George Floyd protests in Minneapolis–Saint Paul

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George Floyd protests
in Minneapolis–Saint Paul
Part of Black Lives Matter movement
and George Floyd protests
Protesters marching in Minneapolis on May 26, 2020, the day after Floyd's death. A protester's sign reads, "Justice for George Floyd" and "#I CANT BREATHE".
5-27-2020 (34 of 61) (49944138197).jpg
20200528- DSC8080 (49947755796).jpg
Lake Street (49957255132).jpg
Lake Street cleanup (49957243172).jpg
Clockwise from top
  • Protesters march in Minneapolis on May 26, 2020
  • Police stations set ablaze
  • Volunteers clean up
  • Ruins on East Lake Street
  • Tear gas fired on protesters
DateMay 26, 2020 – present (7 months, 3 weeks and 4 days)
Minneapolis–Saint Paul metropolitan area in the U.S. state of Minnesota
Caused by
MethodsProtests, demonstrations, civil disobedience, civil resistance, public art
  • Calvin Horton Jr.[4]
  • Oscar Lee Stewart Jr.[5]
Arrested604 demonstrators by June 2, 2020[6]
Damage$500 million[7]
1,500 property locations[8]
150 buildings set on fire[8]
  • Federal:
  • State and local:
    • 91 for felony burglary[9]
    • 1 for attempted murder of police officers[9]
    • 1 for criminal vehicular operation[11]

The George Floyd protests in Minneapolis–Saint Paul are a series of civil unrest that began on May 26, 2020. Events in Minneapolis, also referred to as the Minneapolis riots[12] or Minneapolis uprising,[13] began as a response to the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man who died on May 25 after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck for nearly eight minutes as three other officers assisted during an arrest.[14][15][16] Unrest spilled over into Saint Paul and throughout Minnesota and quickly inspired a global protest movement against police brutality and racial inequality.

The majority of protests in Minneapolis–Saint Paul were peaceful.[17] However, over a three-night period from May 27 to May 29, Minneapolis sustained extraordinary damage from rioting and looting—largely along a 5-mile (8.0 km) stretch of Lake Street south of downtown[17]—including the demise of the city's third police precinct, which was overrun and set on fire.[18] Neighboring Saint Paul suffered damages that totaled $82 million and affected 330 buildings, including 37 that were heavily damaged or entirely destroyed, mostly along the city's University Avenue business corridor.[19] Minnesota Governor Tim Walz activated the state's National Guard in response to the riots, resulting in the largest deployment of its troops since World War II.[20] By mid-June, violence in the Twin Cities had resulted in at least 2 deaths,[21] 604 arrests, and upwards of $500 million in damage to 1,500 properties, the second-most destructive period of local unrest in United States history, after the 1992 Los Angeles riots.[7][8][22][23] Most of the people who were later prosecuted in court for their role in the riots came from Saint Paul and suburban and rural Minnesota while one was from Minneapolis.[10]

Violent riots largely subsided after May 30 as mostly peaceful demonstrations continued and local officials pledged to change policing policies.[18][24] Although the community responded with an outpouring of donations, food drives, volunteer cleanup efforts, and public art installments during the protests,[25][26] the initial period of riots worsened local economic conditions and disproportionately impacted store owners and the cities' most vulnerable residents, whom were already impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in Minnesota.[27][19][28] Many small business owners were unable to recover losses and quickly rebuild as available recovery funds were quickly exhausted, resulting in Minneapolis and Saint Paul officials seeking state and federal support for recovery efforts.[19] Minneapolis also experienced a sharp increase in violent crime after Floyd's death.[29]

Local protests and unrest over Floyd's death and broader issues of racial injustice continued into 2021 in the Twin Cities, most notably the occupation protest at the intersection of East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, where Floyd was arrested and died. Officials prepared for the possibility of continued unrest in 2021 as the trial of the four Minneapolis police officers deemed responsible for Floyd's death scheduled to start in March.[30][31][32]


Racial disparities in Minnesota[edit]

The conditions that led to the uprising in Minneapolis were said to be the result of years of disinvestment and abandonment of the area around Lake Street in Minneapolis and city officials ignoring the needs of the community's black residents.[33] By the beginning of the 21st century, Minneapolis was home to some of the largest racial disparities in the United States. The city's population of people of color and Indigenous people fared worse than the city's white population for many measures of well-being, such as health outcomes, academic achievement, income, and home ownership. The result of discriminatory policies and racism over the course of the city's history, racial disparities was described as the most significant issue facing Minneapolis in the first decades of the 2000s.[34] By 2015, homeownership rates in the Twin Cities were 75 percent for white families, but only 23 percent for black families, one of the largest disparities in the nation. By 2018, unemployment for blacks in Minnesota had reached a historic low of 6.9 percent, but it was still three times higher than the rate for whites.[33] Though black residents made up just 6 percent of Minnesota's population, they were nearly 37 percent of the state's prison population in 2016.[35] By the 2020s, generations of the city's black residents had not experienced the same levels of comforts and asset accumulation as the white residents.[33]

Recent shootings of residents by police[edit]

George Floyd's death was viewed as just the latest instance of police violence in Minneapolis where 11 people had been killed by police officers since 2010.[33] In 2015, the shooting of Jamar Clark, a black man, by a Minneapolis police officer led to controversy and protests; it was later determined by prosecutors that the officers had acted in self defense and no charges were filed. In 2016, the shooting of Philando Castile, a black man, in nearby Falcon Heights resulted in several weeks of protests and unrest, and the criminal case ended with a jury acquittal for the involved officer after a 10-month process.[13] In 2017, the shooting of Justine Damond, a white woman, led to a 12-year prison sentence for the police officer, a black man, who shot her.[33]

In many instances where Minneapolis officers justified the use of aggressive force against civilians, the police department developed a pattern of releasing officer statements that were later contradicted by video and other evidence, leading to several civil rights and wrongful death lawsuits.[36] Some felt that the judicial system was inconsistent and that it did not hold white police officers who killed black men accountable for their actions, and the video of Floyd begging for relief while being pinned by Chauvin generated further concern and anger for both white and black residents in the city.[37] Floyd's death was also the third in a string of highly reported and publicized incidents where unarmed black Americans were killed in 2020, Ahmaud Arbery in Atlanta on February 23 and Breonna Taylor in Louisville on March 13. It was unclear if demonstrators were angered only by the graphic video of Floyd's death or by the culmination of recent incidents in the United States.[38]

Distrust of Minneapolis police[edit]

In Minneapolis, by 2020, the relationship between the community, particularly among city's black residents, and the Minneapolis Police Department had deteriorated after several killings of residents by police officers and by what some considered displays of racial insensitivity by police leaders.[39][37][40] In the city's Powderhorn Park neighborhood, where Floyd was killed, some argued there was a persisting distrust between the police and black community.[39] The head of the police union representing Minneapolis officers, Bob Kroll, was a continuing source of controversy, having called Black Lives Matter a "terrorist organization" in 2016 after the officers involved in Clark's death were cleared of wrongdoing.[39] His appearance at a political rally for Donald Trump's presidential campaign in 2019 generated controversy for some when Kroll said that Trump would “let cops do their job, put the handcuffs on the criminals instead of [on] us”. Along with a "ghetto" Christmas tree that officers put up at the fourth police precinct station in 2018, the police relationship had eroded with the community, particularly for its black residents.[40] The police department also had a history of not holding officers accountable for complaints and disciplinary actions. Of the 80 officers fired for misconduct in the 20 years prior to the killing of Floyd, half were able to be reinstated. As a police officer with the department, Chauvin had 17 complaints, but only faced discipline once.[41]

Killing of George Floyd[edit]

A memorial at the site of George Floyd's death, May 26, 2020

George Floyd was an unarmed African-American man who died while he was being detained by police in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, shortly after 8:00 p.m. CDT, near the Cup Foods grocery store at the intersection of East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue. According to a video recorded by a bystander, a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on Floyd's neck for approximately eight minutes, while other officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao assisted with the arrest and held concerned onlookers back.[42] Floyd can be heard repeatedly on a bystander's video saying: "I can't breathe", "Please", and "Mama". He appeared unconscious at the scene,[43] and was pronounced dead at 9:25 p.m. after being transported by an ambulance to the Hennepin County Medical Center emergency room.[44]


Protests begin[edit]

Tuesday, May 26[edit]

A protester in Minneapolis carries an "I can't breathe" sign, May 26, 2020

A police statement on the morning of Tuesday, May 26, said that a suspected money forger had "physically resisted" arrest and suffered "medical distress" after being handcuffed by officers, leading to his death. The statement, which made no mention of officer Chauvin's knee on Floyd's neck, came a few hours before a bystander's video surfaced and became widely circulated in the media.[45][46] The police department never explained why the initial statement differed from events captured in a bystander video.[36] The four officers at the scene of Floyd's death were placed on paid administrative leave, a standard protocol, pending further investigation.[47][48]

After the bystander's video became more widely circulated, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo held a late-morning press conference to react to the graphic details captured in it and express solidarity with the community's growing sense of anger. "The simple truth is that he should be with us this morning," Frey said of Floyd. Arradondo added, "Being Black in America should not be a death sentence."[17]

