Minnesota governor, mayor slammed by local press, politicians for response to death, rioting

The critical leadership test that followed the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in Minneapolis killed by a white police officer, has proven one thing - state and local leaders tasked with responding to the escalating crisis have failed miserably- and they know it.

Though Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey did take some bold steps following Floyd's death, including calling for justice and working with his police chief to fire Derek Chauvin, the officer who knelt on Floyd's neck for nearly 9 minutes as the 46-year-old father begged for his life, the overall response has fallen woefully short in a city that's been divided by race and inequality for decades.

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On Saturday morning, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced the full mobilization of the state's National Guard for the first time in its 164-year history. It's a start, some say, but a move that should have been made days ago.

Walz and Frey, both Democrats, have been hammered over their nearly non-existent response to the growing crisis in Minneapolis which went from a peaceful protest over Floyd's death to an all-out assault on the city, its businesses and even residents.

"The situation in Minneapolis is no longer in any way about the murder of George Floyd," Walz said. "It's about attacking civil society, instilling fear and disrupting our great cities."

While that may be, residents say there's still a growing problem and its elected leaders need to address it immediately.

"It looks like a war zone," Jeff Boggs, an Atlanta native who moved to Minneapolis three years ago, told Fox News.

Tim Walz and Jacob Frey have been hammered for their response to the Minneapolis riots

Tim Walz and Jacob Frey have been hammered for their response to the Minneapolis riots (AP)

By almost all accounts, the presence of law enforcement has been nearly undetectable as the violence in Minneapolis escalated from Friday night into Saturday.

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While there had been police officers, state troopers and even some National Guard members in armored vehicles dispatched to deal with rioters, any authority they possessed was ignored.

According to local reports, orders issued by bullhorn to disperse were laughed off and it seemed no one paid any attention to the state's 8 p.m. curfew.

Fire burns inside The Family Dollar Store after a night of unrest and protests in the death of George Floyd early Friday, May 29, 2020 in Minneapolis. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day.

Fire burns inside The Family Dollar Store after a night of unrest and protests in the death of George Floyd early Friday, May 29, 2020 in Minneapolis. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day. (David Joles/Star Tribune via AP)

The Minneapolis Star Tribune's editorial board also blasted local leaders for failing to gauge the severity of the situation and not realizing that "Floyd's death could set off a powder keg."

"Where were the plans that should have already been in place at every level - city, county and state - to deal with prolonged civil arrest? Such episodes are not unknown in American history," the board said. "As Frey himself said at one point, the issues here have been brewing in this country for 400 years."

The sight of looters ransacking stores and arsonists laughing as the city burned around them has shaken what little confidence people had that their elected leaders would come to the rescue.

"It feels like we're on our own,"  Boggs said.

On Friday, with smoke drifting over Minneapolis, Walz acknowledged the "abject failure" of the response to this week's violent protests.

The Democratic governor said the state would take over the response and that it was time to show respect and dignity to those suffering.

"Minneapolis and St. Paul are on fire," he said. "The fire is still smoldering in our streets. The ashes are symbolic of decades and generations of pain, of anguish unheard. Now generations of pain is manifesting itself in front of the world - and the world is watching."

Walz said he received a call from a state senator who described her district as "on fire, no police, no firefighters, no social control, constituents locked in houses wondering what they were going to do. That is an abject failure that cannot happen."

Demonstrators kneel before police Saturday, May 30, 2020, in Minneapolis. Protests continued following the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day.

Demonstrators kneel before police Saturday, May 30, 2020, in Minneapolis. Protests continued following the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day. (AP)

His comments came after a night of mayhem and havoc that led to protesters torching a police station that officers were forced to abandon.

On Friday, Frey, who was taking questions from reporters, seemed visibly shaken.

When a journalist asked, "What's the plan here?" Frey responded, "With regard to?"

He added, "There is a lot of pain and anger right now in our city. I understand that...What we have seen over the past several hours and past couple of nights here in terms of looting is unacceptable."

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Frey also defended the city's largely hands-off approach with the looters.

"We are doing everything that we can to keep the peace," he said, adding that National Guard members were stationed around the city at banks, pharmacies and grocery stores.

His comments as well as the ones made by Walz hasn't had the calming effect that was probably intended.

State Rep. Hodan Hassan tweeted Friday, "The city of Minneapolis has a responsibility to put out fires and protect its residents. The fire on Park Ave is reaching a residential area and there is a gas station nearby. For our city's leadership to say they won't send a firetruck is irresponsible."

President Trump's ill-fated Friday morning tweets in which he threatened to bring Minneapolis "under control," referred to protesters as "thugs" and claimed, "when the looting starts, the shooting starts," seemed to only douse fuel on the growing dumpster fire.

Trump also took aim at the city's "total lack of leadership."

He followed it up on Saturday slamming Frey.

"Mayor Jacob Frey of Minneapolis will never be mistaken for the late, great General Douglas McArthur or great fighter General George Patton. How come all of these places that defend so poorly are run by Liberal Democrats? Get tough and fight (and arrest the bad ones). STRENGTH!" Trump tweeted.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.