MINNEAPOLIS — An evening that started with peaceful protests descended into disarray and looting as the night wore on. A group of officers stood in front of a nearby precinct and tried to disrupt the crowd with flash-bang grenades and rubber bullets. At times, the tear gas was so thick, it wafted down neighborhood streets where people standing in their front yards were coughing and wiping at their eyes.
The chaos that followed Wednesday’s demonstrations prompted state and local officials to plea for peace
His calls for calm echoed those of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), whose district covers some of the affected area.
“Violence only begets violence,” she tweeted, urging peaceful protest. “More force is only going to lead to more lives lost and more devastation.”
Police Chief Medaria Arradondo told local media the majority of the protesters remained peaceful, but told Minnesota Public Radio later that night that the display had been “hijacked” by some protesters and those looting and vandalizing businesses.
After police faced stinging criticism for heavy-handed tactics deployed during the first night of protests, critics like City Council Member Jeremiah Ellison were among those who expressed disappointment at the department’s failure to maintain public safety late Wednesday.
“We always do this — we create a barrier, put the police out there, put them in a line, put face masks, depersonalize them, make them look as scary as possible and we always get this result, and then we want to point the finger at community members,” Ellison told MPR Thursday.
The chaotic scenes followed the death of 46-year-old George Floyd on Monday, which came after a white officer pinned the handcuffed father of two to the pavement outside of a market where employees had called police about a counterfeit bill. The police encounter was caught on a viral video that has sparked national outrage and inflamed existing tensions in a community where officers have long been accused of racism.
In the suburb of Oakdale, hundreds of protesters on Wednesday gathered outside the home of Derek Chauvin, the police officer who was captured on the video with his knee on Floyd’s neck. According to the Star Tribune, red paint was poured onto Chauvin’s driveway, and the word “killer” was written on the garage door.
Police Chief Medaria Arradondo swiftly fired Chauvin after Floyd’s death, along with the three other involved officers, identified by authorities Wednesday as Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng. President Trump on Wednesday tweeted that he had asked the FBI, which is investigating the death, to expedite its work, adding that “Justice will be served!”
But the response from authorities has done little to assuage a community that says it has long suffered undue treatment by local officers and has called for the officers’ arrests.