The first organized protests emerged by midday.[45] A makeshift memorial was created at East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue where the incident with Floyd and the Minneapolis police took place. Some of the gathered protesters chanted, "I can't breathe, I can't breathe", words repeated multiple times by Floyd in the viral video.[49] As thousands of people rallied at the intersection, organizers emphasized keeping the protest peaceful.[50]

By the middle of the afternoon, Chief Arradondo had fired the city's four officers at the scene of Floyd's arrest and death, a move supported by Mayor Frey. Protesters and Floyd's family however called for murder charges for all four officers involved and swift judicial consequences, as the FBI and Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension opened investigations of the incident. Bob Kroll, president of the Minneapolis police officer's union, said the firing of the officers occurred without due process and offered "full support of the officers" during the investigations.[51][52][53]

Just before dusk, the protest rally at the location of Floyd's death became a two-mile (3.2 km) march to the Minneapolis Police Department's third precinct police station where the four officers involved were believed to have worked.[49][50][18] At the station, protesters rallied peacefully with megaphones and signs on the steps at the building's entrance. The main protest group disbanded later in the evening, however a smaller group broke away. They breached the fence of the parking lot, vandalized the building with graffiti, threw rocks and bottles, broke a window of the building, while also breaking windows of an empty police car. Some protesters tried to stop them, with a scuffle breaking out.[17][18]

Recently-elected city council member Jeremiah Ellison, who had participated in prior protests against the police after the killing of black men, advised the mayor to not interfere with those vandalizing police property, hoping to spare the surrounding neighborhood.[17] After Arradondo eventually ordered them to respond, the police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to push them back, even at those who weren't being violent. He later told reporters that he made the decision because some officers kept weapons in their vehicles that could be taken.[18][50] In response, demonstrators threw rocks, water bottles, and miscellaneous objects towards the officers. The unruly crowd clashing with the police was measured in the hundreds, and noted as a contrast from the peaceful group at the start of the protest.[49][50] Many protesters viewed the police response as an overreaction that only made the crowd angrier.[18]

A separate group of protesters gathered outside the Oakdale home of Derek Chauvin that night.[49]

Protests and riots spread[edit]

Wednesday, May 27[edit]

Police and protesters stand off outside the third precinct station in Minneapolis, May 27, 2020
Under-construction apartment complex on fire in Minneapolis, May 27, 2020

Protests in Minneapolis continued on Wednesday, May 27, at several locations throughout the city. At the location where Floyd died, protesters were led through prayer and a series of chants. By late morning, a group of protesters blocked the nearby intersection as they repeated, "Whose streets? Our streets." Some protesters left memorials by the Cup Foods store, while some spray painted the words "Justice for Floyd" and "Black Lives Matter" on the street surface. No police were present and the scene was described as peaceful.[54]

The tone of protests shifted that afternoon when a crowd gathered at the third precinct station two miles (3.2 km) from the spot were Floyd died.[55] The rally was initially peaceful,[17] but police later fired rubber bullets and chemical irritants as some protesters began breaking the precinct's windows; some activists again tried to stop people from vandalizing it further. As police forcefully advanced with tear gas, protesters scattered throughout the area.[55]

At an AutoZone store on East Lake Street, adjacent to the third police precinct station,[18] a masked man carrying an umbrella and sledgehammer was recorded on video breaking windows and spray painting graffiti encouraging looting. Some protesters confronted him and asked him to stop. Later in the evening, the same AutoZone store was set on fire.[56] The situation on East Lake Street worsened when a nearby Target store was extensively looted by a crowd of about 100 people.[57] Minneapolis City Council member Andrew Johnson, who represented the area, blamed the police for the unfolding destruction, saying "It looked like they were defending the Alamo and letting the community burn". Council member Jeremiah Ellison said in a media interview that night that the police should "sacrifice" the station, while council member Linea Palmisano expressed privately to a city official that such a move would result in "ultimate chaos".[18]

Violence continued overnight as rioters ignited fires and looted stores across the city. One mile (1.6 km) from the main protest site, Calvin Horton Jr., a 43-year-old man from Minneapolis, was fatally shot by a pawnshop owner who believed he was burglarizing his business.[4][58] In a chaotic scene inside and around the pawn shop, some bystanders threw objects at police officers who tried to render first aid to Horton and investigate what happened, leading the officers to flee the scene.[59] Dozens of other buildings were looted or destroyed along the city's busy north- and south-side business corridors, but most incidents occurred in the vicinity of the third precinct station.[60] Among the losses was Midtown Corner, an under-construction, $30 million redevelopment project for 189 units of affordable housing, which was destroyed by fire after being torched.[61] The response from firefighters in the area was delayed as crews required police escorts for protection from rioters.[17]

That night, Frey reached out to Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and requested the help of the Minnesota National Guard, but the city government seemed unaware of the timeline and logistics of troop deployment, and relegated tactical coordination to the police force.[17] However, knowing that it would take some time for the National Guard to mobilize, Frey and city leaders began discussing ways to deescalate the situation.[18]

Thursday, May 28[edit]

State of emergency[edit]
Protest march in downtown Minneapolis, May 28, 2020
Scenes of protests and looting in Minneapolis, May 28, 2020

By the morning of May 28, more than 30 businesses in Minneapolis had been damaged or destroyed by rioters.[62] Chief Arradondo remarked that, in his view, the majority of protests the previous day were peaceful, but were "hijacked" by some who were looting and vandalizing businesses.[63] Minneapolis city officials hoped that the worst had already passed.[17]

To quell riotous behavior, Mayor Frey declared a state of emergency to allow for more flexibility in the city's response.[64] Frey and Arradondo also began quietly preparing for the contingency of surrendering the third precinct station in Minneapolis if violence escalated. Few people knew of the plan outside of some officers stationed there and nearby business owners that had heard rumors and noticed the station's parking lot being emptied.[18]

Businesses throughout the Twin Cities spent the day boarding up windows and doors to prevent looting. Among them, the Target Corporation announced closures for all of its area stores. Saint Paul police officers armed with batons and gas masks patrolled the city's busiest commercial corridor and kept looters out of a Target store while other business windows were smashed. Minneapolis preemptively shut down its light-rail system and bus service through Sunday out of safety concerns. Officials pleaded with metro area residents to stay home that night to prevent further property destruction. African American Saint Paul mayor Melvin Carter said, "Please stay home. Please do not come here to protest. Please keep the focus on George Floyd, on advancing our movement and on preventing this from ever happening again."[65]

At 4 p.m. CDT, Governor Walz formally activated 500 National Guard troops and deployed them to the Twin Cities area, at the request of city leaders.[18] Walz commented, "George Floyd's death should lead to justice and systemic change, not more death and destruction." Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan added, "the demonstration last night became incredibly unsafe for all involved. The purpose of the National Guard is to protect people, to protect people safely demonstrating, and to protect small business owners."[66][64] Walz also said it would take guard troops a few days to fully mobilize.[18]

Delayed officer criminal charges[edit]

State and federal prosecutors held a press conference in the late afternoon at a regional FBI office in Brooklyn Center, a Minneapolis suburb, in what was anticipated to be a major development to the case against the officers who were at the scene of Floyd's death.[67] However, Hennepin County Attorney Michael O. Freeman, the local official with jurisdiction to bring forth criminal charges for police misconduct, said his office needed more time to investigate.[17] In explaining the anticipation of the media briefing and its two-hour delayed start, U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald said, "I thought we would have another development to talk to you about, but we don't". Weeks later, on June 9, it was revealed that state and federal prosecutors were negotiating a plea deal with former officer Derek Chauvin at the time that would have included state murder charges and federal civil rights charges, but the deal fell apart for reasons that were not fully explained.[67]

Transition from peaceful to destructive demonstrations[edit]
Several stores set ablaze on East Lake Street in Minneapolis, May 28, 2020

Thousands of peaceful protesters again marched the streets and called for justice for George Floyd during the day. Hundreds of demonstrators in Minneapolis also returned to the area near the third precinct police station, where Frey and Arradondo had deliberately reduced the street presence of the police.[68] By the evening, police reports said the crowd was "engaged in peaceful activity" as some were said to be grilling, listening to music, and socializing. It was not until after sunset the crowd grew more restless,[18] when looting of a nearby Target store resumed and a vehicle and building were set on fire.[68]

Multiple large, mobile crowds and chaos were reported across the city by nightfall. A crowd of 1,500 protesters were marching through a downtown shopping district in Minneapolis where there were 400 state troopers present. Another large crowd advanced on the city's first police precinct station near Hennepin Avenue and 5th Street and smaller crowds gathered elsewhere. "We were defending an entire city with 600 officers against thousands and thousands of protestors," Frey later said of the events.[69]

The intensity of demonstrations increased as dozens of businesses were looted and set on fire on East Lake Street in Minneapolis near the city's third police precinct station. Looters broke into a liquor store across the street from the station and passed out bottles to the crowd, and then set the store on fire.[17][69] The nearby Max It Pawn store was set on fire as it was being looted. Bystanders discovered that a person was trapped inside the building, but were unable to help guide them out after frantically removing some plywood from windows and shining flashlights inside. Fire crews that arrived later found the building too unstable for a rescue operation into the structure.[70] The charred remains of the victim, the second death during the unrest, was not recovered until nearly two months later on July 20[21] and was not identified until October 20.[71]

