Anger over the death of George Floyd under a police officer’s knee spilled into the streets of Minneapolis for a second night Wednesday, intensifying well beyond Tuesday night’s unrest with a shooting death, widespread looting and a fire that shrouded the Lake Street neighborhood in smoke.
One person was fatally shot in the area where the protest was taking place late Wednesday, possibly by a pawnshop owner who said the person was looting his business.
In a news conference early Thursday, police spokesman John Elder said two officers responded to the scene outside Cadillac Pawn & Jewelry at 1538 E. Lake Street and administered first aid to the wounded man until medics arrived. He was taken to HCMC, where he died.
For much of the night, the police radio squawked with call after call, as looting started first at the Target store across the street from the precinct, before spreading to other areas in the city.
Firefighters raced from one blaze to the next, often with police in tow for crowd control. After someone started a fire at an AutoZone store at Minnehaha and Lake, firefighters worked to douse the flames, knocking down the majority of them. But within a matter of hours, the store was ablaze again, as was a half-built affordable housing development that caught fire, sending flames more than a hundred feet into the air.
Vandals broke into Chicago-Lake Liquor, and also shattered a few windows at the Midtown Market down the block. They also targeted businesses along W. Broadway Avenue, north Minneapolis’ main commercial drag, and in the Uptown area. Several pharmacies were reportedly burglarized, with suspects fleeing with handfuls of prescription pill bottles.
A Target and Cub Foods anchoring the corner of E. Lake Street and Hiawatha Avenue were looted, along with other small businesses, including Minnehaha Lake Wine & Spirits. Flames and smoke shot into the air when a nearby AutoZone auto parts store was set ablaze. As some protesters tried to put out the fire, others danced gleefully in front of it, snapping selfies.
It's not clear how many arrests police made throughout the night.
A 59-year-old man was booked into the Hennepin County Jail on suspicion of the pawn shop shooting, according to online jail records. “The facts of what led up to the shooting are still being sorted out. We are truly in the infancy of this investigation,” Elder said.
Another shooting happened in the 2600 block of Longfellow Avenue, and a victim from a third shooting walked into the emergency room at HCMC, according to scanner traffic. The shootings continued a rash of gun violence across the city, even before Floyd’s killing.
Wednesday night’s protest violence represented an escalation over Tuesday’s incidents, Elder said.
A video posted to Twitter by user @FindingNovyon showed a paramedic performing CPR on a man lying on the sidewalk as other medics urged protesters to keep their distance and flash-bangs are heard in the background.
“There’s somebody in there with a rifle, back up! Back up!” one of the medics can be seen saying on the video.
The National Guard was ordered to the 3rd Precinct police station to relieve Minneapolis police officers, as demonstrators encircled the precinct, chanting loudly and carrying banners demanding justice for Floyd. St. Paul police and the State Patrol were also on hand.
“Please, please, Minneapolis,” an emotional Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey told a Star Tribune reporter just before midnight. “We cannot let tragedy beget more tragedy. The activity around Lake and Hiawatha is now unsafe. Please, help us keep the peace. ...
“Yes, we’re reeling,” he continued. “I understand the anger and pain, and we need the public’s help in keeping the peace tonight. We need that in order to get through this together.
“I love our city. I know our residents do too, and we need to be doing everything possible to not have one tragedy beget more.”
Frey said he has been in constant contact with Walz’s office, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo and community leaders.
Officers were also pelted with rocks, bottles and other projectiles throughout the night.
At a news conference earlier in the day, police Chief Medaria Arradondo said that while his officers wouldn't infringe on people's constitutionally-protected right to protest, they would intervene if there was a threat to public safety.
On social media, many were also critical of the MPD's protest response. For some, it was the decision to fire marker rounds indiscriminately into crowds of mostly peaceful protests, while others were critical of the department’s reluctance to intervene as businesses were looted and torched. In some ways, it showed more restraint than other cities, where police force was more visible.
Most of the violence stemmed from a large crowd that gathered outside Minneapolis’ Third Precinct police headquarters, throwing objects at the building and officers and turning more violent as the night wore on. Police deployed rubber bullets, flash bombs and tear gas to push them back.
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 3000 Minnehaha Av.
At the Lake Street Target store, looters were seen leaving with items ranging from large TVs to groceries and diapers. In the adjacent strip mall anchored by Cub Foods, no business was spared. Rioters gripping baseball bats and golf clubs bashed out every window of nearby storefronts, including those housing charter school programs.
Debris coated the street and parking lot, where several protesters shot off fireworks as a cacophony of security alarms rang on a loop. Every available surface was at risk of being tagged with profanity-laced graffiti cursing the police.
After midnight, looting spread well beyond the Third Precinct headquarters area. Shop windows were broken and goods stolen as far away as Uptown. Pedestrians dodged piles of glass every few yards, occasionally stumbling upon a garbage can fire.
“We want justice, so we out here getting justice our way,” a man wearing a bandana told a Star Tribune reporter outside Cadillac Pawn when asked why he was there. “We’ll take it in our own hands.”
