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Justice: Would call in National Guard for violent protests

Gov. Justice said Wednesday tanning businesses can resume operations on May 21.
Gov. Justice said Wednesday tanning businesses can resume operations on May 21.(WHSV)
Published: Jun. 1, 2020 at 3:53 PM EDT
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For the first time since they began in March, Governor Jim Justice's daily briefing Monday covered more than COVID-19.

The governor discussed-and was questioned about-the non-violent rallies held across West Virginia during the weekend protesting the death last week of George Floyd.

Floyd died Memorial Day at the hands of a police officer during an arrest in Minneapolis. The issue was not brought up during any of the governor's news briefings last week.

But the governor, in response to a reporter's question, said he would instantly call in the West Virginia National guard "in a forceful way", if future protests turn violent.

Rallies in support of Floyd were held Saturday and Sunday in several West Virginia cities, including Parkersburg. None reportedly got out of hand.

Justice said Monday he was saddened by Floyd's death. But he also expressed concern about protests that turned to violence in other major cities, blaming it on out-of-town demonstrators.

"We can not have things like that going on," the governor said, referring to Floyd's death. "But there is absolutely nothing to gain by people turning violent and rioting, and burning their own stores and their own cities down. It is absolutely just inexcusable to me."

The governor then turned to the final results of testing at the Huttonsville Correctional Center, site of a COVID-19 outbreak in late May.

Final test numbers showed at least 118 inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus after an effort to contain the state's first outbreak inside a correctional facility.

The Randolph County prison had its initial case around two weeks ago.

State records show more than 950 Huttonsville inmates remain in quarantine. At least eight staffers have also tested positive. The prison was the site of the state's first case among its inmate population.

Justice also said testing at other state prisons turned up no new cases.