Loss of the third precinct station[edit]
Demonstrators surround the Minneapolis police third precinct station as it is engulfed in flames, May 28, 2020

Late that night the focus of demonstrators shifted to the police station building itself.[68] Some threw objects at officers who responded by firing rubber bullets.[18] Demonstrators eventually tore down fencing surrounding the precinct station and police responded with tear gas.[68][65] As tensions and fires in the area mounted, Frey gave the order to evacuate the station, a tactic he later said was to deescalate the situation and prevent further loss of life. The building was then overrun by protesters and set on fire.[68][65] Despite the evacuation order there were still at least 13 police officers in the building with some reportedly sending texts to loved ones in fear of their lives.[72]

Officers retreating from the building in squad vehicles had to crash through the parking lot gate as it been padlocked at some point by protesters. Demonstrators then moved in and threw bottles and debris at the fleeing officers who eventually made their way to a rendezvous site three blocks away. At 10:13 p.m. CDT, chief Arradondo announced over police radio, “City wide tone right now, for the loss of the Third Precinct”.[69] After that moment, there were no police, fire, or emergency medical services presence in the area where the riots occurred as live television news broadcast scenes of escalating destruction.[73] Surrounded by an unruly crowd, the station burned until the early morning hours of May 29 when firefighting crews reached the area and eventually extinguished fires.[18]

The several-hundred contingent of state patrol and National Guard troops on the ground in Minneapolis that night largely escorted fire trucks around and protected a Federal Reserve building and areas of downtown Minneapolis. Walz later remarked that the city had not given directions on where to deploy troops as the violence escalated on East Lake Street.[17] State officials also remarked that the city's decision to abandon the precinct station was a misjudgment, allowing demonstrators to create a situation of "absolute chaos", in the words of Walz.[74]

Saint Paul and elsewhere[edit]

In neighboring Saint Paul, which had been spared from widespread property destruction on Wednesday night, 170 businesses were damaged or looted and dozens of fires had been started, with the largest ones near Snelling and University avenues, but no major injuries were reported.[75] The Midway Shopping Center and Sun Ray Shopping Center in Saint Paul and the Rosedale Center stores in a nearby suburb were looted.[38]

Friday, May 29[edit]

Minnesota State Patrol officers stand wearing riot gear in Minneapolis, May 29, 2020
Scenes of fires and destruction in Minneapolis, May 29, 2020

Mayor Frey addressed the media at 1:30 a.m. CDT as the city was battling multiple fires and violence. Frey acknowledged the anger in the community over Floyd's death, but condemned the actions of rioters and looters. In defense of his decision to have police withdraw from the third precinct station, he said, "Brick and mortar is not as important as life".[76]

That day, Governor Walz imposed a state curfew for the cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul that would run from 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. on Friday, May 29 and Saturday, May 30. The order prohibited travel in streets or gathering at public places. Frey also issued an overlapping local curfew in Minneapolis.[77] Meanwhile, the Target Corporation expanded its closure of stores to 73 in Minnesota.[78]

In the late afternoon, Hennepin County Attorney Michael O. Freeman charged Derek Chauvin, the officer who knelt on Floyd's neck as he died, with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, but new charges for officers Lane, Kueng, and Thao, who were at the scene of Floyd's death, remained pending. Protesters, who had demanded immediate murder charges against all four officers, were disappointed after waiting four days since Floyd's death and made the criminal charges a big part of their message that day.[79]

The de-escalation strategy of abandoning the third precinct station the previous night was said to have little effect on quelling unrest on Friday.[18] Despite the announcement of the charges against the officers involved in Floyd's death and the new curfew, riots broke out again on Friday night and continued into early Saturday morning, with much of the action taking place adjacent to the Minneapolis police fifth precinct station near Lake Street and Nicollet Avenue;[80] 75 fires were reported across Minneapolis that night.[18] Law enforcement presence was reportedly "undetectable" as violence in Minneapolis quickly grew until just before midnight, when police officers, state troopers, and members of the National Guard began confronting rioters with tear gas and mass force.[80]

Officials later said that the 350 police officers at the site of rioting near the Minneapolis fifth precinct station were vastly outnumbered by the crowds.[81] Walz explained that the scope of the chaos, the time it takes to mobilize guard troops, and the mobile nature of the crowds made it difficult to direct response forces. Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said that protests were active at several sites through the city and that there were not enough officers to safely and successfully undertake multiple missions.[82]

As the events unfolded that night, the Pentagon placed members of the Military Police Corps from Fort Bragg and Fort Drum on stand-by, preparing for possible deployment to the Twin Cities if requested by Walz.[83] Walz later declined the offer and activated all of the state's National Guard, up to 13,200 troops.[84]

Full deployment of the National Guard[edit]

Saturday, May 30[edit]

Clean-up volunteers with brooms pose for a photo in Minneapolis, May 30, 2020

Smoke and the sound of helicopters filled the sky in Minneapolis through the night as multiple fires burned near the fifth police precinct in south Minneapolis. A United States Post Office on Nicollet, a Wells Fargo Bank branch, and several gas stations, among other businesses, blazed. Several businesses also burned on West Broadway in north Minneapolis, including a barbershop that was destroyed by fire. Officials were unable to immediately attend to major fires, citing security concerns at the sites, but later reached them when they could be accompanied by National Guard and police patrols.[85]

For the second time in as many nights, officials held a press conference at 1:30 a.m. CDT, but this time in Saint Paul and led by the governor and state officials. Some officials speculated that much of the destruction was being caused by people from outside the state, a claim that was later contradicted by arrest records of protesters and that officials rescinded.[86] It was reported that mayor Frey and governor Walz appeared visibly exhausted as they made emotional pleas to the public about Floyd's death and the escalation of violence. "The absolute chaos — this is not grieving, and this is not making a statement [about an injustice] that we fully acknowledge needs to be fixed — this is dangerous," Walz said. "You need to go home." Walz also took responsibility for underestimating the size of the crowds causing destruction earlier in the night.[85]

Officials mobilized guard troops throughout Saturday expecting even larger crowds.[82] Groups of people continued to gather at the makeshift memorial at the site of Floyd's arrest and subsequent death.[87] Minneapolis police reported that another group of protesters near Hiawatha Avenue and Lake Street were attacking police by throwing nondescript objects, and deployed more units to the area.[88] That night after curfew, police fired tear gas at a group of protesters who were attempting to march from Minneapolis to Saint Paul via the Lake Street bridge.[87] Police also fired rubber bullets, paint canisters, and tear gas at sitting protestors and journalists outside the Minneapolis Fifth Precinct, resulting in serious injuries.[89]

By the night of May 30, the Minnesota National Guard neared full deployment levels. Street violence began to subside as protests returned to being largely peaceful events.[18] No buildings were set on fire in Minneapolis and Saint Paul on Saturday night, unlike the previous three nights.[90]

Sunday, May 31[edit]

Protesters gather at the state capitol in Saint Paul, May 31, 2020

By the morning of May 31, 5,025 Minnesota National Guard troops were conducting missions with more on the way. Protests and rallies were held at various locations throughout the Minneapolis–Saint Paul region.[90] Crowds of people once again gathered at the site of Floyd's arrest and subsequent death.[91] Speakers at a “Justice for George Floyd” rally at the state capitol building in Saint Paul spoke about police brutality and called for the arrest of the other three officers at the scene of Floyd's death. A peaceful crowd marched westbound on I-94 before heading down University Avenue in Saint Paul.[92]

A dramatic event unfolded shortly after 6:00 p.m. CDT, when an estimated crowd of 5,000 to 6,000 people gathered on the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis. Protesters, believing police forces had fully closed the interstate highway after they marched on to it, began taking a knee.[93] A semi-truck tanker, unaware the road was closed, drove through the crowd as they parted ways to avoid being run down. After the driver came to a halt, he was pulled from his cab and beaten by the surrounding crowd. He suffered minor injuries, as some of the protesters attempted to protect him.[94][95] A live social media video captured a person pointing a gun at the truck driver and shooting two rounds into the truck's front tire.[11] Bystanders delivered the driver to the police, who then pepper-sprayed the crowd. The truck driver was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center then released into the custody of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which initially charged him with assault.[94][95] No serious injuries to the people on the bridge were reported.[94] Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington initially denied that the truck driver did the act intentionally[96] and released him pending further investigation,[97] but he was later charged in October 2020 in connection with the incident.[11]

More than 100 people gathered outside the home of Hennepin County Attorney Michael O. Freeman to call for a special prosecutor to handle the case against the Minneapolis officers at the scene of Floyd's death. Activists criticized the four-day delay that it took Freeman's office to bring charges against Chauvin and the lack of charges against the other three officers involved. Later in the day, Walz and Freeman agreed that Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison would assist in the investigation.[98]

Calmness prevails and curfews end[edit]

Monday, June 1[edit]

Thousands gathered peacefully at the state capitol building in Saint Paul and marched to the governor's mansion, calling for police reforms and the prosecution of all four officers who were involved in Floyd's death. Nearly 30 Saint Paul police officers on the outskirts of the rally took a knee, which drew criticism from rally organizers who felt the gesture was a hollow public relations stunt and asked them to leave. Activist Nekima Levy Armstrong, citing distrust of Attorney General Keith Ellison, demanded that Floyd's case be handled outside the state. State governor Tim Walz attended part of the rally but did not speak publicly.[99]

