in remembrance of George Floyd, who died after a since-fired officer knelt on Floyd's neck.

Fire could be seen in the building around 10:30 p.m. Thursday and the department in a statement said the building had been compromised and all officers within evacuated safely. The crowd surrounded the building and cheered as the flames burned. Firefighters waited to approach the building as rioters shot fireworks into the building.

Late Thursday, tensions grew between demonstrators and police after protesters threw objects at officers and officers responded by using pepper spray and stun grenades to break up their groups. Throughout most of the day, the gatherings in Minneapolis occurred peacefully.

In St. Paul, meanwhile, separate groups of looters broke into several businesses and set fire to stores.

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President Donald Trump weighed in on the situation, saying local leaders should step up to address the riots. Trump on Twitter said he was speaking with Gov. Tim Walz and said "the military is with him all the way."

"These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen," the president tweeted. "Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!"

The Minnesota National Guard Thursday night said it had 500 soldiers at the ready to respond to the protests. Walz on Thursday activated the guard at the request of Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey.

"We have activated more than 500 soldiers to St. Paul, Minneapolis and surrounding communities," the Minnesota National Guard said on Twitter. "Our mission is to protect life, preserve property and the right to peacefully demonstrate. A key objective is to ensure fire departments are able to respond to calls."

For a third day, demonstrators convened near the site where George Floyd was held down by a Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his neck as he said he couldn't breathe. Thousands marched through the streets and called for the prosecution of four police officers on the scene during the incident.

Four officers at the scene during the incident — Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J Alexander Kueng — have been fired from the Minneapolis Police Department.

State and federal investigators and prosecutors said work on parallel investigations into the death were ongoing and they asked for additional information from witnesses to help fill out the framework of what happened. And they urged those calling for quick answers to remain calm and give them time.

Prior deadly force charges had been brought too quickly and failed in court, they said.

"We are going to investigate it as expeditiously, as thoroughly and completely as justice demands. Sometimes that takes a little time. And we ask people to be patient," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said.

Community leaders including local elected officials and faith leaders, meanwhile, have spoken out to criticize the actions of Minneapolis police officers that preceded Floyd's death. In a statement posted online, the National Fraternal Order of Police — the largest cop union in the U.S. — condemned tactics used on Floyd.

Floyd was transported to the hospital after he was arrested and pinned down on Monday. He later died and a video depicting his last minutes sparked widespread backlash and a call to investigate what happened after police initially called it a medical disorder.

Guard deploys

A day after dozens of stores were looted near demonstrations against Minneapolis police and several fires were set in the Powderhorn neighborhood, Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday activated the Minnesota National Guard to assist Minneapolis police and other law enforcement in containing demonstrations. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey had called on the state to deploy the Minnesota National Guard to the city as demonstrators.

The move to bring in the National Guard went against the guidance of protesters and community leaders who called for de-escalation and removal of police. State and local officials along with prominent faith leaders urged demonstrators to protest peacefully Thursday night.

"George Floyd’s death should lead to justice and systemic change, not more death and destruction. As George Floyd’s family has said, ‘Floyd would not want people to get hurt. He lived his life protecting people,’" Walz said in a news release. "Let’s come together to rebuild, remember, and seek justice for George Floyd."

The Minneapolis NAACP on Thursday tweeted that the National Guard presence was not needed and asked for law enforcement to deescalate the scene.

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said his department would allow peaceful protests to continue but would take action against those looting or setting fires.

"Even prior to Mr. Floyd's death, we have had a community that has been in trauma for quite some time. And what I cannot allow as chief is for others to compound that trauma. So, if individuals, as occurred last night, are committing behaviors and acts which are criminal ... I cannot allow that," Arradondo said. "I am committed to making sure we restore peace and security in our community."

Frey said Minneapolis enabled a unified command structure that allowed it to bring in additional jurisdictions to assist with law enforcement needs, including 200 troopers from the State Patrol. Police from St. Paul and suburban police forces on Wednesday night joined Minneapolis officers in responding to demonstrations.

The activation and a peacetime emergency declaration free up state patrol helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft to help monitor demonstrations and access to the State Emergency Operations Center, which had been activated due to the COVID-19 epidemic.

A call for peace

State and local leaders on Thursday urged demonstrators to gather peacefully to avoid further trauma to a community reeling from Floyd's death and the aftermath of protests against the Minneapolis Police Department.

“We feel as if there was a knee on all of our collective necks, a knee that says, 'black life does not matter,'” Minneapolis Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins said Thursday. "I am a part of this system to help to take that knee off of our necks and that is the work I will be doing ... I know that something has got to change."

Jenkins called on elected officials to declare a state of emergency declaring racism as a public health issue and she urged demonstrators and others to gather and protest without violence. Jenkins and others said community and faith leaders would be out Thursday calling for peace and setting up a healing site at the precinct.

"We need peace and calm in our streets and I am begging you for that," Jenkins said.

Frey on Thursday said he was hopeful that Minneapolis would rise to the occasion and continue mourning Floyd without violence.

"We must restore the peace so we can do this hard work together," Frey said. "At this time when one crisis is sandwiched against the other, this could be a marker. This could be the point in time when several years from now we can know that we rose to right the wrongs of the past."

Looting in St. Paul

Thursday afternoon and into the evening, looting in St. Paul's Midway area forced the shutdown of several buildings. Late Thursday night, the St. Paul Police Department reported that 170 businesses were damaged or looted and several fires were extinguished.

No serious injuries were reported.

Throngs of protesters gathered outside a Target store there on University Avenue, circling the parking lot until at least 5 p.m. Some threw rocks and bottles at the police officers present, who would then respond by deploying chemical irritants in a bid to disperse the crowd.

Multiple glass-windowed storefronts along nearby blocks of University Avenue were visibly shattered by late Thursday afternoon as well, with the St. Paul city police reporting looting and break-ins. Motorists passing through the area shouted at the protesters who walked or ran by or else sped past them to avoid the frenzy. Firefighters responded to fires at multiple storefronts Thursday afternoon.

Lines of people formed outside of some locally owned businesses, perhaps in an effort to prevent them from being damaged.

And St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter urged demonstrators to stay calm and asked that they stay at home to continue honoring Floyd's life.

"I’m angry/ sad as anyone & pushing for the officers who killed George Floyd to be arrested ASAP," he wrote. "Destroying places we rely on for jobs, food & medicine won’t help us prevent it from happening again."

Target on Thursday announced it would shut down 24 stores in the metro area due to concerns about additional looting.