Minneapolis Erupts in Flames as Mayor Calls for National Guard to Control Protests

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(TMU) – The fierce wave of protests washing over South Minneapolis in response to the brutal killing of George Floyd by police took a violent turn on Wednesday night, as a standoff between community demonstrators and highly armed officers in the Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct spilled into neighboring businesses, leading to property destruction and buildings set alight.

On Thursday, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey confirmed that he had called on the National Guard to assist local law enforcement in pacifying the protesters, whose smoldering anger has led to one of the worst mass disturbances the U.S. has seen in recent years.

The mayor’s request that the military be dispatched to the Midwestern city appeared can be interpreted as an admission that local police agencies – themselves the focal point of community anger – have simply lost the ability to rein in the protests. The Minnesota State Patrol, St. Paul Police, and Metro Transit police have also been called in to support the besieged Minneapolis Police Department, who have already shown signs of fatigue after only two nights of protests.

In scenes that recall some of the most iconic moments of civil unrest in United States history, such as the Watts Rebellion of 1965 and L.A. riots of 1992, crowds of protesters fled skirmishes outside of the Third Precinct police station Wednesday evening to seek refuge in the nearby Target parking lot before some individuals began to shatter the windows and doors of the big-box retailer.

Hours of looting then ensued, with residents taking advantage of the chaos to make off with everything from large television sets to boxes of food, and everything in between.

Looters ransack Minneapolis Target

WILD VIDEO: This is what it looked like as looters in Minneapolis ransacked a Target, running out of the store with loads of products. This was near the site of protests over George Floyd's death. Floyd's family has called for peace. https://abc7.la/2yKmhNS

Posted by ABC7 on Thursday, May 28, 2020

By early Thursday morning, nearly every business establishment within two blocks of the station had been looted or damaged. An AutoZone, Wendy’s, and even a local affordable housing development that had been under construction were nearly razed to the ground.

An under construction apartment complex that was set ablaze Wednesday night/Unknown Photographer.
What’s left of the Wendy’s. Captured by Emma Fiala (CC)

The sacking of local businesses by residents comes in the context of not only deep anger over the police killing of Floyd, but also the spiraling poverty and inequality that has come in the wake of a COVID-19 pandemic that has also disproportionately impacted Black communities. According to MinnPost, over 26 percent of people of color in Minnesota’s labor force have applied for unemployment since mid-March, disrupting and setting back entire communities.

On Twitter, Mayor Frey pleaded that residents returned to their homes, writing:

“Please, please Minneapolis … we cannot let tragedy beget more tragedy. Please, help us keep the peace. Stay safe and evacuate the area.”

But on Thursday, the mayor also acknowledged the deep social roots of the ongoing disturbances, telling a news conference that the violent protests were a reflection of the Black community’s anger over 400 years of inequality and systemic racism.

George Floyd, 46, was killed on Monday night after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by the neck by Officer Derek Chauvin for several minutes. In dramatic video of the arrest that has been shared tens of millions of times across social media, Floyd can be heard begging “mama, mama” and pleading “I can’t breathe” to Chauvin and his cohorts, to no avail.

Speaking to CNN on Thursday, George’s brother Philonise Floyd said:

“They executed my brother in broad daylight … I am just tired of seeing black people dying.”

In a sign that even the most fervent defenders of U.S. law enforcement have been shaken by the enraged response to the killing, even President Donald Trump has extended condolences to the Floyd family while calling for federal authorities to open investigations into the “very sad and tragic death.”

However, such olive branches appear unlikely to quell the continuing anger of communities that feel targeted by law enforcement amid worsening economic conditions unleashed by the pandemic.

Protests have already spread to Memphis and Los Angeles, where a large group of protesters blocked the 101 Freeway and confronted law enforcement officers, while a scheduled protest in Floyd’s hometown of Houston, TX, is expected to draw huge numbers on Friday.