Downtown looting sparked by suicide spills into Southwest

Workers and neighbors cleared shattered glass from Franklin-Nicollet Liquor Aug. 27. The store was damaged and looted Aug. 26. Photo by Andrew Hazzard

Civil unrest reignited in Downtown Minneapolis after the suicide of a homicide suspect on Nicollet Mall, sparking rioting and looting that spilled into parts of Southwest and prompted a municipal curfew.

Crowds began to gather in Downtown on Aug. 26 after a man police were seeking in connection to an earlier homicide used a gun to take his own life at about 6 p.m. Rumors had spread that Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) officers had killed the man, leading to groups of angry demonstrators and the looting of several businesses in the area. Much of the damage in Southwest centered along Nicollet Avenue in the Eat Street area.

The unrest came just three months after the Memorial Day police killing of George Floyd in South Minneapolis and days after police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, shot another Black man, Jacob Blake, in the back. Two-thirds of Minneapolis residents surveyed in a recent poll said they view the city’s police department unfavorably. The unrest also came amid a pandemic in which almost a third of Minnesotans — and more than half of Black Minnesotans — have lost work.

Council Member Jeremiah Ellison said people’s assumption that the MPD killed the man is “rooted in a steep distrust.”

The damage is frustrating, Ellison said, especially when the rage is sparked by disinformation, but he noted that the police have historically been a source of misinformation themselves.

“We forfeited our goodwill, and this is the ugly cost,” Ellison wrote on Twitter.

Minneapolis officials quickly published and shared a surveillance video of the apparent suicide on social media but removed it the following day after receiving feedback critical of the decision to disseminate the graphic image of a Black man’s death.

Mayor Jacob Frey said video was released to “quell widespread unrest and/or rumor,” though the city sustained a significant amount of damage after the footage was released. The mayor issued an emergency curfew order and requested aid from the National Guard and outside law enforcement. The curfew was also in effect on Aug. 27, a night that was mostly uneventful, and then lifted.

The door was shattered at the Wedge Table at 24th & Hennepin Aug. 26. The business knew of no other damage to the building. Photo by Andrew Hazzard

While most of the damage was done along Nicollet Mall Downtown, rioters and looters struck several businesses along Nicollet Avenue in Stevens Square and Whittier. Flavor Bee’s restaurant at 18th & Nicollet had its door smashed. Glass was shattered at the Franklin-Nicollet Liquor Store.

At 24th & Nicollet, the Wedge Table had its door shattered and the neighboring building that hosts Metro PCS, Sew Simple and Zetta’s Flatbreads was also damaged.

Doug Peterson, a store director with Twin Cities Co-op Partners, which runs Wedge Table and the Wedge and Linden Hills co-ops, said the damage was limited to the broken door.

“It’s scary. It seemed to come so suddenly,” Peterson said.

Consignment shop b. Resale at 26th & Nicollet had windows damaged and some inventory items taken, according to employee Cej B.F., who preferred to give the initials of his last name. Workers at the store were cleaning up and getting the shop ready for business on Aug. 27, and he said the staff knows by now how to handle such looting. He said the local government was doing a poor job spreading information and that the unrest stems from years of neglect.

“This isn’t because of the community; it’s because of the system,” he said.

There were 132 people were arrested in connection to the unrest Aug. 26, according to Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson.

Four fires were reported citywide, including one at the Tires Plus at Lake & Dupont in Southwest. Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel said all the buildings remain standing and that firefighters “did an excellent job.”

At a press conference Aug. 27, city officials attempted to distance the unrest from the May protests, with Mayor Jacob Frey, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo and Council Member Lisa Goodman (Ward 7) all promising to fight “lawlessness.”

“These individuals were not peacefully protesting or assembling,” Arradondo said. “They were looting, creating vandalism, burglarizing, trying to set buildings ablaze. I will not tolerate that.”

Arradondo said the presence of the National Guard and State Patrol was necessary to prevent residents and businesses from experiencing “compounded trauma.”

Windows were boarded at 2424 Nicollet after rioters damaged a slew of businesses along the street during unrest on Aug. 26. Photo by Andrew Hazzard