Workers and volunteers in downtown Minneapolis swept up glass, boarded up buildings and assessed the emotional toll of another night in a summer of civil unrest Thursday after rioters damaged more than 40 buildings overnight, this time sparked by a false rumor that police had killed a man.
More than 1,000 uniformed personnel including 400 National Guard members and 250 State Patrol troopers stood ready to quell potential disturbances Thursday night as an 8 p.m. curfew fell upon both Minneapolis and St. Paul. Windows and doors on dozens of businesses and office buildings had been covered in plywood or otherwise barricaded for protection.
Well into the evening, Nicollet Mall remained peaceful with only a few people on the streets. A caravan of National Guard and law enforcement patrols traversed the corridor, warning over a loudspeaker that those who did not disperse would be arrested.
Authorities were vigilant about confronting stragglers and ordering them home, while volunteers with outreach organizations such as MAD DADS helped facilitate rides home by bus or vehicle. A Domino’s pizza delivery driver called out to a stranger and her three young girls, offering the family a ride.
In Minneapolis, law enforcement arrested 30 people within the first hour, according to police spokesman John Elder. They seized one illegal gun. St. Paul had reported no arrests late Thursday.
The destruction, tension and law enforcement presence that began Wednesday night was reminiscent of the aftermath of George Floyd’s death three months earlier — in that case, the killing of a Black man at the hands of Minneapolis police spurring protests, both peaceful and violent, across the country.
Before curfew took effect, local and state leaders urged people to stay home Thursday night. Gov. Tim Walz said his concern was “safety and security and bringing peace into the city.”
The unrest had erupted Wednesday evening after officers on Nicollet Mall approached a man implicated in a killing a few hours earlier in the day at a nearby parking ramp. Suspect Eddie Frank Sole Jr., 38, quickly ducked into a doorway and killed himself with a shot to his chin as bystanders scrambled for cover.
Crowds gathered quickly as rumors spread on social media that officers had killed him. Authorities almost immediately released footage from city cameras showing that the death of Sole, who was Black, was a suicide. But by then the destruction had begun.
Rioters broke windows downtown at retail stores, restaurants, bars and coffee shops including Chipotle, Caribou Coffee, Walgreens and Nordstrom Rack. Some businesses, such as Target, escaped with minor damage and reopened Thursday. A handful of suspicious fires had also been set, including some in south Minneapolis miles away from Nicollet Mall. Many businesses were already struggling financially from decreased shopping and eating out due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Local leaders called on people to restore peace Thursday by staying safely inside, acknowledging a need for continued work to end racial disparities.
“That conversation on equity, whether it’s in our schools, in our health outcomes, has to happen,” Walz said. “It cannot happen when violence is prevailing. It cannot happen when our cities do not feel safe. It cannot happen when our businesses are targeted.”
Destroying the city would not create additional accountability, Mayor Jacob Frey said.
“The looting of businesses — both small and large — community-oriented businesses that have been the fabric of our neighborhoods for generations, does not lead to more accountability,” he said. “We need to be exceedingly clear about that.”
The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office said earlier Thursday that 132 people had been arrested by multiple agencies in the overnight destruction that began Wednesday. Fire officials were investigating the apparent torching of four retail outlets that expanded the destruction well beyond the city’s core. One fire was downtown at Brit’s Pub at 1110 Nicollet Mall. Other fires broke out miles away at Tires Plus at 1103 W. Lake St., China Wok at 2800 S. 27th Ave., and Walgreens at 4323 S. Chicago Ave. Nobody was injured in the blazes, though crews rescued two residents from above the China Wok restaurant.
The rioting’s effects stretched from 5th to 12th streets along Nicollet, then reached over to a Speedway and the neighboring Greenway Liquor Store and Lotus Restaurant near Loring Park. Caution tape surrounded the gas pump and gas station entrance.
“They took everything,” a Speedway employee said, register and all. The retailer was closed and turning away customers trying to cross the tape.
Reactions to the destruction along the urban mall from commuters and residents on Thursday included anger, grief, frustration and thoughts of getting out.
A teary-eyed Diana Williams, hurrying to catch a bus for work, said the rioters are “making it hard for good working people who are trying to make their lives better. Since George Floyd died, people are acting crazy.”
Michael Sanchez walked his dog down Nicollet past the damaged Target headquarters where he works. He said he and his wife began considering moving out of Loring Park a few months ago. They have a baby at home, and “we want to keep him out of harm’s way,” Sanchez said.
City Council Member Lisa Goodman, whose ward includes downtown and the Loring Park area, said Thursday that she’s been hearing from other constituents who fear leaving their buildings. Goodman said these are people who “believe we need to end the systemic racism in the Police Department, and believe that Black lives matter, and who believe what happened last night was lawlessness.”
Rick Alaric agreed the looting Wednesday was pointless. But he added that he’s tired of Black people like him not being treated equally. “No Black people own these buildings,” Alaric said.
The death of Floyd on May 25 while being restrained on the pavement by police in Minneapolis sparked days of rioting that left hundreds of properties torched, looted or otherwise damaged in the Twin Cities. Two deaths have been attributed to the unrest.
Floyd’s killing became a national rallying point for protests across the world in a call for justice and racial equity.
Before heading to work early Thursday, Jerome Jackson, 60, perched under the Mary Tyler Moore statue on Nicollet Mall to listen to gospel music and survey the aftermath.
“Sad state of affairs,” said Jackson, who said he had been a police officer in Louisiana. “Tearing up your own community won’t result in anything. But a lot of people feel left out.”
Staff writers Kim Hyatt, Maya Rao, Paul Walsh, Miguel Otárola, Shannon Prather, Liz Navratil, Mara Klecker, Liz Sawyer and Torey Van Oot contributed to this report.
Pam Louwagie • 612-673-7102