A peaceful protest earlier in the evening descended into disarray and looting. 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.
By 10 p.m., an Auto Zone had caught fire. Soon, other fires erupted, including a massive blaze at a construction site. Meanwhile, one person was shot by a pawn shop owner and died at a hospital, police told the Star Tribune, as looters ransacked a Target, Foot Locker and nearby small businesses.
Mayor Jacob Frey (D) has requested help from the state’s National Guard as local leaders pleaded for a peaceful resolution.
“Violence only begets violence. More force is only going to lead to more lives lost and more devastation,” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) tweeted.
The scene 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 cops 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.