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'We have to change our ways' | Gov. Parson addresses riots, violence in St. Louis and Missouri

The governor called the rioters criminals and thugs who need to be held accountable and “have the book thrown at them”, if caught

ST. LOUIS — Missouri Governor Mike Parson called for an end to the violence and riots that have happened in the St. Louis and across the state in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

“We have to change our ways of this society,” Gov. Parson said. “We’re better than that.”

The governor also said more than 1,000 Missouri National Guard troops are helping local law enforcement departments as they work to keep the peace and protect protesters who are legally exercising their First Amendment rights.

“I will give them all the resources I can possibly give them as the governor of the State of Missouri,” Parson said, emphasizing he’ll do whatever it takes to stop the violence in the state.

READ ALSO: 'Terrible night for St. Louis' | City under curfew in response to violence

Parson said he made a surprise visit to St. Louis following a violent night when agitators and rioters burned down buildings, looted businesses and shot and officers. Four police officers in St. Louis were injured.

The governor said he met with St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden, clergy leaders, Urban League leaders and young activists. He said he plans to meet with them again to come up with a plan for addressing systemic racism and underlying issues once the violence is over.

“We’ve gotta find a solution to the behavior that’s going on in the State of Missouri; it has to stop,” Gov. Parson said.

The governor called the rioters criminals and thugs who need to be held accountable and “have the book thrown at them”, if caught. He said they cannot hide disguised under the umbrella of a protest to continue committing violent acts.

“Hopefully they get hunt down… for last night. Because that has nothing to do with protesting, has nothing to do with George Floyd. It has to do with criminal behavior,” Gov. Parson said.

The governor also was joined by Adjutant General Brigadier General Levon Cumpton of the Missouri National Guard, Missouri Department of Public Safety Director Sandy Karsten and Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Director Dr. Randall Williams.

You can watch the governor's full briefing in the video player below.

Due to the protests and unrest, Parson declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard and Highway Patrol to be able to assist local authorities.

READ MORE: Missouri Gov. Parson announces deep cuts to education funding, addresses civil unrest

Overnight in St. Louis, 25 people were arrested and 55 businesses were damaged by agitators. The city saw a large, peaceful march throughout downtown and even onto Interstate 64 – led by police for safety – until about 8 p.m., when the mood shifted.

Four officers were shot and injured by someone the police chief called a “coward.”

Latest on the violence in St. Louis:

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