The Looting Last Time
A Minneapolitan's recollection of the looting after George Floyd's death, in words and pictures
“Do you want to see it? Do you have time?” D asks. It’s the start of the Derek Chauvin trial and D, who works in finance in downtown Minneapolis, drives the area around Lake Street, scene of the riots following the death of George Floyd.
“So the first one happens on Wednesday. On Thursday, Mayor Frey holds a press conference and says, ‘I understand your pain. Everything you do is probably justified’ – I’m paraphrasing – ‘and by the way… we’re pulling the cops.’ All hell’s gonna break loose, right? And that’s really what happened. They basically went down Lake Street like Godzilla. They burned up like six square blocks. It was like Dresden.
“I was down here that whole time. I saw the cops climbing up this huge transit station with rubber bullet cannons. At the same time, I saw people looting the Wells Fargo while was still smoldering. I saw people spray painting, and I saw people from the suburbs sweeping up and trying to scrub the graffiti. It was like a Richard Scarry picture [book], all the shit going on. Meanwhile, there was some famous MSNBC guy doing takes like it was a movie. He’d be like, ‘Live! From Minneapolis!’ and then, if the background didn’t fit the narrative, they would redo it. I watched him do three takes.
“That’s where they burned up the post office. I heard this radio account that morning, of strangers running into the burning post office to grab people’s mail, to save their mail. How touching that was; they’re doing the service for a stranger they don’t even know, in the middle of all this chaos.
“I also saw white college students carrying Black Lives Matter signs and confronting black cops, which just showed how complicated this is and also how class-driven it is. The thing that really hurts me, as a citizen. The black population are my brothers, and it really aches because the focus on race and the racialization of everything really obscures the fact that it is very much about class and class-based issues. This whole mentality about, ‘fuck the police, fuck the state.’ That’s great, but you’re basically victimizing the most vulnerable people, because they’re the ones that are most reliant on the services that are being withdrawn.
“So that Target got looted. My wife and I came down here and it was like, bring a penny take a penny. Everybody just brought their looted shit and put it on the lawn and if you wanted something, you could take it. It was like this community looting effort. They would loot all the grocery stores and then drag out all the food and water and put it on the corners. Like when you run a marathon, you could just grab a granola bar.
“My assessment of this story this summer is, you have the legitimate protesters. You have the protester-adjacent people that are maybe breaking windows or just acting mostly in good faith but are outraged and letting their emotions get it a little bit out of control. Then you have the people that were coming in at night and just burning shit up. But the people that were doing all the burning and stuff were not politically motivated. They’re not antifa; we don’t have the black bloc as you depicted in your writings in Portland, where it’s like Pirates of the Caribbean every night.
“There are so many confluences with Floyd. One thing about Minnesota, we all have like really bad cabin fever because the winter’s so long. At that time of year, everybody is like a coiled spring. If Floyd has died in January, how different would it have been? Because people wouldn’t have been outside; it’s ten below zero.
“And just the meta of Covid. George Floyd was a bouncer at a nightclub. I suspect if Covid had not occurred, he would have been employed and wouldn’t have had to resort to allegedly passing off of counterfeit dollar because he’d be working. The clerk at Cup Foods called the cops for the counterfeit bill, but if you listen or see the transcript, he also called because he could tell like something was wrong with Floyd, he wasn’t acting normal. It wasn’t, ‘There’s a black guy and he’s criminal and come arrest him.’ It was, ‘There’s something going on here. I just want my cigarettes back and this guy’s acting weird and I’m worried about his safety.’ It’s a much richer context than what’s reported.
“I’m not a lawyer but it seems like there’s enough there for reasonable doubt [for Chauvin to escape conviction]. You only need one juror. I don’t think there’s any outcome that’s satisfactory, if there is a scenario that it satisfactory. And then what happens after that? I don’t know.”
(Recorded a week before the shooting death of Daunte Wright.)
Photos by D. Cross-posted on Twitter