DULUTH – Rumor had it there would be busloads of protesters importing violence to Duluth this past weekend during the protests over the death of George Floyd.
The rumors were wrong.
"It's so much easier for us to want that to come from somewhere else than for that agitation and fear and hurt to be our own," Mayor Emily Larson said Monday. "That is us. That anger is this community, and so are the beautiful parts and the healing and the hard work that is to come."
More than a thousand people gathered for peaceful protests on Saturday in downtown Duluth. Later that night a much smaller crowd continued to march and drive around town and eventually started causing property damage and injuries, including an assault on an officer and a Kwik Trip employee.
Warnings of outside agitators coming to town were spread throughout the day Saturday and stoked anxiety as violence raged in the Twin Cities and elsewhere; some protesters said they were concerned that troublemakers would show up uninvited.
Yet of the 11 people arrested during the late-night gathering Saturday, just one was from outside the area. There were seven arrests and 15 citations Sunday relating to curfew violations, but those were also mostly local residents.
"We want to place that anger somewhere else that's not us. But it's us," Larson said. "Many people who went out on Saturday night were young people who are clearly experiencing pain and trauma."
Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken said the department has analysts tracking and verifying social media rumors and did not take them at face value.
"Ultimately what we have our officers respond to is what is actionable, accurate intelligence," he said.
After two nights of curfew, the mayor said there would not be another one Monday night. There will continue to be an increased police presence, which Tusken said comes at a great expense to the city — but the alternative was not an option.
What comes next, Tusken said, is "substantial change." He said that means bringing together police officers and communities of color "who have issues of fear and distrust, who are angry, who feel marginalized by police, and have an opportunity for them to have their voices heard."
"It can't just be something that in two weeks we say, 'Well that's over, we're gonna move on,' " he said. "We need to be committed to this."
Brooks Johnson • 218-491-6496