MINNEAPOLIS — One man died and dozens of stores were looted or burned overnight as demonstrations continued blocks from the site where a police officer knelt on George Floyd's neck as he and onlookers pleaded for help.
Firefighters continued their work of putting out more than a dozen structure fires Thursday, May 28, and business owners at dozens of stores and restaurants assessed the damages to their properties after the second night of demonstrations and widespread looting in protest of the Minneapolis Police Department after Floyd's death.
A bystander earlier this week made public a video of the Monday incident. The footage went viral and triggered investigations into Floyd's death as well as the firings of the four officers involved — Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J Alexander Kueng. Police initially reported that Floyd was transported to a hospital when he was in "medical distress."
Throughout the night Wednesday and into Thursday morning, groups of looters broke through windows and doors of storefronts in the Powderhorn neighborhood and began taking merchandise inside. Dozens of stores had been looted early Thursday. And a group of demonstrators set fires to several stores and restaurants in the area, along with an apartment building under construction.
City and state leaders called for peace early Thursday as Minneapolis police officers held a line outside the 3rd precinct, and demonstrators continued protests. Looting was also reported in St. Paul on Thursday morning.
"You have no right to perpetrate violence and harm on the very communities that you say you're standing up for," Minneapolis City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins said. "We need peace and calm in our streets, and I am begging you for that."
Attorney General Keith Ellison early Thursday urged demonstrators to "center" and Minneapolis police to restrain their response to protests.
"Focus must return to where it belongs; distracting conduct must cease; Police must restrain their response," Ellison wrote. "Protesters need to center."
When George Floyd was tragically killed, National conversation focused on justice for him, systematic change. Focus must return to where it belongs; distracting conduct must cease; Police must restrain their response. Protesters need to center #JusticeForFloyd
When George Floyd was tragically killed, National conversation focused on justice for him, systematic change. Focus must return to where it belongs; distracting conduct must cease; Police must restrain their response. Protesters need to center #JusticeForFloyd— Keith Ellison (@keithellison) May 28, 2020
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo on Thursday said the Wednesday night protests took a different tone from those a night prior and local leaders said they didn't recognize looters breaking into stores and setting fires. He said police forces were prepared for a group of mostly peaceful demonstrators near the 3rd precinct, as they saw the night before, but the crowd grew larger and more mobile than they'd prepared for.
“There was a different tenor last night, there was a different group of individuals,” Arradondo said.
Early Thursday, a spokesman for the Minneapolis Police Department said a man was killed in a shooting late Wednesday blocks away from the demonstrations and another individual was in custody. Officers didn't immediately issue the identities of the man who died or the person in custody.
The Minneapolis Fire Department on Thursday said crews responded to 30 events and at least 16 structure fires overnight and continued to extinguish fires along Lake Street. In a news release, they said the fires were set intentionally and department equipment had been damaged as demonstrators threw rocks and other projectiles.
Minneapolis police officers guarded firefighters who attempted to put out the fires but were hit with objects thrown by protesters or couldn't access some of the blazes due to large groups of demonstrators. Police officers sustained minor injuries and the fire department didn't report injuries to firefighters or residents as a result of the fires. Officers used chemical irritants and rubber bullets on demonstrators and looters in attempts to end the looting and break up the protests.
State Sen. Jeff Hayden, D-Minneapolis, on Thursday told reporters that the looting and fires were an expression of grief and frustration about Floyd's death and of the deaths of other people of color at the hands of law enforcement officers.
"We are grieving for our community, which is literally on fire because of the pain because of the senseless murder,” Hayden said, noting his concern about attention to the damage overshadowing Floyd's death. "I would hope that we would stay focused on the killing of George Floyd and the killing of other black and brown and Indigenous people in this community.”
As the protest across town stretched from Wednesday to Thursday, a series of break-ins shook the Uptown neighborhood in Minneapolis.
At least 20 businesses were broken in to and looted early Thursday morning, from the local Target and Cub Foods grocery store to boutique clothiers and the neighborhood's Apple store.
Thurston Jewelers, a fixture near the intersection of Lake Street and Lyndale Avenue for more than 100 years, was burgled "for everything," store owner Lloyd Drilling said. According to eyewitness reports, assailants shot the windows of the store before entering. Because of widespread vandalism and looting, response times for law enforcement were slow.
"It's sickening," Drilling said. "They really got everything. It took 45, 50 minutes for the police to show up."
Drilling was quick to point out the break-in likely was unrelated to the protests, but rather it was done "by people trying to take advantage of the situation."