Police in Minneapolis catalyzed Wednesday night's violent protests by killing George Floyd on Monday. They've since done a terrible job of protecting innocent property owners from being victimized by the rioting that's erupted in response to Floyd's death.
Floyd was killed Monday night after being stopped by four officers with the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) on suspicion of forgery. During his arrest, one of the officers held his knee on Floyd's neck for eight minutes while the man complained that he couldn't breathe. Floyd later died in the hospital.
Video of the incident, and later factual discrepancies in the police account of the event, was enough to get all four officers fired on Tuesday, and for the U.S. Department of Justice to open a civil rights investigation into Floyd's death.
Neither move has been enough to mollify many in Minneapolis, who've taken to the streets for two nights of demonstrations that have turned increasingly violent.
On Tuesday, protestors vandalized police vehicles and threw rocks at a local MPD precinct building where the four fired officers involved in Floyd's death were assigned. Police responded with rubber bullets and tear gas.
Things escalated dramatically last night when further demonstrations resulted in the looting of local businesses. At least 16 buildings were damaged in the protests, according to the city's fire chief.
Videos and photos of the protests and their aftermath show an Autozone being torched, a Target being looted, and an under-construction apartment complex being set on fire.
minneapolis is on fire right now pic.twitter.com/TTNx1COOL5
— elgreko (@grekogoharder) May 28, 2020
Breaking: Rioters have set an Autozone on fire near the Minneapolis 3rd Police Precinct. pic.twitter.com/CqNBfVtIlH
— PM Breaking News (@PMBreakingNews) May 28, 2020
Inside a looted Target store, Minneapolis Minnesota, early morning hours of May 28 pic.twitter.com/dys87a8npC
— Kyle Hooten (@KyleHooten2) May 28, 2020
One of the few bright spots was video captured by reporters of several armed men protecting a tobacconist from rioters. Their presence could well have prevented the business from being vandalized or even destroyed.
WATCH: Armed citizens are attempting to stop looters in Minneapolis
"Before there were cops, there were just Americans. So, here we are."
"Justice for Floyd but we don't support looting…"@maxnesterak
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) May 28, 2020
That these four amateurs were able to protect this one business raises the question of why the city's more numerous and better equipped professional police weren't able to protect other businesses in a similar fashion.
Police departments exist, at least on paper, in order to protect people's rights and people's property. Over the past couple of days, police in Minneapolis have proven unable to do either.
Minneapolis City Councilmember Jeremiah Ellison summed up their failure pretty well in a tweet.
If the strategy was to:
keep residents safe—it failed
prevent property damage—it failed
None of MPDs actions have accounted for the spread of this infectious disease
Why are our officers firing at people from rooftops?
Why is MPD not acting like they work for Minneapolis?
— Jeremiah Ellison (@jeremiah4north) May 28, 2020
Obviously, the destruction of businesses that had nothing to do with Floyd's death is unjustified. Anyone guilty of vandalism or theft during the past few days of protest deserves to be punished.
None of this relieves police of their responsibility to ensure public order or protect innocent people and businesses from being violated.
In response to questions about last night's destruction, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo put the blame onto outside agitators, saying, "People involved in the criminal conduct last night were not known Minneapolitans." Perhaps he should look closer to home when trying to assign blame for the root of the destruction of the past few days.
Rent Free is a weekly newsletter from Christian Britschgi on urbanism and the fight for less regulation, more housing, more property rights, and more freedom in America's cities.