NC National Guard mobilized over "civil unrest"

Governor authorizes 450 guard members to help cities as needed, says "black lives do matter."

Posted Updated
Gov. Roy Cooper
Travis Fain
, WRAL statehouse reporter

The National Guard will deploy in Charlotte, Raleigh and potentially other North Carolina cities, Gov. Roy Cooper said Sunday afternoon, as he called for peace and a focus on the racism that precipitated protests around the country.

The governor said he authorized 450 guard members, and that they're available by requests from local officials. At his 4 p.m. press conference, Cooper said Raleigh and Charlotte had requested help.

Any curfew decisions will be made locally, the governor said.

The governor also said that he spoke yesterday, by telephone, with Bridgette Floyd, who lives in Hoke County. It was her brother, George Floyd, whose video-taped death beneath the knee of a Minneapolis police officer kicked off protests, and eventually rioting, in Minnesota and beyond.

"I fear the cry of the people is being drowned out by the noise of riots," Cooper said Sunday.

"We must stop this destruction," he said. "But I want to remind everyone of something vitally important: We cannot focus so much on property damage that we forget why people are in the streets in the first place."

"Black lives do matter," he said.

The governor said Floyd's death "broke open painful wounds" and that racism, white supremacy and the litany of inequalities that stem from them are very real. He said scars "mark generations of trauma that black people and other communities of color continue to suffer."

"We have to have these hard conversations, then move beyond them to do the work of fighting racism, building safe, thriving communities for everyone," Cooper said.

The governor said he wants to give people "room and space and time" to make their points in protest, and that "people are more important than property." He encouraged local leaders to meet with protesters. He said guard members being deployed are trained in the "protection of public structures" and "that is how they will be used."

The Guard's adjutant general in North Carolina, Todd Hunt, said guard members have worked riots before, including the 2016 riots in Charlotte. The guard said in a press release issued just after the governor's remarks that North Carolina is one of 15 states that has called out the National Guard "due to civil unrest."

The Guard said everyone mobilizing has "undergone special training in site security operations, crowd control and inter-agency operations."

"The Guard will support local authorities and help safeguard the lives and property of North Carolinians and the ability for individuals to exercise their right to peacefully demonstrate," the Guard said in its release.

It's not clear how much activity should be expected tonight after peaceful protests turned to riots and looting Saturday night in multiple North Carolina cities, including Raleigh, Charlotte, Fayetteville and Greensboro. Cooper said there were no known deaths or critical injuries from the overnight spree, which caused heavy property damage and a long list of more minor injuries.

The governor's press conference lasted less than 20 minutes Sunday, cut short by technical problems with the conference call system used for these press conferences due to COVID-19.

Republican leaders in the General Assembly had called for a tougher stance on property destruction. Speaker of the House Tim Moore called for Cooper to mobilize the National Guard in early hours of Sunday morning, as he filmed rioting from his balcony high up in an apartment building in downtown Raleigh.

“The senseless destruction of businesses and property must be stopped at once," Moore said in a statement. "I am calling on Governor Cooper to immediately send in the National Guard. As I am posting this I literally am hearing semiautomatic gunfire, hearing glass windows being smashed and shouts from rioters. Unbelievable this has not been stopped.”

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger put out a statement Sunday afternoon saying George Floyd's death was "shocking to all people committed to fairness and justice in our society." Berger, R-Rockingham, acknowledged that some protests have been peaceful, but he said "lawlessness and destruction cannot be permitted," and he questioned preparations ahead of Saturday night.

"Given the experience of other localities in recent days, preparations should have been in place in the event things were getting out of hand," Berger said. "Local and state executive agency leaders have a duty to the public to be prepared to respond to the kind of anarchy seen on our streets last night.

"Leaders in Raleigh and Wake County should be forthright with the public and explain how this was allowed to happen and provide assurance that adequate steps are in place to prevent this chaos and destruction from happening again," Berger said in his release.


Copyright 2024 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.