Looting and flames erupt in Minneapolis amid growing protests over George Floyd’s death

Ryan Faircloth, Liz Navratil, Liz Sawyer and Matt Mckinney Star
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Minneapolis — A man was shot to death as violent protests over the death of a black man in police custody rocked Minneapolis for a second straight night, with protesters looting stores near a police precinct and setting fires that continued to burn Thursday morning.

Police said they were investigating Wednesday night’s death as a homicide and had a suspect in custody, but were still investigating what led to the shooting.

Protesters at the Minneapolis 3rd Police Precinct in Minneapolis on Wednesday, May 27, 2020, amid demonstrations against the death of George Floyd in a confrontation with Minneapolis police on Monday evening.

Protesters began gathering in the early afternoon near the city’s 3rd Precinct station, in the southern part of the city where 46-year-old George Floyd died on Memorial Day after an officer knelt on his neck until he became unresponsive.

News helicopter footage showed protesters milling in streets near the city’s 3rd Precinct station, with some running in and out of nearby stores. A Target, a Cub Foods, a Dollar Tree and an auto parts store all showed signs of damage and looting. As darkness fell, fire erupted in the auto parts store, and city fire crews rushed to control it. Protesters set other fires in the street.

Officers could be seen surrounding the nearby precinct, not attempting to intervene in the looting.

Multiple fires burned early Thursday at buildings and smoke hung over the city. Fire crews worked to put out flames. Blocks of buildings with broken-out windows and other damage from looting were seen, and KSTP-TV reported that some people were seen going through buildings.

Police spokesman John Elder said officers responding to a reported stabbing near the protests found a man lying on the sidewalk with what turned out to be a bullet wound. The man was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Elder said a suspect was in custody but said the facts leading up to the shooting were “still being sorted out.”

It was the second night of violent protest since the death of Floyd, whom police were seeking to arrest outside a Minneapolis grocery store on a report of a counterfeit bill being passed. A bystander’s cellphone video showed an officer kneeling on Floyd ‘s neck for almost eight minutes as he eventually became unresponsive.

Mayor Jacob Frey tweeted for calm early Thursday. “Please, Minneapolis, we cannot let tragedy beget more tragedy,” he said on Twitter. He also asked for the public’s help in keeping the peace.

The officer and three others were fired Tuesday, and on Wednesday, Frey called for him to be criminally charged.

Protesters also gathered Wednesday evening at the officer’s suburban home as well as the Minneapolis home of Mike Freeman, the Hennepin County prosecutor who would make a charging decision in the case. No violence was reported in those protests.

As the protests stretched into the evening, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo urged calm. In an interview with KMSP-TV, he noted the internal investigation as well as the FBI’s investigation of Floyd’s death and said they offer a chance at justice.

“Justice historically has never come to fruition through some of the acts we’re seeing tonight, whether it’s the looting, the damage to property or other things,” he said.

Fired police Officer Derek Chauvin and three other officers who were at the scene of Floyd’s death Monday night were associated with the Third Precinct.

At the nearby Lake Street Target store, looters were seen leaving with items ranging from large TVs to clothing to groceries. Looting also occurred at Minnehaha Lake Wine & Spirits and at many other businesses in the area. A Star Tribune reporter at the scene reported every window smashed in a strip mall of businesses, and cars loaded with looted goods leaving the scene.

Late Wednesday, Minneapolis City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins decried the violence, saying, “I understand the frustration of my community members, but I’m really disappointed that people feel like the only way to express anger is through destroying our own community. I mean, tomorrow, where are these moms … going to be able to get food and diapers for their children? We’re in a pandemic. Stores aren’t even open.”

“I do understand the frustration, but you know there’s way to protest, to express your displeasure. And civil disobedience … we know that this exists and it works. We have an entire civil rights movement to justify it. And yeah, I get the anger, but it’s a no-win battle. I think for the most part, the police have remained somewhat restrained, because they have not just flat out started beating people and arresting people and dragging people in the middle of the streets, but the unruliness, the looting, the setting of fire (to) our own community is unacceptable and it’s painful.

“Go home and take care of your kids,” she said. “Go hug your mama and grandma. Why are you in the streets getting COVID so you can kill your family? Take your ass home now.”

Michelle Mullowney, of Minneapolis, calls for justice for George Floyd outside the home of Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman in Minneapolis on Wednesday, May 27, 2020.

Earlier, a smaller, less chaotic protest was held at Chicago Avenue and East 38th Street, where Floyd died. And protesters gathered outside the Minneapolis home of Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and the Oakdale residence of Chauvin.

About 50 protesters stood on the boulevard in front of Freeman’s home, chanting and shouting demands for Chauvin, the police officer seen in a bystander’s video with his knee on the neck of the dying Floyd, to be charged with murder.

“They need to go to jail, all four cops … because they decided to do nothing when an innocent black man was being murdered about a $20 counterfeit bill,” said Erica Chick, who drove up from Charles City, Iowa, to attend Wednesday’s protests.

“They should have been in jail 10 minutes after it happened,” added Katy Cummins-Bakko, of St. Paul.

Elder said officers from St. Paul, Metro Transit and the state patrol were helping police the area.

In California, hundreds of people protesting Floyd’s death blocked a Los Angeles freeway and shattered windows of California Highway Patrol cruisers on Wednesday.

Two and a half hours north of Minneapolis, about 100 people gathered in a busy Duluth intersection to express anger over the Floyd’s death.

“If you’re anywhere in Minnesota, you should be mad about this. You should be trying to protest,” said Jaylah Willis, an 18-year-old from Duluth. “This isn’t the first time this has happened.”

Protesters chanted and waved signs that said “Justice for George” and “Prosecute the police.” They elicited honks of support from passersby, as well as middle fingers and swear words. At one point, before squad cars arrived, a man drove a few feet with a protester on his window because she refused to get out of his way.

“It’s been really overwhelming,” said Aurora Moon, one of the 19-year-old organizers, who said she wasn’t expecting the event to evolve like it did. She, like many others at the protest, called for the prosecution of Chauvin.

“We want them to know Duluth is watching them and we won’t be silent,” Moon said.

Growing tensions between protesters and the handful of nearby officers were punctuated with moments of communion. Five-year-old Shaylee Diver told her mother, Ashley, that she wanted to be a police officer when she grew up – then she ran and hugged Officer Joe Miketin, who gave her a sticker badge.

“Not all police are bad,” Ashley Diver later snapped at a protester yelling in officers’ faces.

Radloff eventually exited his car and was surrounded by protesters. Keliin stood next to him, waving a sign listing more than 40 people of color who were killed by police.

“Say their names,” she repeated.

“George Floyd … Philando Castile … Jamar Clark,” Radloff began to read, and the crowd quieted down.

“I know they’re blaming the uniform I wear. I signed up for this. I can’t take it personally,” the officer said afterward, as most of the protesters dispersed.

As she walked away with Carter to go pick up their son, Keliin said she appreciated what Radloff did.

“But reading names doesn’t change things,” she said. “Police officers are the ones who turned those lives into hashtags."