Tuesday, June 2[edit]

Thousands of people gathered for several peaceful protests across the Twin Cities. Reflecting on social justice action during the United States civil rights era, faith leaders held corresponding marches in south Minneapolis and Saint Paul. A dozen area high school students organized a "sit in" at the state capitol building in Saint Paul that had an estimated crowd of 3,000 people.[100] Somber protests continued at the Minneapolis intersection were Floyd was killed and a group remained after the curfew time came and went.[101]

Wednesday, June 3[edit]

On June 3, Ellison, who four days earlier took over the case against the officers involved in Floyd's death, upgraded the murder charges against former officer Chauvin and charged former officers Kueng, Lane, and Thao with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. Floyd's family called the charges “a significant step forward on the road to justice". Walz, who visited the Floyd memorial in Minneapolis where crowds continued to gather, said he recognized "that the anguish driving protests around the world is about more than one tragic incident".[102][103]

Thursday, June 4[edit]

Residents line up for a food line in Minneapolis, June 4, 2020

Some protests continued Thursday as the family of George Floyd held a memorial service for him at North Central University in Minneapolis, about three miles (4.8 km) from where he was killed on May 25. Many state and local officials attended, including governor Walz, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar, Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo. The service also drew national officials and civil rights leaders, such as Martin Luther King III, Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, as well as several celebrity figures. A reverent crowd gathered at nearby Elliot Park to listen to a broadcast of the memorial on loudspeakers where free food, groceries, and dry goods were provided.[104][105]

Friday, June 5[edit]

Thousands gathered for a rally at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis to honor the life of Floyd and call for police reform measures. Former NBA basketball player Royce White, a featured speaker at the event that brought civil rights organizations and professional athletes together, called for the resignation of police union president Bob Kroll. The protest group marched through the city in the early evening.[106]

As nights grew calmer, curfews that had been in place since the previous Friday ended in the Twin Cities.[107]

Prolonged racial unrest in 2020–2021[edit]

Minneapolis–Saint Paul experienced prolonged unrest largely as a cultural reckoning on topics of racial injustice.[108] Minneapolis–Saint Paul residents and officials struggled to deal with the aftermath of the initial riots, as the attention of the national media shifted focus to the broader protest movement sparked by Floyd's death.[109] Protestors sought justice for Floyd and made broader calls to address structural racism in Minnesota, with many protest events part of the larger Black Lives Matter movement. In early June, protests and rallies in Minneapolis sought commitment from public officials for a strategy to dismantle, defend, or abolish the city's police force.[18]

In the following weeks and months, protests were largely peaceful in Minneapolis–Saint Paul,[18] but some instances generated controversy and resulted in property destruction and arrests, as demonstrators sought reform of policing and reacted to other events, such as the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.[110][111] By late August, many residents were still on edge from Floyd's death and distrustful of the police.[112] False rumors about the suicide of a homicide suspect, which some believed was another police shooting, led to a riot on August 26. Another round of looting and vandalism overnight affected 76 property locations, including four businesses that were set on fire.[113]


Government actions[edit]

Attacks on bystanders and reporters[edit]

Street medics tend to a protester sprayed with chemical irritants in Minneapolis, May 27, 2020

During the unrest, police forces fired tear gas and less-lethal munitions at crowds of people that included bystanders and reporters. Some activists said that several instances came without warning and were directed at groups demonstrating peacefully.[114] Linda Tirado, a photojournalist, was left blinded in one eye after being hit by a less-lethal bullet fired by Minneapolis police on May 29 at a gather crowd after curfew.[115] Tom Aviles, a photojournalist with WCCO-TV, was shot at with rubber bullets and arrested the evening of May 30 on live television. He was later released.[116] A video circulated online showing police officers enforcing curfew ordering residents on their porches to go inside, and after a few demands, firing paint rounds at the residents.[117][118] Several other incidents between bystanders and law enforcement generated controversy, including some that were also captured on video. In the morning of May 29, CNN reporter Omar Jimenez and his camera crew were arrested by Minnesota State Patrol officers as Jimenez reported live on television. After intervention from Walz, the crew was released an hour later.[119][120] Video of a parking lot at Lake Street and Nicollet Avenue, captured uniformed state patrol officers on May 30 slashing tires of unoccupied vehicles parked near protests, including those of several journalists.[121][122]

Curfews imposed on residents[edit]

The state imposed nightly curfews in the cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul beginning on Friday, May 29 to keep people off the streets. Several metro area cities also set curfews of their own.[123] The curfew in Minneapolis prohibited all forms and modes of travels with exceptions for those that need to travel for work. Those breaking curfew could face fines up to $1,000 or 90 days in jail. Officials hoped that the curfew would "isolate those who have criminal intent from those who do not".[124] Curfews that started on Friday, May 29, were in effect from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. By Monday, June 1, as nights grew calmer, curfews were shortened to 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. and extended through the night of Thursday, June 4. Curfews fully ended one week after being put in place, on June 5.[107][125]

Formal declarations[edit]

State and local officials issued several orders and declarations during the course of events. On May 28, Walz issued an executive order declaring a peacetime emergency in Minnesota due to the civil unrest, which stood up the state's emergency operations center and activated the Minnesota National Guard. Mayors Frey and Carter also declared local emergencies in their cities the same day.[126][127][128] Walz issued a proclamation declaring eight minutes 46 seconds of silence at 11:00 a.m. CDT on June 9, 2020, in memory of Floyd, which coincided with the beginning of Floyd's funeral in Houston, Texas[129] He also proclaimed June 19 as "Juneteenth Freedom Day" and called on the legislature to make it an annual state holiday.[130] In mid July, the Minneapolis City Council and Hennepin County passed resolutions declaring racism a public health emergency. The city's resolution said that racism leads to discrimination in several areas of life, including that Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police, resulting in inequitable health outcomes for people of color for a variety of conditions and diseases.[131]

National Guard deployment[edit]

Minnesota National Guard and local law enforcement stand guard at the state capitol building in Saint Paul, May 30, 2020

After the protests turned violent, 7,123 members of the Minnesota National Guard were pressed into duty in the Twin Cities. The deployment, commanded by Major General Jon A. Jensen, was state's the largest since World War II.[20] The mission was to support local law enforcement, safeguard the state capitol building, and protect the right of people to protest.[132][133] It was not until Saturday night, May 30, 2020, that the state's National Guard deployment was fully mobilized, after which the unrest subsided and the protests returned to being largely peaceful events.[18] During the guard's mobilization, troops were fully armed because of credible threats authorities had picked up, but the troops did not fire on any people. Troops had 18 minor injuries during the course of deployment, none of which were the result of altercations with demonstrators.[20]

The delayed arrival of troops to areas were unrest was occurring received criticism for "lagging" in its response to the riots. After being activated by Walz on May 28, 2020, Jensen claimed he and other guardsman were not provided clear directions by Walz on how to respond to the protests and riots.[134][135] It was noted that no guardsmen were present during rioting on the May 29, which destroyed numerous businesses in Minneapolis; streets were not cleared until the next day.[136][137]

Speculation about outside influences[edit]

Officials had trouble identifying the people responsible for causing destruction as the peaceful protests transitioned to riots. By May 30, Minnesota state law enforcement had recovered incendiaries, weapons, and stolen vehicles left in the areas of heated protests.[138] Early in the events, state and local officials claimed that "white supremacists" and "outside agitators" might be responsible. Walz initially speculated that as much as 80% of people causing destruction and lighting fires could be from outside the state; several analysis of arrest records later contradicted the statement, finding that under 20% were. Carter said that all of the people arrested in Saint Paul by May 30 were from outside Minnesota, a claim he later rescinded.[86][139] President Donald Trump and U.S. Attorney General William Barr placed blame on radical leftists and the Antifa movement for the riots, but an investigation by the FBI later revealed no such trend or pattern for the violence and destruction.[10]

Hacked police intelligence documents as part of the BlueLeaks data release revealed that federal and state officials were monitoring social media and online message groups for extremist activity related to the protests. Local law enforcement were on high alert for suspicious behavior and attacks on officers, possibly leading to confrontational tactics with demonstrators, such as firing less-lethal munitions and tear gas. A number of imminent attack warnings never came to pass.[140] Federal, state, and local officials refused to comment on the documents, saying they were obtained illegally and contained law enforcement-sensitive information.[141]

Later analysis of state and federal criminal charges found that disorganized crowds had no single goal or affiliation, many opportunist crowds amassed spontaneously during periods of lawlessness, and that people causing destruction had contradictory motives for their actions.[10]

Surrender of the third precinct station[edit]

The destroyed third precinct station in Minneapolis, May 30, 2020.

