In the Twin Cities and across the nation, protests against excessive police force and racial discrimination have made a difference. The voices of millions of peaceful demonstrators have helped force a much-needed reckoning with America's racial and social justice challenges.
At the same time, disruptive, violent acts by a much smaller number of demonstrators have done more harm than good to that noble cause. When they block heavily trafficked streets, vandalize businesses and even damage surveillance cameras that can help protect them, they harm legitimate efforts to bring attention to racial and social justice.
A fresh case in point is the struggle for control of the streets in the Uptown area of Minneapolis. On and off since June 3, protesters have tried to occupy the area by blocking off and painting streets during demonstrations over the death of Winston Smith Jr., a Black man whom a U.S. Marshals Service task force was attempting to arreston gun charges.
While protesting Smith's death on June 13,Deona Knajdek was struck by a car driven by Nicholas Kraus, who has since been charged with killing Knajdek and injuring two other protesters. The tragedy highlights how dangerous street protests can become even for peaceful demonstrators like Knajdek.
Police say someone spray-painted over a city camera that could have provided investigators with critical evidence in the death of Knajdek.
In addition to ensuring their own safety, there are multiple reasons for demonstrators to stop using "take the streets'' tactics in Uptown.
Uptown is vibrant part of the city known for its restaurants, shops and nightlife. It's also known for the thousands of younger adults who live there in condos and apartments — some of them newly built as the area has boomed within the last decade. Increased street crime, civil unrest and the disruption of a continuing police presence threaten that economic progress.
Already, some long-time fixtures of the business community have decided to leave. Juut Salon Spa announced that it was pulling out of Uptown after 35 years. In a statement, operators said that the area continues to "struggle with store closings, social unrest, crime and street closures," adding that they would be "heartbroken if anything were to happen to our team members or clients."
The recent push and pull between demonstrators and law enforcement for control of the streets diverts valuable police time away from deterring, preventing and investigating more serious crimes. The already short-staffed Minneapolis Police Department shouldn't have to spend time clearing and re-clearing streets.
By disrupting a neighborhood, demonstrations that get out of hand run the risk of alienating people who might otherwise support their cause. Numerous Uptown residents have told reporters that they are frustrated their community is under siege.
Minneapolis city officials rightly say they cannot allow demonstrators to block streets. And at their request, Gov. Tim Walz has put the Minnesota National Guard in a state of standby to be ready to assist should more serious violence occur.
Again, those fighting for a more just, equitable society have every right to express their views throughpeaceful, lawful protest. But the violence has to stop, and lawlessness cannot be tolerated.