Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Tuesday announced plans to call up more than 1,000 National Guard members in an effort to "stop the violence" that saw five current and former St. Louis police officers shot Monday night.
"We're not going to have police officers — we're not going to have citizens of Missouri — being shot in our streets in this state," Parson told reporters at his daily news conference. "And we're going to put an end to it."
Parson initially activated the Guard on Saturday, citing "civil unrest" in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas following protests responding to the death of a black man, George Floysd, in Minnesota after a white police officer pressed his knee into Floyd's neck.
Parson said Tuesday that just as the officer who held Floyd down must be held accountable, so too do those who shot St. Louis police officers, killed a retired St. Louis police captain and vandalized dozens of businesses in the city.
"They’re criminals and they’re thugs, and they need to be held accountable,” Parson, a Republican, said.
Violent acts, he added, have "nothing to do with protesting.”
In that vein, Missouri National Guard Brigadier General Levon Cumpton told reporters that "peaceful, nonviolent" protests would still be allowed but that action would be taken to protect people's safety and property.
It was not immediately clear where all the Guard members being called up Tuesday would be deployed, but officials in Springfield and Columbia, which have also seen peaceful protests, said Tuesday they were not aware of any troops coming their way.
The comments from state leaders echoed messages from officials across the country grappling with widespread demonstrations against police killings that have at times been accompanied by looting and violence.
Democratic lawmakers also decried the violence in statements Tuesday.
The Missouri Legislative Black Caucus, which also includes one Republican, said they stood with nonviolent protesters and would "focus our legislative agenda on comprehensive reform in response to police use of excessive and unnecessary force," but called the violent actions "wrong and to be condemned."
"Anything less is an insult to the memory of George Floyd and the peaceful movement his death has inspired," their statement read.
State Auditor Nicole Galloway, who is running against Parson for governor in this fall's elections, said nonviolent protests provided "powerful examples of healing through countless acts of unity," but said violence and property destruction "inhibit healing and discount the collective call for justice."
"Let me be clear," she added, "if we are serious about furthering solutions to resolve generations of injustice, violence is not the answer."