Minneapolis’s Progressive Image Burns in Its Streets

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden condemned the violence in a statement, as he continued to express common cause with those demonstrating after Floyd’s death.
“The act of protesting should never be allowed to overshadow the reason we protest,” Biden said in a statement Saturday night. “It should not drive people away from the just cause that protest is meant to advance.”
 A Fox News reporter was pummeled and chased by protesters who had gathered outside the White House early Saturday as part of nationwide unrest following the death of George Floyd.
For several journalists across the country, the demonstrations were taking an ominous, dangerous turn.
A television reporter in Columbia, S.C., was hurt by a thrown rock Saturday and a journalist in Minneapolis was shot in the thigh by a rubber bullet. A television news photographer in Pittsburgh said he was beaten by demonstrators, and police in Louisville, Kentucky, apologized after an officer fired what appeared to be pepper bullets at a television news crew.
Fox’s Leland Vittert was rattled following the Washington attack that he said was clearly targeted at his news organization.
“We took a good thumping,” he told The Associated Press. A live shot he was doing was interrupted by a group of protesters who shouted obscenities directed at Fox. Flanked by two security guards, he and photographer Christian Galdabini walked away from Washington’s Lafayette Park trailed by an angry group before riot police dispersed them.
Vittert said there were no markings on him or the crew’s equipment to identify them as from Fox. But he said during the demonstration, one man continually asked him who he worked for. He didn’t answer, but the man found a picture of Vittert on his cell phone and shouted to other protesters that he was from Fox.
“The protesters stopped protesting whatever it was they were protesting and turned on us,” he said, “and that was a very different feeling.”
He compared it to when he was chased away from a demonstration in Egypt during the Arab Spring of 2011 by a group that shouted, “Fox News hates Muslims.”
A correspondent from the website The Daily Caller followed Vittert and the demonstrators as they left the park. At one point, someone took Vittert’s microphone and threw it at his back. One woman chasing him wore a t-shirt that said, “I can’t breathe,” a reference that Floyd said earlier this week when a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee against his neck.
Vittert said he was “extremely grateful” to the Daily Caller for documenting the scene; Galdabini’s camera was smashed. “They were putting themselves at risk,” he said.
“It makes me proud to do my job and to be a journalist,” he said. “I’m proud to be an organization that is unyielding in our coverage. We’re going to keep on telling our story and doing exactly what we’re doing.”
Suzanne Scott, CEO of Fox News Media, said in a memo on Saturday that Fox was taking all necessary security precautions to protect its journalists covering the story.
“We are truly living in unprecedented and transformative times and freedom of the press is a vital element to the foundation of our society,” Scott wrote.
On Friday, CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez and his two-person crew were arrested while covering overnight protests in Minneapolis. They were quickly released, and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz apologized to CNN.

CNN’s headquarters in Atlanta was damaged later Friday by a group of protesters who also fought with police and set cars afire. While police tried to keep them away from the CNN Center, demonstrators broke windows there and scrawled obscene graffiti on the network’s logo.
Ian Smith, a photographer for KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh, said that he was attacked by protesters who stomped and kicked him at a demonstration there. Smith, who said other protesters jumped in to save him, posted a picture on Twitter showing him with a bruised face and bloody hand.
In Louisville, WAVE-TV was on the air covering a demonstration when video showed a police officer aiming a rifle at reporter Kaitlin Rust and her crew. She was heard yelling, “I’ve been shot! I’ve been shot!” and described them as pepper bullets.
Louisville Police spokeswoman Jesse Halladay apologized for the incident and said police would review the video for potential discipline.
Two Associated Press photographers have been hit by projectiles while documenting protests, one in Minneapolis on Thursday and another in Los Angeles on Friday. Neither was seriously injured.
Demonstrators surrounded the police department headquarters in Columbia, S.C. on Saturday and a scuffle broke out with someone wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat. Rocks were thrown and Miranda Parnell, a television reporter from WIS-TV, was injured and taken to the hospital, according to a tweet from network anchor Judi Gatson.
It was not clear who threw the rock that hit Parnell.
In Minneapolis on Saturday, a Swedish journalist was shot in the thigh with a rubber bullet, apparently from a police gun, while covering a protest, according to the Norwegian newspaper VG. Later Saturday night, a CNN crew said some of its members were hit with rubber bullets.
Minnesota officials called out the state’s entire National Guard on Saturday for the first time since World War II to defend the Twin Cities against an onslaught of looting and violence that escalated this week following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police.
Some of the state’s 13,200 National Guard troops were still training, officials said, but more than 2,400 were expected to hit the streets Saturday night to prevent further destruction.
Hundreds of National Guard forces did little to quell unrest overnight as crowds ignored an 8 p.m. curfew and swarmed streets and the interstate, surrounded a police precinct, broke windows and looted businesses amid random gunfire. Residents on Saturday emerged to survey the damage, some roaming smoky neighborhoods with brooms as volunteer cleanup crews.
At a morning briefing, Gov. Tim Walz — an Army National Guard veteran — and city officials sought to distinguish between civil rights protesters angered by Floyd’s death and the suspects responsible for looting, fires, and vandalism.
Crowds overnight included peaceful protesters carrying Black Lives Matter and Justice for George signs. Many were young people of various races who said they were upset not just by Floyd’s death, but by police brutality in the Twin Cities — just the type of crackdown officials planned late Saturday. Many wore masks to guard against COVID-19, blasted music from passing cars, chanted and created a street party atmosphere with drinking but few fights.
But the crowds also included masked bandits who looted and tagged buildings with anarchist slogans, calls to abolish the police and foment revolution. They walked streets largely free of police with impunity, toting bags and boxes of looted goods past homes where residents watched from their windows, sheltering in place. East Lake Street, a busy thoroughfare on the city’s south side, was blocked overnight by marches and then fires. Business owners — some armed — guarded properties as looters could be heard plotting and then repeatedly trying to break in.
“Everything that we believe in, they are trying to destroy,” Walz said, insisting that most were from out of town, including several dozen arrested overnight.
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, who is black, said rioters were using protesters “as human shields.”
“Just by virtue of being part of a crowd that people looking to destroy our communities can hide in, that is aiding these people,” Carter said.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who has been a target of President Trump’s criticism since protests began, likened officials urging residents to stay home to London during the Nazi’s Blitz of World War II.
“By being out tonight you are most definitely helping those who seek to wrong our city,” he said. “We can’t do it alone.”
The governor said he planned to hold a noon briefing with local civil rights and faith leaders.
“We have true demonstrations planned today,” he said but stressed that an 8 p.m. curfew announced Friday and largely ignored would be strictly enforced. “If you are out after 8 p.m., you are aiding and abetting these folks and giving them the cover they want.”
On two straight nights of unruly protests against police brutality, officers retreated from their posts in some American cities, while in others, they deployed batons, flash-bang grenades, and tear gas to quell the unrest.
The wide range of responses exacerbated tensions with the protesters in several locations and brought global attention to the tactics that American police use during riots as they try to find a balance between keeping the peace and protecting the safety of officers and the public.
The protests came in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis after a white police officer pressed a knee into the 46-year-old black man’s neck for more than eight minutes on Memorial Day. Floyd was handcuffed as Officer Derek Chauvin pushed his face into the pavement amid his pleas for help.
Tensions rose throughout the week and reached a crescendo Friday night as protests erupted in cities across America. On their smartphones, social media feeds and TVs, viewers saw the extremes in tactics play out all through the night Thursday and Friday, even as the majority of cops nationwide tried to keep the peace without retreating or shoving people to the ground.
In Minneapolis, leaders decided to evacuate a police precinct Thursday and surrender it to protesters who set it on fire. Protesters also broke into the police headquarters Friday in Portland, Oregon, and ignited a fire.
In New York, officers used batons and shoved protesters down as they took people into custody and cleared the streets. One video showed an officer slam a woman to the ground as he walked past her in the street. In Louisville, a police officer fired what appeared to be pepper balls at a news crew, and a clip of the video amassed more than 8 million views on Twitter in less than six hours. Los Angeles police arrested more than 500 protesters on Friday night.
Minneapolis police and Mayor Jacob Frey have been sharply criticized for the noticeably non-confrontational strategy Thursday in handling the protests after Floyd’s death. Chauvin was arrested Friday and charged with murder.
To some, the act of protesters taking over the evacuated Minneapolis precinct amid fires could stoke further flames.
“You’ve got to defend that,” said former Los Angeles Police Deputy Chief Michael Downing. “That’s your command operation. Symbolically, it looks very bad if you have to give that up.”
Downing would know: He witnessed the Los Angeles riots firsthand in 1992 following the acquittal of four officers accused of beating black motorist Rodney King.
In Los Angeles, the center of the uprising was an intersection, Florence and Normandie avenues, and the violence spiraled into five days of riots and fires. More than 60 people died, including 10 who were fatally shot by law enforcement.
In 1992, then-Lt. Downing would typically oversee that intersection, but he was on vacation studying for a promotional exam. A different lieutenant was in charge instead.
The lieutenant made a decision: He ordered his officers to abandon the intersection. An hour later, a truck driver was pulled from his vehicle and brutally beaten by rioters.
“I think that sent a signal to the rest of the city,” said Downing, who immediately rushed to work. “When you have that coupled with political leadership saying ‘show your anger, go to the streets’ it was kind of like permission to go out and misbehave and be violent.”
Nearly 30 years later, police officers around the country are confronted with an eerily similar dilemma, with cities aflame, violent protests erupting and another challenging night ahead Saturday as National Guard troops start arriving in some cities.
The mere presence of armed National Guard troops on the streets in Minneapolis and elsewhere brings back memories of the civil rights and anti-war protests of the 1960s and ’70s, but they are only there as a support to local law enforcement and do not have the authority to make arrests.
They can use their weapons in “self-defense” but are trained in less lethal crowd control tactics that attempt to de-escalate tensions, unlike the combat techniques that have largely been abandoned since the Kent State University shootings in Ohio in 1970 when the state’s National Guard killed four students and wounded nine.
Alex Vitale, a sociology professor at Brooklyn College, said that when deciding how to manage large protests, police and political leaders look for ways to facilitate “legitimate outpourings of anger” while trying to limit the likelihood of injury and property destruction. But he said the difficulty is trying to strike that balance.
“The crisis of police legitimacy has become so great that than to use the police to manage the situation just enflames the problem,” said Vitale, who has studied the policing of protests for two decades.
In Minneapolis and other cities around the nation where high-profile police killings of black people have prompted protests, the rage felt by protesters is understandable, said Ed Gonzalez, sheriff of Harris County, Texas.
“We keep promising real change but not delivering it on a consistent basis,” he said. “We see the resulting emotions and anger and calls for change that occurs, only for it to happen again.”
Edward Maguire, a criminology and criminal justice professor at Arizona State University whose research focuses primarily on policing and violence, said mass arrests are almost always a bad idea during protests. But so is not making arrests in the face of violence and property damage.
He said police departments should be continuously engaged in building connections with minority communities, faith representatives, and social justice leaders so that they have a degree of social capital and open communications when protests break out.
In other recent protests, police found themselves in a similar situation as those on the front lines this week. Police were criticized in Baltimore and Charlottesville, Virginia, for taking too much of a hands-off approach during protests in 2015 and 2017.
In Minneapolis, Frey said he made the decision to evacuate the third precinct that was later torched because of “imminent threats” to both officers and the public.
“Brick and mortar is not as important as life,” Frey said.
Even as law enforcement nationwide harshly condemned Chauvin’s actions in unprecedented language earlier in the week, they denounced the violence of the fiery protests and pleaded for calm.
“You can’t allow anarchy just because this horrible injustice has occurred,” said Stephen Downing, Michael Downing’s father and also a retired LAPD deputy chief. “You can’t let your city burn. You just can’t.”
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