Crowds of indignant protesters despatched police officers scurrying from a Minneapolis police precinct earlier than burning it down late Thursday, on the third night time of demonstrations over the killing of George Floyd.
Mayor Jacob Frey said at a news conference early Friday morning that he made the difficult decision to have police evacuate the Third Precinct.
“The symbolism of a building cannot outweigh the importance of life, of our officers or the public,” Frey said. “We could not risk serious injury to anyone. And we will continue to patrol the Third Precinct entirely. We will continue to do our jobs in that area. Brick and mortar is not as important as life.”
Minneapolis has been a powder keg since Tuesday, when video emerged showing Floyd’s death a day earlier. The unarmed black man was handcuffed and said, “I can’t breathe” as a police officer used his knee to pin Floyd to the ground and other cops looked on.
The four officers involved were fired on Tuesday, but the lack of arrests thus far has sparked outrage — and fires and looting at protests.
“There is a lot of pain and anger right now in our city,” Frey said. “I understand that. Our entire city recognizes that. What we have seen over the past several hours and the past couple of nights in terms of looting is unacceptable. Out communities can not and will not tolerate it. These are businesses. These are community institutions that we need.”
— Nick Streiff (@nickstreiff) May 29, 2020
The fire continued burning early Friday, with no police or fire department personnel in sight. Frey said they were busy at other blazes and trouble spots in the city, adding, “We are doing absolutely everything that we can to keep the peace.”
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz called in the National Guard, which tweeted it has “activated more than 500 soldiers to St. Paul, Minneapolis and surrounding communities. Our mission is to protect life, preserve property and the right to peacefully demonstrate. A key objective is to ensure fire departments are able to respond to calls.”
President Trump early Friday morning said in two tweets if local authorities couldn’t bring the situation under control, he might send in the military — to fire on looters, if necessary.
“I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis,” the first tweet read. “A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right…..
The next incendiary Trump tweet continued, “These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”
Frey said at his early Friday briefing he hadn’t seen the president’s tweets, but when a reporter read them to him, the mayor was incensed.
“Let me say this: Weakness is refusing to take responsibility for your own actions,” Frey said. “Weakness is pointing your finger at somebody else during a time of crisis. Donald Trump knows nothing about the strength of Minneapolis. We are strong as hell. Is this a difficult time period? Yes. But you better be damn sure that we’re gonna get through this.”
When the precinct went up in flames, demonstrators set off fireworks.
As the blaze raged on, the official Twitter account of Minneapolis urged people to stay away from the building due to the risk of explosion.
“We’re hearing unconfirmed reports that gas lines to the Third Precinct have been cut and other explosive materials are in the building,” the tweet read. “If you are near the building, for your safety, PLEASE RETREAT in the event the building explodes.”
The protest was peaceful for part of Thursday, but things turned ugly after night fell. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters. Some protesters threw objects at the officers.
A Target in Minneapolis also was engulfed in flames, and a NAPA Auto Parts in St. Paul burned down.
NAPA collapsed, firefighters trying to save that deli next door pic.twitter.com/9OImZILpes
— Nick Ferraro (@NFerraroPiPress) May 29, 2020
Thursday’s protests followed Wednesday’s in which one person was fatally shot and four others were injured. Fire departments reportedly responded to more than 30 buildings Wednesday.
Floyd’s death in custody stirred protests outside the Twin Cities on Thursday.
Many were peaceful, but some, including one in New York, featured police launching tear gas and making arrests.
In Denver, gunshots were fired by an unknown person at an unknown target, according to the Denver Post.
CREDIT VIA HERE