The Riots: Who were the rioters? Part 2
Some years ago, a friend of mine in London whose job was carrying out opinion polls in war torn countries told me that a significant number of Syrians he polled believed both A) that 9/11 was an inside job carried out by the CIA and Mossad and B) that 9/11 was a noble act of resistance against the Great Satan. It is hard, if not impossible, to see how both of these things could be true at the same time, yet some people believed both at the same time. The reaction of some to the riots which have roiled Minnesota in the last week show a similar inconsistency. You, too, may have encountered people who believe both A) that the riots were a justified expression of anger against racist policing and B) the work of white supremacists.
What are the rioter’s motives?
As I wrote on Sunday, state and city officials initially made false statements about where the rioters were from. They quickly had to retract the statements, and we might have hoped that they would learn some humility.
Seemingly not. Despite having no idea where the rioters were from, officials were, nevertheless, quick to suggests who they might have been. On Saturday, Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said:
As we’ve begun making arrests, we’ve begun analyzing the data of who we’ve arrested…Who are they associated with? What platforms are they advocating for? And we have seen things like white supremacist organizers.
But, as Kare 11 noted:
Of those arrested from out of state, only one had a Facebook page who has clearly identifiable support of white supremacy.
USA Today spoke to Adam Leggat, a former British Army counterterrorism officer who now works as a security consultant specializing in crowd management for the Densus Group, and reported that:
…intelligence reports from his colleagues indicate most of the hard-core protesters in Minneapolis are far-left or anarchists, and that far-right groups have not yet made a significant appearance. He said looting is typically done by locals – usually people with no criminal record who just get caught up in the moment.
On Sunday, Commissioner Harrington rowed back a little from his initial claim, saying:
At this point, I don’t have any credible evidence of any specific group being here in Minnesota.
It is certainly possible that white supremacists were involved. It is also possible that they were the driving force behind the destruction, though the notion of a ‘false flag’ intended to make legitimate protesters look bad doesn’t mesh with reports of people cruising around North Minneapolis in Klan robes.
But it seems more complicated than that, to say the least. The Star Tribune reports:
A close look at social media posts and scenes from Minneapolis and St. Paul reveals a convergence of ideologies with no clear trendline — from pro-gun, anti-cop rioters to militia, anti-fascists and anarchists.
Followers of a new group of armed, anti-government extremists dubbed the “Boogaloo Bois” have reportedly emerged at protests or have shared their intentions of traveling to the state.
I confess to not having heard of the “Boogaloo Bois” before, but they would seem to defy an easy ‘left/right’ categorization:
J. J. MacNab, a fellow at the George Washington University Program on Extremism, has tracked more than 100 Facebook groups affiliated with the “Boogaloo movement.” She described the demonstrators she has seen in the Twin Cities as part of a younger segment that is generally pro-gun but not racist, convinced that violence is the only way to bring about change.
“The younger portion of the Boogaloo world hates cops, and they watched a cop kill a man,” said MacNab. “And they’re angry. Very, very, very angry, and they don’t think change is going to occur unless there’s violence.”
Plenty of libertarians would go along with that.
No enemies to the left
The Star Tribune continues:
Much of the destruction has been tied to so-called white anarchists, who often tag buildings with ACAB, an acronym for “All cops are bastards.”
Many of the businesses ravaged by fire this week bear that telltale symbol. Locally based anarchists also contributed to unrest at the 2008 RNC convention, according to police accounts.
On Sunday night, Department of Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell said that “he is aware of reports of ANTIFA groups operating in the Twin Cities, but did not state if he or any agencies had direct evidence of that.”
In comparison to their rapid identification of white supremacists, our state officials have been somewhat reticent to identify the leftist thugs of Antifa (sic). This isn’t that hard to understand when we consider Attorney General Ellison’s record of public support for them:
Most people, overwhelmingly, are trying to bring justice to Mr. Floyd’s case and drive toward systemic change. I wouldn’t discount there were some folks who were here for mischief…I’m not going to let them obscure the righteous, noble cause of seeking justice for Mr. Floyd. pic.twitter.com/SSv5ZBzIoM
— Attorney General Keith Ellison (@AGEllison) May 31, 2020
I hereby declare, officially, my support for ANTIFA
Unless someone can prove to me ANTIFA is behind the burning of black and immigrant owned businesses in my ward, I’ll keep focusing on stopping the white power terrorist THE ARE ACTUALLY ATTACKING US! https://t.co/m6jxtDYmTi
— Jeremiah Ellison (@jeremiah4north) May 31, 2020
Time and again in this crisis, our city and state officials have been hamstrung in their response by a philosophy of “no enemies to the left”.
The trials of those arrested and charged will hopefully shed more light on the motives of those who have ravaged our cities and pushed George Floyd’s name off the top of the news. In the meantime, given their terrible record so far, it might be wise for the authorities to be sure of their facts before going public.
John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment.