The war on public safety: Minnesota Freedom Fund
Back in December of 2016, American Experiment hosted an event with Heather Mac Donald titled “The War on Cops.” Since then, things have escalated. We’ve continued to stay on top…
Minneapolis experienced another day of mayhem yesterday.
In the afternoon, a man was shot dead in downtown. A little later, the suspect was located by police on Nicollet Mall between 8th Street and 9th Street and, as officers approached, he shot himself dead.
As word spread on social media the story got out that police had, in fact, killed the guy, and people quickly took to the streets.
To protest? Perhaps, but ransacking Target is a funny way to do that.
— Mike Karbo (@MKarbo) August 27, 2020
Looting in downtown Minneapolis. Haskell’s liquor store and Medical Arts building included. This is all linked to alleged suicide of suspect in earlier homicide. Crowds down here were convinced he was shot by police. pic.twitter.com/zaIKUw8IlC
— Courtney Godfrey (@courtneygodfrey) August 27, 2020
Ted Farrell, president of Haskell’s, said three employees hid in a back room beer cooler as rioters and looters smashed their way inside the Ninth Street store Wednesday night and stole liquor. pic.twitter.com/OoR4yJ7Yhu
— Nick Ferraro (@NFerraroPiPress) August 27, 2020
More looting in downtown Minneapolis. They’ve now breached the Saks 5th Avenue store on 6th and Nicollet and people are making out with lots of goods. pic.twitter.com/tgUIyoIMvf
— Courtney Godfrey (@courtneygodfrey) August 27, 2020
We saw again that there are few social ills in the United States which cannot, seemingly, be ameliorated by helping yourself to some free stuff.
Small, family owned businesses were destroyed:
Civilians were assaulted. So were police:
This video was sent to me. I’m not sure the status of this officer.
— Ubah Ali (@UbahDAli) August 27, 2020
There were some who tried to justify this. A former DFL state Rep.:
We can’t talk about what’s happening in Minneapolis tonight without talking about what’s happened to Black Minnesotans in the last 4 months. 4 years. 400 years. HALF of Black Minnesotans are unemployed. Record numbers of ppl are experiencing homelessness, food insecurity and all
— Erin Maye Quade (@ErinMayeQuade) August 27, 2020
A current DFL member of Minneapolis’ city council:
A man took his own life tonight in downtown Mpls
MPD did not kill him, but people assuming they did is rooted in a steep distrust
That distrust is our failure to own.
— Jeremiah Ellison (@jeremiah4north) August 27, 2020
It is, in fact, possible to talk about people ransacking stores, torching small businesses, and attacking civilians and cops without a history lesson. It is also true that the people who assumed the police had killed the suspect had jumped to conclusions before knowing the facts. But that is a commonplace now. On Monday, Gov. Walz tweeted:
Last night, Jacob Blake – an unarmed Black man and a father – was shot multiple times in the back by police. Gwen and I pray for him as he fights for his life, and for his children who witnessed this horrifying event.
— Governor Tim Walz (@GovTimWalz) August 24, 2020
After a couple of days of investigating, we now know that Blake was not unarmed:
What Gov. Walz said was wrong, he didn’t bother to wait for the facts, and, along with others who made similar uninformed statements, he poured fuel on the flames in Kenosha.
Gov. Walz took to Twitter again last night:
Minneapolis, it’s time to heal. We must rebuild and recover. Dangerous, unlawful behavior will not be tolerated. The State Patrol is headed to Minneapolis to help restore order. I remain in close contact with the city and every state resource stands ready to help bring peace.
— Governor Tim Walz (@GovTimWalz) August 27, 2020
But, as my colleague Tom Steward and I recounted in the current issue of our magazine, Thinking Minnesota, “Dangerous, unlawful behavior” was tolerated in the Twin Cities for four nights in May. The people who looted the Target on Midway then were not stopped or arrested. Why should anyone considering looting another Target expect to be treated anymore harshly?
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. [Emphasis added]
As I wrote in June:
Right there is the guarantee of the right to peaceful protest… That constitutional right should be protected with as much doggedness as any other. It is an indispensable part of a free country.
That, clearly, does not cover what we saw in Minneapolis last night.
There are two lessons from this.
One, is that we need to stop dignifying what is, in reality, just large scale shoplifting and vandalism by portraying it as some noble fight for justice. We often hear the old quote that “a riot is the language of the unheard”. Sometimes, maybe. Sometimes it is just the language of thieves and vandals.
Second, going soft on these things doesn’t buy you any goodwill. If you stand by and let hooligans have the run of the place, as the city and state authorities did in May, people do not ‘get it out of their system’. Rather, they see weakness and do it again. The deployment of the National Guard last night was admirably swift. Perhaps Gov. Walz has learned a lesson.
John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment.