An angry crowd broke into the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct headquarters Thursday night and set fire to the building, capping another day of protests, many of them violent, across the Twin Cities.
The police station on E. Lake Street has been the epicenter of protests this week for people demanding justice after the death of George Floyd, who died Monday when a Minneapolis police officer set his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes.
Nearby, Minnehaha Lake Wine & Spirits, the target of looters the night before, also was set ablaze. As flames leapt, sharp explosions sounded as people threw bottles filled with accelerants or fired bullets into the fires.
Protests had been taking place across the metro all day, both peaceful and violent. No deaths or serious injuries were reported in Minneapolis as of midnight, but the situation remained volatile at the Third Precinct, where National Guard troops were called in to help protect firefighters.
On Wednesday night, a man was fatally shot and crowds looted and burned buildings on E. Lake Street late into the night.
Early Thursday evening, thousands of people gathered in downtown Minneapolis to express their anger at a peaceful gathering. But later came the assault on the Third Precinct, were protesters breached a fence and hurled objects at officers before setting the fire that led to evacuation of the building.
Earlier in the day, in St. Paul, looters broke windows, stormed through battered-down doors and snatched clothes, phones, shoes and other merchandise from shops along University Avenue near the intersection of Pascal Street. Officers formed a barricade in front of Target. But police were absent a block away at T.J. Maxx, where looters smashed down the door and fled with heaps of clothing piled on shopping carts.
Watching people run in and out of T.J. Maxx, Johnnie Capers lamented that he failed to see the logic in looting local businesses. “I’ll be the first to say that protest without unrest is useless, but ... you’ve got to send that unrest to those that’s in power,” he said. “Don’t inflict it on yourself.”
An altercation took place in a parking lot between a pedestrian and driver who reportedly tried to run down the pedestrian. The motorist missed and hit another vehicle.
“We continue to work to disperse the crowds, protect people and protect property,” according to a St. Paul police statement issued late Thursday afternoon. “However, our officers continue to be assaulted, and the area is not safe.”
Gunfire rang out on University near Pascal about 1:35 p.m. Deryck Miller said he saw a man pull a gun in front of his friend’s auto-body shop and start shooting toward a black sedan. Miller said the driver crashed into a truck, abandoned the car and ran away.
On St. Paul’s East Side, vandals broke into Cub Foods and its liquor store at the Sun Ray Shopping Center. Police shut down the mall by 3:30 p.m., though even as officers filled the parking lot in front, people were driving around back and taking boxes of bottles from the liquor store.
A few hours later in the Midway district, at least one person was severely injured when a fight broke out among looters. St. Paul police warned people to stay away from the area and tweeted that Mayor Melvin Carter had requested help from the National Guard, which Gov. Tim Walz deployed hours earlier, as well as from other local law enforcement agencies.
“For all of us who lament the death of Mr. Floyd, for all of us whose fathers, whose sons, whose nephews, whose selves that could have been, our demand has to be that we take this energy and channel it towards helping prevent something like that from ever happening again,” Carter said.
Police also reported a large fire at the Napa Auto Parts store on University Avenue. Police said rioters pelted them with rocks and bottles and broke into businesses in the area, including a Target store.
In Roseville, Lt. Erika Scheider said that department has taken reports of looting at Rosedale Center mall, Target, Walmart, Cub Foods, Best Buy, Pawn America and two cellphone stores.
In Minneapolis, a large, peaceful crowd gathered outside the Hennepin County Government Center in early evening to demand that prosecutors file charges against the officers involved in Floyd’s death. Speakers condemned institutional racism and police brutality, and asked fellow protesters to remain peaceful.
The thousands of protesters then filed down 3rd Avenue with their fists raised in unity.
“We gotta fight these people intelligently — with our minds,” said longtime activist Mel Reeves.
Across town at Cup Foods, where Floyd had been detained by police, people took turns speaking next to a newly painted mural of Floyd adorning the store’s wall.
Not far away, hundreds of people marched down E. 26th Street in Minneapolis chanting “these killer cops have got to go” before making their way to Hiawatha Avenue, chanting, “I can’t breathe!”
On Thursday afternoon, two protesters, Raven Rear and Sophie Peterson, set up an impromptu triage and first aid center next to the Third Precinct with donated supplies. Milk — a makeshift remedy for tear gas — along with bandages, paper towels and other supplies were sprawled across the parking lot. “There’s going to be a strong need for medical people. … We’re just kind of making our own station and going with it,” said Rear, a 23-year-old phlebotomist.
“This is bigger than all of us,” said Peterson, a 21-year-old nursing student dressed in blue scrubs. “This is a fight that’s going to take longer. … Businesses can come back, but murdered men can’t.”
Staff writers Matt McKinney, Liz Sawyer, Ryan Faircloth, Chao Xiong, Shannon Prather, Paul Walsh and Libor Jany contributed to this report.