On May 25, George Floyd died in the custody of four Minneapolis police officers. What followed was a terroristic crime spree in the Twin Cities. As the Star Tribune reported, the damage extended to 1,500 businesses and buildings in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Estimates place the damage at $500 million.
This crime wave was largely inspired by the abandonment of the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct headquarters, and its subsequent burning, on the evening of May 28. This unparalleled act of political irresponsibility is attributable to Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey, who declared at a hastily called press conference that he had “made the decision to evacuate the building” because to preserve the city’s claim on it could mean endangering the lives of the people who were trying violently to capture it. As Frey explained: “The symbolism of a building cannot outweigh the importance of life.” The morning after the Third Precinct’s burning, Minnesota governor Tim Walz criticized Frey for abandoning the building. Though warned of the evacuation, Walz professed himself “not comfortable” with the decision, which was an open secret throughout the neighborhood.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of people participated in the criminality, but, so far, only a few perpetrators have been charged, with the U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota bringing arson cases against a dozen or so defendants to date. Meantime, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has led the investigation of 150 arsons throughout the Twin Cities that occurred the week after Floyd’s death. Though there was initial chatter that the perpetrators of the mayhem were outside agitators, the defendants charged in the crime spree are mostly homegrown Minnesotans. At least one perpetrator was out on probation, while others appear to have been anarchists or malcontents eager to sow chaos for whatever reason, even if there was no evident gain to be achieved.
For example, Matthew White, who has served time in prison for bank fraud, has been indicted for arson. Joined by his sister and nephew, White is accused of burning down the Enterprise Rent-A-Car building on St. Paul’s University Avenue, miles from the scene of Floyd’s death. This random act of destruction stands out as especially pointless, though at least a car rental agency is presumably empty at night—so perhaps it was chosen in order not to kill anyone, but to make a bold, nihilistic statement anyway. In any case, the arson, looting, and destruction didn’t end until Walz deployed the Minnesota National Guard to fend off the marauders.
Ultimately, Minneapolis was failed by its leaders. There will always be miscreants and malcontents who wish to destroy things, and we rely on the state to keep these elements in check. But it seems unlikely that things will change anytime soon for the Twin Cities as long as current leadership remains in control. The relevant political authority is held by “progressive” Democrats, from Walz and Frey to Attorney General Keith Ellison and 11 of 12 Minneapolis city council members—the twelfth was elected as a Green. Once affiliated with the Nation of Islam, Ellison—who made his name supporting the murderers of Minneapolis police officer Jerry Haaf, and who once took a selfie holding a book written in praise of Antifa—was assigned by the governor to lead the prosecution of the four police officers charged in Floyd’s death.
Meantime, Minneapolis’s city council has vowed to abolish and defund the police. Last week, council members voted unanimously to advance a proposal that would substitute a new Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention for the police department. The city’s charter requires the council to fund a police department at a level approaching its current size. Thus, the council has undertaken the process necessary to amend the charter. Among other things, the charter amendment would have to be placed before voters for adoption in order to become law. Frey—who, to his credit, told an angry mob that he would not support abolition of the police force—has criticized the proposed amendment.
This summer, Minneapolis has gotten a preview of life without serious law enforcement. The Star Tribune has reported the predictable upsurge in shootings and shots fired since Floyd’s death. Minneapolis is now a case study in the Ferguson Effect: shootings have more than doubled since last year, and half of the shootings have occurred since the protests broke out.
The Star Tribune remains the dominant media voice in Minneapolis. For the sake of the city, the newspaper must consider its civic responsibility to stand up for law enforcement and hold politically irresponsible leaders accountable. It needs to address the damage that the city has sustained and peer into the lawless future prefigured by recent events. The rising disorder of big cities, such as New York and San Francisco, has reached Minneapolis, too. For now, though, Minneapolis lacks many of the resources that those cities might draw on to recover. From the front-row seat where I sit, recovery looks to be a long way off.
Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images