Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday he doesn’t expect to mobilize the National Guard to respond to protests against police brutality across the state, as he praised law enforcement for their handling of the demonstrations.
“Obviously that remains an option for me as it does for other governors,” Edwards said of using the National Guard. “What I expect is we will continue to see peaceful, nonviolent demonstrations and protests where people appropriately exercise their First Amendment rights.”
Governors across the country have deployed National Guard troops, and police have used military trucks, tear gas and rubber bullets to clamp down on protesters who have turned out in huge numbers to demonstrate against police brutality in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. President Donald Trump earlier this week urged governors – during a call Edwards participated in – to respond more forcefully to the demonstrators, telling them to “dominate” and “do retribution” to protesters throwing rocks.
Edwards said he believes law enforcement in Louisiana is doing a “really good job” of working with organizers of the demonstrations, which have drawn thousands in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and elsewhere, and talking with the protesters.
“I think you’re seeing a lot more dialogue going on and it’s not the really raw, contentious nature you sometimes see,” Edwards said. “...You’re seeing less of that and a lot more dialogue and communication which I actually think is helpful.”
While Edwards said earlier this week he was working with federal officials on the response to protests, he said Wednesday the feds have merely shared “very generic” information with Louisiana law enforcement, without offering specifics. He said federal law enforcement shares if they have “credible information” about “problems” associated with any protests, but that Louisiana hasn’t experienced much of that.
The nationwide protests were sparked by a white Minneapolis police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes as Floyd begged for air. The officer was charged with third-degree murder, though Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison on Wednesday said he was upgrading the charge to second-degree murder and charging the three other officers who watched.
Edwards has called the actions of the officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck, Derek Chauvin, “egregious,” and “illegal,” and slammed the other officers who stood by without intervening. The Democratic governor, who won reelection in 2019 in a highly-contested battle where Trump campaigned against him, has deep family roots in law enforcement. His brother, Daniel Edwards, is sheriff of Tangipahoa Parish.
Protests have continued this week in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, where thousands have marched and waved signs in largely peaceful demonstrations.