Many of the shops destroyed along this stretch of E. Lake Street are immigrant-owned businesses — many of which were already struggling during the coronavirus pandemic. “Now it’s worse,” said Roberto Hernandez, who stood guard outside his nutrition store for five hours to fend off looters.
Hernandez and his partner, Rosaura Jimenez, covered the windows with sheets and plastered a handmade sign on the glass reading, “Justice for George.” He also tried to protect neighboring barbershop by assuring rioters that it catered to African-American clients.
The couple said they sympathized with the anger and pain people felt in the aftermath of Floyd’s death, but didn’t wish to see their neighborhood destroyed.
“We need to respect each other so we can live in peace,” said Hernandez, who planned to keep watch all night, if need be.
Looters, who declined to be identified by their full names, told the Star Tribune that they didn’t care whether people agreed with their methods. “We have to get their attention somehow,” one man said as he spraypainted the sidewalk with obscenities.
And attention they got. South Minneapolis was burning.
An affordable housing complex under construction near the corner of Lake and Minnehaha caught fire early Thursday, quickly engulfing an entire city block. Smoke from the multi-story building was visible from miles away.
Dozens stood and filmed the fireball until they realized that adjacent buildings were in danger. People grabbed garden hoses and barrels to try to save their own houses from a similar fate.
Down the street, AutoZone had turned to a pile of ash.
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, at Hiawatha and Lake, 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.
After midnight, looting spread well beyond the Third Precinct headquarters area. Shop windows were broken and goods stolen as far away as Uptown. The Star Tribune reporter noted broken glass all along the block that includes Ingebretsen’s Scandinavian Gifts, at 1601 E. Lake St. “We have to get their attention somehow,” a man wearing a bandana outside a looted shop there said when asked why he was there.
Thurston’s Jewelers, at 705 W. Lake Street, also was broken into.
Target spokesman Joshua Thomas released a statement saying the Lake Street Target will be closed until further notice. ““We are heartbroken by the death of George Floyd and the pain it is causing our community,” he said. “We decided to close our Lake Street store earlier today and worked to ensure all of our team members were accounted for and safe. Our focus will remain on our team members’ safety and helping our community heal.”
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.”
Earlier, a smaller, less chaotic protest was held at Chicago Avenue and E. 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.
One of Freeman’s neighbors, Mark Bartlett, watched the demonstration unfold from his front lawn.
“It’s a horrible embarrassment for Minneapolis and I’m sure that Freeman is horrified also. I’m not sure if he would be able to act on the information [to file charges] yet,” Bartlett said.
A larger crowd of at least 100 people, many carrying signs, gathered outside what’s believed to be Chauvin’s home along Helmo Avenue North in Oakdale.
Someone threw opened cans of red paint onto the driveway, and the word “Killer” was written in red on the garage door. Written in chalk on the street in front of his house: “George Floyd,” “A murderer lives here,” and “He said he couldn’t breathe.”
Around 6:45 p.m., police blocked off Helmo Avenue North, the main thoroughfare supplying a stream of cars and attention for protesters. A squad of about 30 officers from the Washington County Mobile Field Force arrived wearing riot control gear, standing on the street in front of the house. Protesters immediately lined up to face off with the officers.
“If it was anybody else, they would be in jail,” said Ashley Bowes, a mother of five who joined the crowd in Oakdale. The protest, she said, “means everything to me. For my children, this is their sad reality of life. The only way this is going to change is if people stand up.”
No one answered the front door of the house believed to be Chauvin’s when a protester knocked, and there was no car parked in the driveway, but Bowes said she saw someone turning off lights and moving window curtains at the residence on Tuesday night.
“Yes,” she said, Chauvin was at the home.
A neighbor who asked not to be identified said Chauvin hasn’t been at the house lately because it’s been under renovation, pointing to a bag of construction debris in the driveway.
The protesters first showed up in the Oakdale neighborhood on Tuesday, when the Washington County Mobile Field Force was deployed to disperse a large gathering there “for the further protection of the neighborhood.”
The Oakdale Police Department “empathizes with a hurting community and recognizes the ability of its citizens to peacefully protest in public spaces in an orderly, civil and lawful manner,” police said in a news release.
In Duluth, more protests
Two and a half hours north of Minneapolis, about 100 people gathered in a busy 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.”
The Duluth protest was organized by two college students on Facebook. What started as a small group waving signs on the corner of London Road and E. 21st Avenue turned into a march that drew a dozen police cars, which blocked off traffic as the group trudged a few blocks west.
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 the now-fired officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck.
“We want them to know Duluth is watching them and we won’t be silent,” Moon said.
After almost three hours of standing and marching, the protesters — a group that dwindled down to about 50 people — crowded around Duluth Police Sgt. Tony Radloff’s car, yelling and chanting more.
“Is my son next?” cried Brayleigh Keliin, a 19-year-old with a seven-month-old named Kingston. The baby’s father, Joe Carter, who is black, had a target painted on his back in red.
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.
Staff writer Katie Galioto contributed to this report.