Built in 1985, the third precinct station in south Minneapolis was overrun and officially lost on Thursday, May 28, 2020.[18] It is a matter of debate whether the decision by city officials to abandon it helped save lives or inspired more violence. Arradondo, Frey, and other city leaders prepared as early as Wednesday, May 27 for the possibility of surrendering the station, which had been the location of tense protests beginning the evening of Tuesday, May 26, a day after Floyd's arrest and death.[142]

According to Frey, after the precinct building was breached the city faced the choice of hand-to-hand combat with demonstrators that could result in more death, or forces could make a hasty departure and leave the building to the crowd, the latter of which happened in dramatic fashion as it was captured on live video. The image of an abandoned police station being set on fire by demonstrators was said to symbolize the collapse of order in Minneapolis and the failure of the police's relationship with the community.[18] The precinct had a reputation over the preceding years for what the community considered aggressive policing by officers.[143] One protester said of watching the station burn that it felt like therapy after years of contention following the killing of metro area residents, including several black men, by police officers.[144]

Hennepin County officials estimated the cost to replace the police station, either at the prior location or at a new location, was $10 million.[143]

Community actions[edit]

Cleanup of property damage[edit]

People clean sidewalks of debris in Minneapolis, May 30, 2020

Each morning, hundreds of residents, some with snow shovels and brooms, went to areas affected by overnight rioting to clean up trash, graffiti, broken glass, and the remnants of damaged buildings. Some residents participating in the clean up were devastated by the damage, but shared the sense of anger and solidarity over Floyd's death.[25][145] Other participants said that cleaning up helped calm intense emotions about the events. Organizers of clean up events said they were partially motivated by a worry that the protests would only be defined only by looting and vandalism and not messages about justice.[26]

Food drives[edit]

Residents took action to support the needs of people for food and goods who were affected by the riots. In the areas of heavy rioting, many local stores were closed after being looted and burned, and food pantries were overwhelmed. A small food drive at a middle school in Minneapolis aimed to fill 85 bags of food to help families, but organizers ended up with a line of vehicles stretching 14 city blocks and 20,000 bags of bread, fruit, and other items. A food drive in the Little Earth community resulted in enough packages of food and diapers to serve 1,000 residents and 7,500 people from the nearby neighborhoods. Many organizations, overwhelmed by the volume of donations, had to turn them away.[146]

Public art installments[edit]

Murals in Minneapolis of George Floyd, Tony McDade, and Breonna Taylor by artist Leslie Barlow, June 15, 2020

Vibrant works of arts appeared all over the Twin Cities that honored George Floyd's memory and showed community solidarity. Boarded-up buildings were described as canvasses for artists, and so were walls, sidewalks, and public property.[147] In a grassy field near the location where Floyd died, artists erected a symbolic cemetery with 100 gravestone markers of African-Americans, including of Floyd, who were killed by police.[148] A mural of George Floyd on the side of the Cup Foods grocery store became one of the most recognizable images of the global protest movement that was sparked by his death, and a digital rendering of it served as a backdrop to his casket at his funeral in Houston, Texas.[149][150] The work, created by white artists, drew some criticism for being created without the input of people of color and the nearby community, and it started a discussion about representation in the artist response to Floyd's death.[151] A group of local artists using the name Creatives After Curfew, who were predominately Black, Indigenous, and People of Color painted murals on boarded-up business through the Twin Cities after raising money for paint supplies through several campaigns, and their works featured messages calling for justice and expressing pride for minority-owned businesses.[152]

Safety patrols[edit]

Residents awoke many mornings during the heaviest rioting to find nearby restaurants, liquor stores, and other businesses had been set on fire. In Minneapolis, the Longfellow, Powderhorn, and Phillips communities were heavily affected by the events. Reports and videos of residents confronting the people causing damage circulated, as did rumors about who might be responsible for the violence. Some residents felt the city and law enforcement had abandoned them, so they carried bats and sticks to protect their homes and businesses. On Saturday, May 30, Minneapolis city counselors hosted community meetings in public parks and helped residents initiate block-by-block plans to monitor disruptive activity.[86] The American Indian Movement and local business owners organized group patrols around the Little Earth community of up to 100 volunteers each night of the larger protests, which was credited with saving more than 20 businesses on Franklin Avenue.[153] Little Earth community members later paid for lights at a park and trained community members in de-escalation tactics, efforts some hoped would serve as a new model for policing in the city.[154]

Many small business owners and organization leaders stood guard at their buildings overnight during the heaviest rioting. Some intervened to dissuade rioters from destroying property while others carried fire arms. Several establishments near Lake Street posted signs that the business or organization was minority or black owned, or that it served American Indian youth. Some businesses were spared from destruction, such as a Nepalese restaurant on East Lake Street in Minneapolis that posted such signs, but others were destroyed by fire despite similar notices, such as a nearby Indian restaurant and barbershop.[155][156] One business owner of a distillery near the Minneapolis third precinct station credited "black owned" signs for preventing fires at part of his business complex.[157]

Occupation of East 38th and Chicago Avenue[edit]

38th Street and Chicago Avenue, June 2020

The day after Floyd's death, a makeshift memorial emerged at the East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue intersection in Minneapolis near where he was killed by a police officer the evening of May 25. Thousands of visitors protested and grieved at the site, which was described as like a "shrine".[158] Many visitors left behind flowers by the murals and sculptures created by activists to symbolize the Black Lives Matter movement. Protesters also erected makeshift barricades, blocking automobile traffic from reaching the intersection. The Minneapolis police said in June that they would not alter or decommission the memorial site or remove artifacts and largely avoided the area.[159] The Minneapolis Planning Commission recommend to the city council that the length of Chicago Avenue between 37th and 39th streets be named as “George Perry Floyd Jr Place”[160] and the city designated the intersection as one of seven cultural districts in the city.[161] The city also allocated $4.7 million to establish a permanent memorial at the site. By the end of 2020, the city was unable to reach agreement with community organizations who had presented officials with a list of demands before opening the intersection back up.[162][163]


A looted Cub Foods store in Minneapolis, May 28, 2020

Arrests, charges, and investigations[edit]

Case against the four police officers[edit]

The first criminal charges against the four former Minneapolis police offers at the scene of Floyd's death came on May 29, four days after the incident. By late 2020, Chauvin faced second-degree murder charges while Lane, Kueng, and Thao faced changes for aiding and abetting second-degree murder. The trial of the four officers is scheduled to start on March 8, 2021.[164]

Local arrests and charges of protesters[edit]

The multi-agency law enforcement command center for the Twin Cities announced that 604 protesters had been arrested as of June 2, 2020, during the initial course of events.[6] Several hundred of those arrested were described as participating in peaceful protests, but were taken into custody at night for violating curfew.[165] Former NFL star and civil rights activist Colin Kaepernick donated what was described as a “substantial” sum of money to a legal fund to defend protesters in Minnesota and elsewhere. People charged with violating curfew faced potential fines of up to $1,000 or 90 days in jail.[166]

Charges against many who protested peacefully were later dropped. By November 2020, Minneapolis officials had pursued charges for about 75 of 666 cases.[167] In Saint Paul, 87 of the 100 people arrested during the unrest were for curfew violations. City attorney Lyndsey Olson said that cases would be dismissed for people engaging in peaceful protests that did not involve acts of violence.[168]

State felony charges[edit]

A destroyed U.S. Post Office building in Minneapolis, June 4, 2020

Ninety-one people faced state felony charges by December 2020 for burglary connected to looting in late May—35 in Hennepin County and 56 in Ramsey County. All but three of those charged were from Minnesota and most had home addresses in Minneapolis or Saint Paul. Several of those charged pled guilty and two had charges dropped in lieu of participation in a restorative justice program. The number of felony charges were said to represent a small fraction of the total people culpable for rioting and looting during the events in late May 2020.[9]

A 28-year-old man from Saint Paul faced attempted murder charges for allegedly shooting at Minneapolis police on Lake Street during unrest on May 30, 2020.[9]

Tanker truck incident on I-35W[edit]

Local authorities charged a 35-year-old man from Otsego, Minnesota with several felony and misdemeanor accounts in connection with a truck-driving incident on I-35W northbound on May 31, 2020. The man, returning from a fuel delivery, drove a tractor trailer onto an unbarricaded section of the interstate highway as hundreds of protesters were marching across a bridge over the Mississippi River. In their criminal complaint, the police believed the driver should have been able to see the crowd and multiple vehicles that had either stopped or were traveling in the wrong direction, giving him time to stop or change course, and that he drove in a manner to scare protesters marching on the bridge. One protester suffered abrasions during the incident. Authorities had not charged anyone who assaulted the driver during the incident, as of October 2020.[11]

Fatality investigations[edit]

At least two deaths occurred in late May 2020 as a result of the civil unrest in Minneapolis.[21]

Shooting of Calvin Horton Jr.[edit]
Protesters at the boarded-up Cadillac Pawn shop in Minneapolis, July 21, 2020

Calvin Horton Jr., a 43-year-old man from Minneapolis, was fatally shot by the owner of the Cadillac Pawn & Jewelry shop who believed he was burglarizing his business. The incident took place on East Lake Street about one mile (1.6 km) from the main protest site on the evening of May 27. The owner of the shop was a 59-year-old man from Galesville, Wisconsin.[4][58] The scene in and around the store was described as chaotic with many people inside the store. When police officers arrived in response to the shooting, bystanders threw objectors at the officers as they administered aid to Horton, Jr. and attempted to investigate the scene, leading the officers abort the investigation.[59] Paramedics that arrived were unable to reach Horton on the sidewalk due to the chaos until officers moved him to a nearby business. Horton died that night at a hospital.[169]

