In an attempt to deflect blame for the riots away from those in his own state, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz told those gathered at a Saturday morning press conference that “only about 20 percent are Minnesotans, and 80 percent are from the outside.” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey upped the ante by claiming that “the people that are doing this are not Minneapolis residents — they are coming in largely from outside the city, outside the region, to prey on everything we have built over the last several decades.” And Melvin Carter, the mayor of Saint Paul, Minnesota, topped them all by claiming that “every person” arrested in violent Minneapolis protests was from out of state.
None of this was true. But the distortion of the data was useful for progressive politicians to advance the narrative that “white outsiders” were responsible for the violence, the looting, and the arson. At one point during his press conference, Gov. Walz made the incredible claim that “white supremacist groups” had come to town to incite the locals and lead in the looting. And although Minneapolis police spokesperson John Elder said Saturday afternoon that he believes some of the people arrested have given false addresses, the truth is that the official police arrest data demonstrate that the majority of the violence, looting, and arson in Minneapolis appears to be home-grown.
Social media promoted the preposterous narrative that it was the St. Paul police department itself that instigated the riots in an effort to deflect attention away from their own culpability.
Publicly available data from the Hennepin County Jail’s roster shows that the overwhelming majority of those arrested for rioting, unlawful assembly, disturbing the peace, and burglary related crimes from Friday, May 29, through Sunday, May 31, listed Minnesota as their address. A preliminary analysis of the arrest and booking data for the first days of the riots by KARE 11 TV, an NBC affiliate station, indicated that 86 percent of all those arrested for rioting, unlawful assembly, and burglary related crimes listed Minnesota as their address. The cases from outside Minnesota were of a handful of people listed as living in Missouri, Florida, Arkansas, Michigan, and Illinois.
Despite these preliminary data, politicians continue to try and advance the narrative that white outsiders were responsible for the destruction of their city. On “Fox News Sunday,” Minnesota’s Attorney General Keith Ellison advanced the narrative that “outsiders” had promoted the protests. Complicit in this, social media promoted the preposterous narrative that it was the St. Paul police department itself that instigated the riots in an effort to deflect attention away from their own culpability. For “proof” of police complicity, Facebook and Twitter posts pointed to a video that has gone viral of a white male “agent provocateur.” The viral video showing the lone white man dressed in black, wearing an elaborate ventilator mask and carrying a black umbrella, is compelling — especially when he purposefully walks to the Auto Zone and uses his hammer to smash out all of the front windows of the Minneapolis store.
Jumping on the “umbrella man” narrative, Attorney General Ellison tweeted, “This man doesn’t look like any civil rights protestor I have ever seen. Looks like a provocateur.” Using Twitter to call on others to “ID” the umbrella man, Ellison encouraged the narrative of the white provocateur. Not surprisingly, social media “identified” the lone “umbrella man” as a local police officer and Twitter published the picture of St. Paul police officer Jacob Pederson, identifying the officer as the “umbrella man,” bringing a barrage of social media threats on Pederson and his family.
In a feeble attempt to respond to the social media storm, St. Paul police officials first assumed a defensive posture — claiming that Officer Pederson “had an alibi and that his whereabouts checked out for the time the incident occurred.” Later, the police department issued a stronger statement, claiming, “We are aware of the social media post that erroneously identifies one of our officers as the person caught on video breaking windows in Minneapolis. We want to be perfectly clear about this: The person in the video is not our officer.”
In an attempt to help us understand the rioting, Keith Ellison quoted Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s statement that “Riots are the way the unheard get heard.” The problem is that we were already horrified by the brutal death of George Floyd — an unarmed black man who died in police custody. We were appalled by what happened to Mr. Floyd as soon as we heard about it and saw the video. We had already heard the heartbreaking cries of his family and the black community in Minneapolis and were saddened by it. We believed that justice was being served — and many of us demanded that. But the riots will not bring justice for the death of Mr. Floyd. The riots and the destruction they have caused will not bring justice to Mr. Floyd’s community. The riots will only bring more heartache and loss to a community that has already suffered so much.