Politics of destruction

Violence aimed at American Experiment is a failed endeavor.

At 2:00 on the morning of Jan. 28, one or more arsonists attacked the building in Golden Valley where our office was located. They set two fires, one on the third floor either inside or just outside the office of the Upper Midwest Law Center, the second on the ground floor, in the corridor between the offices of Center of the American Experiment and TakeCharge. Given that these three conservative organizations were obviously targeted, it’s appropriate to assume the arson had a political motive.  

But whoever may have been directly targeted, many people were damaged. The building is now completely shut down due to the devastating combination of fire, water, and smoke damage, forcing out the several dozen small businesses housed there — financial planners, psychologists, and chiropractors, for example. The arsonists caused many millions of dollars in damages.  

Anyone active in the public sphere is used to being attacked. But having someone try to burn down your office is very different from being threatened via email or on Twitter. Because of the arson’s apparently political motivation, it has been denounced across the political spectrum, including by the Star Tribune and Gov. Tim Walz.  

Because the fact of arson was obvious, federal and local law enforcement officials have been investigating almost since the night of the fire, with our cooperation. The FBI has been pursuing the case vigorously, but as of this writing, there have been no arrests.  

It is vitally important that this crime be solved, both because of the seriousness of the arson itself and its apparent political motivation. Shortly after the fire, we announced a reward of $15,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator or perpetrators. When two months passed without an arrest, we decided to increase the reward. With the help of our generous donors, we were able to increase the reward to $50,000 for a single perpetrator, or $100,000 if two or more are arrested and convicted.  

We hoped that these eye-catching numbers would generate renewed interest and publicity, which they did. Who knows? Perhaps by the time you read this the case will have been solved.  

Meanwhile, if the arsonists sought to damage our organization, they have failed. While the corridor outside our office looks like it was bombed, the Golden Valley Fire Department was able to put out the fire before it destroyed the office itself. Our staff works off laptops, and we could continue working remotely without missing a beat. And we are moving into brand-new, more spacious quarters in a nicer and newer building. Also with better security. As far as our staff is concerned, the arson has only redoubled their enthusiasm and commitment.  

I am often asked how I know that we are effective. I have several answers, one of which is that our opponents know we are effective — they attack us all the time. In the world of policy and political give and take, such attacks are to be expected. But not when they turn violent. The arson of Jan. 28 was terribly destructive of property, and fortunately, there were no injuries in this instance.  

However, we are living in a time when political violence is, in some quarters, becoming acceptable. Minnesota was ground zero with the George Floyd riots, and also with more recent demonstrations that have blocked roadways and led to accidents. Antifa has brought a wave of violence to cities like Seattle and Portland. And now, in supposedly “nice” Minnesota, an office building has been set on fire. Political violence cannot be normalized. This is why we are doing everything in our power to help identify and prosecute the arsonists of Jan. 28.