The shop owner was arrested the night of the shooting and held in Hennepin County Jail for several days, but he was released pending further investigation.[59] There were no new developments in the case by July 21, 2020, when family and supporters of Horton, Jr. protested outside the store and demanded the owner be charged with murder.[59] In December 2020, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman's office declined to file charges against the pawn shop owner after a six-month investigation due to a lack of evidence to prove the shooting was not self-defense. One witness said Horton was within seven feet (2.1 m) of the shop owner when he was shot. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner found Horton was turned sideways. Several other witnesses who were at the scene refused to cooperate with investigators, including a friend of Horton's and the pawn shop owner. Authorities were unable to recover the firearm used in the shooting or surveillance footage as the store was ransacked the night of the shooting and everything was taken when by the time officers returned to investigate the next day.[169]

Inhalation death of Oscar Lee Stewart Jr.[edit]
Wreckage of the Max It Pawn shop on East Lake Street in Minneapolis, June 2020

Federal and state authorities recovered a human remains at the Max It Pawn store on July 20, 2020, that appeared to have suffered thermal injuries. The pawn shop, located a few blocks east of the third precinct station, was destroyed by fire during rioting on May 28. A 25-year-old man from Rochester, Minnesota was federally charged in June with arson for the particular fire.[21] The identity of the adult male victim was not initially released by officials who said they were investigating the death as a homicide.[170] In October, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's office identified the victim as Oscar Lee Stewart Jr., a 30-year-old from Burnsville, Minnesota, and classified his death as a homicide. According the medical examiner's report, Stewart Jr. died from “probable inhalation of products of combustion and thermal injury from an intentional building fire.”[5]

Two days after Floyd's death, Stewart Jr. had called his family to say was going to stop by Lake Street to see the protests. He did not return home that evening. Over the ensuing weeks, his family filed a missing persons report and conducted a search of its own for Stewart, and eventually tracked his car's GPS to behind the pawnshop. It was not until authorities discovered human remains at the pawn shop in July, and later matched his DNA, that Stewart's whereabouts were known. Videos from the night of May 28 revealed a frantic search for a person trapped inside the pawn shop as it burned. Bystanders had tried to remove plywood panels from the exterior of the building when they heard faint cries for help from inside. The cries had stopped when firefighters arrived at the scene and found the building engulfed in flames. Firefighters were unable to conduct a sweep due to the deteriorating conditions. Family members of Stewart questioned why it took authorities nearly two months to search the wreckage again.[171]

Federal investigations and charges[edit]

Twenty people were charged in federal court by late December 2020 in connection to the unrest in late May. Only one person had a residential address in Minneapolis, while two were from outside of Minnesota, including an Iowa man charged with illegal gun procession during the unrest.[10]

Third precinct police station in Minneapolis, May 28, 2020
Wells Fargo bank on Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis, May 29, 2020

United States Attorney Erica MacDonald charged 14 people by late December 2020 with arson in connection to eight separate fires set in late May. All but one of the arson suspects-—a Galesburg, Illinois resident—were from Minnesota. Two arson suspects were from Saint Paul, one from Minneapolis, seven from suburban Twin Cities' communities, and others from Brainerd, Rochester, and Staples. Authorities relied largely on video evidence and in some cases on the social media videos that suspects posted of themselves at protests. Officials said they had plans to bring forward additional cases as they reviewed more evidence.[9]

Four men were charged in connection to fires set at the third precinct station on May 28.[9] Those charged were a 24-year old resident of Saint Paul,[172] a 23-year old part-time resident of Saint Paul and the U.S. state of Florida,[173] the 26-year old Bryce Williams from Staples,[174] and the 22-year old Dylan Robinson from Brainerd.[175] In late 2020, Williams and Robinson pled guilty to conspiracy to commit arson. According to court documents, both men had breached the fence around the police station and helped light it on fire on May 28.[176][177] Williams was a self-described semiprofessional basketball player and social media influencer. Authorities used videos he had posted of himself online, as well as surveillance footage, to connect him to the destruction of the third precinct in Minneapolis.[178]

Federal authorities charged two men for firebombing the Dakota County Service Center in Apple Valley on May 29 during the unrest. Fornandous Cortez Henderson, a 32-year old from Savage, pled guilty to aiding and abetting arson.[179] He admitted in court that he chose the facility as he had made court appearances there and because he was because angry over the death of Floyd. Henderson was sentence to no more than six years in prison and ordered to pay $205,872.53 in restitution.[180] The case against the co-defendant, a 24-year-old from Long Lake, was still active in late 2020.[179]

Two suburban Twin Cities men—a 29-year old from Wayzata and a 24-year old from Monticello—faced federal charges in August for conspiring to commit arson at a Wells Fargo Bank building on Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis that was set ablaze on May 28 and suffered heavy fire damage.[181]

The Galesburg, Illinois resident allegedly livestreamed his actions in Minneapolis on social media, which included burning down a Sprint cellphone store on East Lake Street.[10]

Boogaloo Bois involvement[edit]

Federal authorities charged three alleged members of the Boogaloo Bois movement in connection to the unrest.[9]

Michael Robert Solomon, a 30-year old from New Brighton, Minnesota, and Benjamin Ryan Teeter, a 22-year old from Hampstead, North Carolina, were initially charged with attempting to provide material support to Hamas. Solomon had been seen openly carrying a firearm in a Minneapolis neighborhood during the unrest.[182] He was part of a far right militia that deployed to the area where he and his companions were allegedly armed and prepared to shoot police if they approached a Minneapolis home where they staged.[183] Federal prosecutors later upgraded charges for the two men for possession of an unregistered firearm and unlawful possession of a machine gun. During the unrest after Floyd's death, witnesses cited in the criminal complaint said they observed the men brandishing weapons in residential neighborhoods in Minneapolis, and that the men discussed committing acts of violence against police and other targets to advance their mission to overthrow the government.[184] Teeter pled guilty in December 2020 to several federal charges.[185] Authorities believed he had travelled to Minnesota from North Carolina to take part in rioting and looting in the aftermath of Floyd's death. A source claimed that Teeter also had plans to destroy a courthouse in northern Minnesota.[186]

Federal authorities charged a 26-year-old man from Boerne, Texas with one count of interstate travel to incite a riot for allegedly shooting 13 rounds into the Minneapolis third police precinct building while people were inside, looting it, and helping to set it on fire the night of May 28. According to court documents, the man made plans with other Boogaloo members to meet at the Cub Foods store near the third precinct police station, and that he bragged about his role in setting it on fire via text messages with Steven Carrillo, a suspect in the Boogaloo ambush attacks of law enforcement officers in California in May and June 2020. The Texas man was a self-described "terrorist" and a supposed "leader" of a local Boogaloo Bois group in Texas.[187]

White nationalist involvement[edit]

Wreckage of the AutoZone store in Minneapolis, May 28, 2020

A person, nicknamed "Umbrella Man", who dressed in black clothing and carried an umbrella and sledgehammer, was seen in a video taken on May 27 breaking windows at an AutoZone store near the third police precinct, as well as spray-painting "free shit for everyone zone" on the store. Later that day, the AutoZone store was set on fire by unknown people.[56] He also made violent threats to a photojournalist who captured images of him in the background of a news report.[188]

In late July the Minneapolis police department identified a suspect for "Umbrella Man". The suspect had ties to the Hells Angels and Aryan Cowboy Brotherhood (a neo-nazi prison gang and organised crime gang), and he participated in the harassment of a Muslim woman in Stillwater, Minnesota in June that received media coverage.[56] Police documents that were leaked to the public stated that white supremacist groups, including the Hells Angels and Aryan Cowboys, had discussed discrediting protests by posing as demonstrators.[189] The person had not been charged with any crime as of December 2020.[9]

Police reform[edit]

State and local policies[edit]

Though the Minneapolis police was under intense scrutiny in the aftermath of Floyd's death, the city struggled with how to reform the force.[41] In mid June, the Minneapolis City Council and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights agreed to a temporary restraining order requiring Minneapolis to update its procedures to ban chokeholds and other neck restraints by police, such as the one an officer used in the incident when George Floyd was killed.[190] Many organizations quickly distanced themselves from the Minneapolis police force by ending formal policing relationships, led by city's school district and park board and the University of Minnesota.[191] The park board also announced changes to the park police uniforms and vehicles to distinguish them from Minneapolis police.[192] The Minnesota state legislature passed major police reform legislation in July that banned chokeholds, established an independent commission to review police-related deaths, and required de-escalation training for officers.[193] By late 2020, city officials announced plans to begin pilot programs for mental health response teams, violence prevention, early warning system to flag officer behavior, broader use of 3-1-1 system for theft reports, and a truth and reconciliation commission to promote racial healing.[194] The city and police department also revisited several policies, such as limiting no-knock warrants, clarifying use of force, requiring de-escalation attempts, and more heavily involving the city's attorney office in office misconduct investigations.[41]

Minneapolis police union[edit]

Bob Kroll, head of the Minneapolis police officers union, was the subject of several protests. After offering support for the officers at Floyd's death and a full investigative process, he made few substantial statements during the initial course of events. But after several days of clashes with the police and protesters, he sent a controversial email to Minneapolis rank-and-file police officers. The message criticized Frey and Walz for not containing the riots and commending the work of responding officers, and he characterized the protests as a "terrorist movement", a claim he also made about the Black Lives Matter movement in 2016.[195] Several local officials were quick to condemn Kroll's email statement, including city council president Lisa Bender who described Kroll as "a barrier to change" of the Minneapolis police force.[196] Several labor union leaders called for Kroll's removal, with one saying he perpetuated "a culture of violence" against the black community.[3] In June, Arradondo announced the police department would withdraw from union contract negotiations as a first step towards police reforms,[197] but other city officials continued to participate in negotiations.[194]

"Defund police" movement[edit]

A "defund police" sign and stage before a rally at Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis, June 7, 2020

At a Powderhorn Park rally organized by black-led social justice organizations on June 7, nine of the 13 members of the Minneapolis city council vowed to dismantle the city's police department.[198] Onstage taking the pledge were Council President Lisa Bender, Vice President Andrea Jenkins and Council Members Alondra Cano, Phillippe Cunningham, Jeremiah Ellison, Steve Fletcher, Cam Gordon, Andrew Johnson, and Jeremy Schroeder. Council Member Linea Palmisano attended the rally as an audience member, but did not go on stage or take the oath, and Council Members Lisa Goodman and Kevin Reich did not attend nor agree to the pledge.[199] A day earlier, on June 6, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey had been called out of home by a protest group and asked if he support abolishing the police. When he answered no, the crowd booed him away.[200]

The June 7 pledge by nine city council members, though it represented a veto-proof majority, did not actually disband the Minneapolis police force and details about the next steps in the process were not defined at the time. Some activists wanted to consider the idea of unarmed crisis response personnel and re-purposing the police department's $193 million annual budget for education, food, housing, and health care.[201][133] The city council voted unanimously in late June to revise the city's charter to permit dismantling of the police department, a step towards possibly replacing the police department with a civilian-led Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention, and with goal of putting the issue before voters on the ballot in November. The council's move drew opposition from some black leaders and activists who felt that the council was "pandering", in the words of a local pastor. Others felt that the council had not adequately included voices from the black community in the process and expressed the need to address public safety concerns as black residents were disproportionately victims of crime and witnesses of crime in the city, just as they were disproportionately victims of excessive police force.[202] In August, the Minneapolis City Charter Commission voted to block plans to hold a vote on the proposed city charter amendment in November 2020, citing a need to for longer review.[203]

The goal to "defund the police", which became a political talking point for Republicans in the 2020 elections to characterize Democrats as anti-law enforcement, largely collapsed in the following months. Council members who took the June 7 pledge had different interpretations about its meaning when reflecting back on it several months later. Council Member Johnson, for example, said the mantra of the pledge was meant "in spirit" and not to be taken literally. Some advocates, however, were expecting complete abolition of the police force.[204] Controversially, it was revealed in July that on the same day they pledged to "begin the process of ending" the police department, Council Members Cano, Cunningham, and Jenkins used city funds to hire private security guards.[205][206] When asked directly in October 2020 by Minnesota Public Radio if they still supported abolishing the police department, no Minneapolis council member directly answered "yes", and Council Members Ellison and Goodman declined to respond to the survey at all.[207]

By late 2020, public polling revealed mixed views among Minneapolis residents about reduced funding for the police, with more than half of the city's residents opposing a reduction in the size of the police force.[194] Decisions about the allocation of city resources and size of the police department came as Minneapolis had tallied its highest levels of violent crime in decades.[208] In December, the Minneapolis city council voted to redirect $7.7 million of the department's proposed $179 million budget to mental health crisis teams, violence prevention programs, and for civilian employees to handle non-emergency theft and property damage reports. The council placed $11.4 million of the police budget in a reserve fund that requires ad hoc council approval for police recruitment and overtime. By a narrow 7-6 margin, the council voted to keep in place the police department target level of 888 officers by 2022.[209][210] The 4.5 percent shift in the police budget was considered "not nearly the sweeping change that activists and some lawmakers had demanded" after Floyd's death and the resulting unrest.[211]

Economic impact[edit]

Property damage[edit]

East Lake Street and Columbus Avenue in Minneapolis, May 30, 2020

Nearly 1,500 property locations in the Twin Cities were damaged by vandalism, fire, and/or looting, with some buildings reduced to rubble and dozens of others completely destroyed by fire. The heaviest damage occurred in Minneapolis along a 5-mile (8.0 km) stretch on Lake Street between the city's third and fifth police precincts and in Saint Paul along a 3.5-mile (5.6 km) stretch of University Avenue in the Midway area.[8] During the riots, National Guard forces and law enforcement focused on protecting large institutions such as the Federal Reserve, power plants, and state capitol building. Officials acknowledged the emphasis came at the expense of family- and minority-owned business, many of which were burned or plundered by looters.[85]

In Minneapolis, approximately 1,300 properties were damaged by the rioting and looting,[212] nearly 100 of which were destroyed or severely damaged.[213] Thirty-five families lost housing in buildings that were damaged by fire.[214] By mid August, the vast majority of the heavily damaged sites were still left in ruins or dangerous piles of hazardous rubble as the city required business owners to be fully compliant with property taxes before issuing demolition permits. Frustrated and financially distressed business owners felt the city was discouraging reinvestment, especially as Saint Paul officials expedited demolition permits without a similar requirement.[213] Minneapolis officials eventually waived the property tax requirement after the issue generated public scrutiny.[215]

In Saint Paul, the unrest resulted in $82 million in damages and affected 330 buildings. Thirty-seven properties sustained major damage or were destroyed, half of which were national chain stores.[19] The city's University Avenue corridor that sustained most of the damage featured many small businesses owned by people of color.[216] More than 50 damaged business were owned by Asian-American people, some of whom resettled in the area after leaving war-torn counties.[212] Residents and business owners in Saint Paul worried that outside investors would seek to displace local businesses that were disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the unrest after the death of Floyd.[216]

Top property types damaged in Minneapolis and Saint Paul as of July 13, 2020[8]
Type Number damaged
Cellphone store
Health care

Beyond the city boundaries of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, damage from rioting was reported in the suburbs as far north as Blaine and as far south as Apple Valley. Clusters of damaged storefronts also appeared in the Twin Cities' suburbs of Richfield, North Saint Paul, Maplewood, Brooklyn Center, and Roseville.[217] Estimates of property damage in the region were upwards of $500 million, making the unrest in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area the second most destructive in United States history, after the 1992 Los Angeles riots.[7]

Local officials estimated that rebuilding damaged business corridors could take 10 years.[212]

Rebuilding and recovery[edit]

Ruins of the 7-Sigma factory destroyed by May 27 riots in Minneapolis, June 13, 2020

Economic conditions for people and businesses worsened in Minneapolis and Saint Paul after the riots.[27] State and local officials vowed to help affected businesses by creating new financing initiatives to accelerate repair and recovery efforts.[27] In Saint Paul, the Chamber of Commerce raised $1 million for small business rebuilding grants.[212] Saint Paul officials also established a $3 million relief fund, but it was quickly depleted and officials looked to state and federal relief options by August 2020.[19] By November, the Lake Street Council had raised $11 million that it planned to distribute as small grants to help local business rebuild and recover in the East Lake Street corridor in Minneapolis that had been most impacted by arson and looting.[218]

Many small business owners in the Twin Cities who were affected by the riots and looting found they had to pay for repairs and rebuilding out of their own pockets as insurance payments fell well short of amounts needed.[219] A proposed $300 million Minnesota recovery fund, that included $168 million for small businesses and nonprofits to rebuild, did not receive backing from the state legislature when Republicans who controlled the Senate objected.[19] At least one Minneapolis business that suffered heavy damage to its factory from the fires, 7-Sigma, said they would leave the city for good after losing trust in public officials during the riots.[27] Some large businesses announced plans to rebuild. Among them, the Target Corporation made a commitment to rebuild the store on East Lake Street that had been heavily damaged,[78] which it re-opened six months later in November 2020.[218] The developer of the six-story, under-construction affordable housing building that burned down near the third precinct station announced plans in June to start the project over, a process the developer said would take two years.[214]

Walz requested federal aid of around $15 million, the amount potentially eligible for reimbursement to mitigate fire damage, from the Federal Emergency Management Agency on July 2, 2020. In order for the request to be approved, President Trump would have needed declare a “major disaster” for the state of Minnesota.[220] The federal government, however, denied the request in July, leaving the state with the difficulty of addressing the financial impacts from property damage amidst a state budget crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.[221]

Political impact[edit]

Political participation[edit]

The civil rights movement sparked by Floyd's death, as well as mitigation measures over the COVID-19 pandemic, led to a surge in voter registration in 2020. In Minnesota, registration for identified Democrats doubled, while identified Republican registration was flat compared to prior periods.[222] Young people of color at suburban high schools felt the awareness after Floyd's death allowed them to push for changes to address discrimination, racism, and the racial achievement gap in schools.[223] Social justice organizations in Minnesota experienced a boost in revenue as a result of momentum behind the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of Floyd's death, with companies such as the Target Corporation and U.S. Bank making multi-million dollar donations to local nonprofits.[224]


There was speculation in early June 2020 that the unrest in Minneapolis could have an effect on the outcome of statewide elections in Minnesota, possibly reversing narrow Democratic victories in recent contests.[225] Imagery from fires that burned on Lake Street during the unrest in Minneapolis and the mantra "defund the police" were featured in disputed political advertisements for Donald Trump’s re-election campaign as a reason to vote against his opponent Joe Biden, though the Biden campaign did not support defunding the police and condemned rioting actions.[226] Biden, however, won the state by a 7.12% margin, an improvement over Hillary Clinton's 1.52% margin in 2016. Biden's biggest gains from the 2016 election were in the suburbs of Minneapolis–Saint Paul where some residents identified systematic racism as a major problem in the country.[227]

Unrest in the Twin Cities metropolitan area was a common theme in congressional races for smaller population centers and rural areas in Greater Minnesota. In her successful campaign to defeat longtime incumbent Colin Peterson, a member of the Democratic–Farmer–Labor caucus, for the Minnesota seventh congressional district seat, Republican Michelle Fischbach echoed Trump’s "law and order" rhetoric that blamed Democrats for unrest in America’s cities. Fischbach said in a candidate debate about non-metro residents, "They want to make sure the stuff going on in Minneapolis is not going to happen in their back yard." [228] Similar themes were featured in Republican Jim Hagedorn successful reelection campaign against Democratic challenger Dan Feehan for the highly contested race for the Minnesota first congressional district seat. Hagedorn argued that lawlessness and the "defund the police" movement in Minneapolis could spread to rural towns in southern Minnesota.[229][230]


In October 2020, Minnesota Senate Republicans released a 61-page report that placed blame on Walz and Frey for not doing enough to quell rioting behavior as the situation escalated in late May. The report was based on media stories, social media posts, and summer legislative hearings on the government response to unrest in the metro region. Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party Senators criticized the report for not mentioning the manner of Floyd's death while being pinned by Chauvin's knee or the prevailing distrust of the Minneapolis Police Department as factors fueling public outrage. The report came three weeks before the November 4 election that had both houses of the state legislature up for grabs.[231] After the election, the Republican caucus held onto their narrow majority in the state senate while Democratic–Farmer–Labor maintained a majority in the state house, resulting in two more years of a divided state legislature.[232]

Activist John Thompson, a friend of Philando Castile who was shot and killed by a Falcon Heights police officer in 2016, won as a Democratic–Farmer–Labor endorsed candidate for the state House District 67A that included east Saint Paul. Thompson had led a controversial protest outside the Hugo home of Minneapolis police union president Bob Kroll in August, leading to an apology from Thompson for his use of inflammatory rhetoric.[233]


With 86% of the vote in November 2020, Minneapolis voters approved a referendum about the timing of municipal elections, putting city council seats temporarily under two-year terms with the next election scheduled for 2021.[234] A few days after the 2020 election, Minneapolis Council President Lisa Bender announced that she would not seek reelection to her tenth ward seat. Bender said her decision was made before the period of prolonged unrest in the city.[235] In December 2020, Council Member Alondra Cano declined to seek reelection to her ninth ward seat. Cano represented the Lake Street area that sustained heavy damage during the May riots.[236] Bender and Cano were among the nine city councilors that pledged to abolish the city's police department.[199][236] Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced his intention to run for re-election in 2021.[237]

Public health impact[edit]

COVID-19 pandemic[edit]

Protesters wearing protective masks in Minneapolis, May 26, 2020

Civic unrest after Floyd's death came in the middle of the global COVID-19 pandemic caused by the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 respiratory infection. People wearing protective masks became a common sight at protests, but social distancing proved difficult. Many protesters had to weigh the risk of being infected with the virus against the desire to call for police accountability and structural change in Minneapolis.[238] Health officials in Minnesota warned that mass protests could exacerbate the spread of the virus in Minnesota and trigger a surge in the outbreak that has a disproportionate impact on minority communities.[239] In early June, the state's health department stood up free testing clinics with the help of community organizations and encouraged people who participated in protests to get tested.[240] By June 18, of the 3,200 people tested at four popup sites in the metropolitan region, 1.8 percent tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, while testing by private health care provider HealthPartners had a 0.99 percent positive rate among the 8,500 people it tested who said they attended a mass gathering. Kristen Ehresmann, infectious disease director for the state health department, remarked about the data, "it appears there was very little transmission at protest events”.[241]

Racism emergency[edit]

The Minneapolis City Council approved a resolution on July 17 declaring racism a public health emergency and outlining a series of action steps to address racial equity in the city.[242] While the declaration in Minneapolis, and elsewhere in the United States, was the result of Black scholars and Black activists seeking acknowledgement of systemic racism, some critics questioned what would happen next.[243] The resolution in Minneapolis called for greater investments in housing, community development, youth programs, and small businesses to advance the interests of the city's residents who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color.[244]

Removal of statues[edit]

Christopher Columbus[edit]

An American Indian Movement group tore down a statue of Christopher Columbus outside the state capitol building in Saint Paul on June 10 as the global protest movement turned towards removing monuments and memorials with controversial legacies.[245] Demonstrators, including Dakota and Ojibwe community members, looped a rope around the statue and pulled it off its granite pedestal. Minnesota State Troopers were present, but did not intervene. The statute was hauled away and placed in storage.[246] In December, Michael Anthony Forcia of Ramsey County agreed to a plea deal and accepted 100 hours in community service in connection with the incident. Officials estimated the cost to repair the statue would be over $154,000.[247]

Calvin Griffith[edit]

The Minnesota Twins removed the statute of former owner Calvin Griffith outside the team's Target Field baseball stadium in Minneapolis on June 19. In a statement, the team said the "statue reflects an ignorance on our part of systemic racism present in 1978, 2010 and today". Griffith's legacy was tarnished after racist comments he made in a 1978 speech at the Waseca Lions Club, but a statute of him was placed in the stadium's plaza when it opened in 2010.[248][249]

Social impact[edit]

Crime and safety[edit]

Minneapolis experience a surge in violent crime in the weeks and months after the initial period of unrest in late May.[250] A dangerous amount of narcotics flooded the streets of the Twin Cities after the initial period unrest. At least 20 pharmacies in the region were plundered or burned to the ground in late May, including several independent stores and locations of chain pharmacies owned by Cub, CVS and Walgreens. The Drug Enforcement Administration estimated that one million doses of pills and syrups, with a street value of $15 million, were either stolen or destroyed.[251]

Much of the elevated levels of violent crime was concentrated in the fourth and third police precincts that experienced the heaviest riots and looting. By July, over 80 percent of gun violence victims in Minneapolis in 2020 were black residents, which led to criticism of the police abolition movement for not addressing violence in the city's poorest and most diverse neighborhoods.[252] The Minneapolis police force lost 10 percent of its officers to a combination of resignations, terminations, retirements, and medical leave, and police activity in the summer fell by 30% compared the prior year, despite a considerable jump in gunfire reports, homicides, and violent crimes.[253] By November, the city had tallied 375 carjackings, 500 people shot, and 79 homicides, which was the highest count since the mid-1990s when the city had garnered the grim moniker, "Murderapolis".[208] By mid-December, the city had 391 carjackings, compared to 93 the year before.[254]

The shooting death of Dolal Idd on December 30, 2020—the first killing by a Minneapolis police officer since Floyd[255]—was reported as the city's 83 homicide of 2020,[256] a number that eclipsed the previous two years combined.[257] Other media reports of 82 homicides made 2020 the third worst in Minneapolis history, behind the 97 homicides in 1995 and 83 homicides in 1986; Minneapolis had 48 homicides in 2019. In Saint Paul, the city experienced 33 homicides in 2020, which was just short of the 1992 record of 34, and higher than the 31 in 2019.[29]


The riots in late May also had impact on people experiencing homelessness and led to changes in city policies on homeless camps. Some who were displaced by the initial unrest in sought refuge in a vacant Sheraton hotel in the city's Midtown neighborhood. Volunteers helped turn it into a what was described as functioning hotel and sanctuary for nearly 200 people.[28] The situation in the hotel, however, descended into chaos with extensive vandalism, rampant drug use, and violence. Residents at the hotel were evicted in mid June, and some set up a sprawling camp at the city's Powderhorn Park that grew to 560 tents by mid July.[258][259] Numerous sexual assaults, fights, and drug use at the encampment generated alarm for nearby residents. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board later cleared the park of people living in tents, but voted to create a permitting process to make homeless encampments a permanent fixture at 20 city parks with up to 25 tents each.[260] The situation quickly grew out of the control of park board officials.[261] Encampments spread to 40 park sites by summer and several remained into late 2020 despite efforts to connect residents to shelters.[262] Encampments continued until the park board closed the last remaining one at Minnehaha Park on January 3, 2021. Three people died in encampments in Minneapolis city parks in 2020.[263] The body of another man that showed signs of trauma was recovered in a tent at Minnehaha Park on January 3, 2021, whose death was believed to be suspicious, possibly marking the first homicide in the city in 2021.[29]


Major areas of civic unrest in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, May 27–29, 2020:

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

Arrangement is chronological.

External links[edit]