JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — As civil unrest continues throughout the nation, including in Missouri, Gov. Mike Parson vowed to use “every resource” available to crack down on violence and destruction of property.
Parson gave a speech Tuesday littered with calls for “law and order” — which at times underscored rhetoric from President Donald Trump — and came on the heels of the shootings of multiple police officers, including the killing of a retired officer, as protests in St. Louis gave way to arson, looting, and bloodshed.
For more than a week, the U.S. has grappled with the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by a Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his neck, despite his pleas that he couldn’t breathe. Parson has vociferously denounced Floyd’s death and called for the officers involved to be held accountable.
But his wrath Tuesday was directed toward those who have looted and rampaged “under the umbrella of protests.”
And Missouri, he charged, will be the state to end further violence amid escalating tensions.
“I’ve called out the National Guard, and we’re going to strengthen up the National Guard,” Parson told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “We’re not going to have police officers, we’re not going to have the citizens of Missouri being shot in our streets in this state.”
“This needs to come to an end and there’s no better place than the state of Missouri to make it come to an end. Because we’re not going to allow people to be shot and killed in this state. I’ll use every resource I have to put an end to it,” he said in a firm speech.
Trump, too, has levied charges to governors and mayors, instructing them to be forceful and heavy-handed when dealing with rioters. And at times, he’s been harsh on the governors themselves for their handling of violent outbreaks.
Just a day before Parson’s briefing, the Republican president implored governors to deploy the National Guard “in sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets.” He vowed to deploy the U.S. military should “a city or state [refuse] to take the actions necessary to defend the life and property of their residents.”
“Mayors and governors must establish an overwhelming presence until the violence is quelled,” Trump said.
Parson, a former sheriff, has already signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency and activating the Missouri National Guard. And on Tuesday, he said he would “call up more than 1,000 troops” for duty.
“We’ve got to find a solution to the behavior that’s going around in the state of Missouri,” Parson said. “It has to stop. And there has to be a difference between protesters being legally out there protesting and criminals disguised under the umbrella of a protest.”
“The people that want to protest, they need to protest, and when that protest is over, they need to go home and leave the people that want to be criminals, you leave them there, and we’ll take care of that.”
“Things need to be done differently in society,” Parson said. “We need to address issues that the African American community might have — but not through violence, not through the actions we’re seeing out there on the streets.
Department of Public Safety Director Sandy Karsten said her office is “committed to providing a safe environment for demonstrators to deliver their messages and to march safely.”
At least a thousand protesters descended on Missouri’s Capitol grounds Monday evening to hold such a protest and march. With the exception of some broken store windows downtown and a scuffle as the demonstration was ending, the event remained largely without incident.
With officers flanking the statehouse, Karsten stood in the background, observing the protest.
“As I interacted with the demonstrators, they were vocal, but they were peaceful. Some taunted the officers they encountered — but they were exercising their free speech. We respect and support and protect their right. That’s our job,” Karsten said. “But there’s a difference between those who advocate for change and those who agitate to create chaos. There’s a difference between demonstrators and rioters and looters.”
While observing, Karsten said she was handed a sign: “No violence. Stop hatred.”
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is the editor of The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in early 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City.
Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S., including the 2016 presidential election, and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa and the Middle East.
She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She is also an alumna of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C.
Contact Kaitlyn at email@example.com.