2020 Minneapolis false rumors riot
|2020 Minneapolis false rumors riot|
|Part of the 2020–2021 United States racial unrest and|
Black Lives Matter movement
|Caused by||False rumors about the suicide of a homicide suspect|
|Methods||Rioting, vandalism, looting, and arson|
|Status||Unrest ended August 27, 2020|
|Injuries||2 police officers|
|Arrested||132 demonstrators on August 26–27|
|Damage||76 properties, including 4 set on fire|
|State of emergency declared August 26–31, 2020|
The 2020 Minneapolis false rumors riot was a reaction to the suicide of a black man who was being pursued by police for his alleged involvement in a homicide on August 26, 2020, in the U.S. state of Minnesota. Unfounded rumors that Minneapolis police officers had shot the man quickly spread on social media, and set off protests, rioting, and looting in Minneapolis, which came as the city was still dealing with the aftermath of protests and riots following the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed African American man, by a white Minneapolis police officer three months prior. The homicide suspect on August 26, 38-year-old Eddie Sole Jr. of Minneapolis, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head outside a downtown Target store. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office later listed his manner of death as a suicide, which was confirmed by surveillance footage. Violence and looting the night of August 26 led to 132 arrests, damage to 72 properties in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, four fires in Minneapolis, and the injury of two police officers.
The root of the unrest was the suicide of a homicide suspect in downtown Minneapolis on August 26, 2020. The homicide was the 52nd of the year in the city. Many residents were still on edge from the killing of George Floyd the previous May, when police had mischaracterized Floyd's death as due to "medical distress" in early statements about the incident. Protesters reacting to news of a new shooting death, that video later showed was a suicide, did not trust initial police accounts of the incident. Posts on social media websites suggested that Minneapolis police were responsible for the man's death.
The unrest also came as part of the larger Black Lives Matter movement and protests against police brutality in 2020. Late at night on August 15 in Minneapolis, a group of approximately 50 people marched to the city's fifth police precinct station in what was initially described as a peaceful protest, but it became violent when people threw rocks at windows, threw paint on the building, and shot commercial-grade fireworks at police officers, before fleeing the scene. The August 23 shooting of Jacob Blake, an African American man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin by a police officer, led to protests and unrest that spilled into Minnesota. On August 24 in Minneapolis, a 100-person protest over Blake's shooting took place in the city's downtown area, and after the main protest group disbanded, some protesters broke windows and threatened to breach a jail facility, resulting in 11 arrests. One Minneapolis police officer suffered a broken hand during a confrontation with a demonstrator.
In Minneapolis by August, the downtown workforce was at 85 percent of prior capacity, with many business closed and people working from home due to concerns about COVID-19, and with fewer people on the street there were concerns about the perceptions of crime and lack of police presence.
Eddie George Gordon, a 61-year-old from Rush City, Minnesota, died from multiple gunshot wounds while inside a parking ramp near 10th Street North and Currie Avenue West at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, August 26 in downtown Minneapolis. Police sources believed he had been in an altercation with a man and woman, who both fled the scene on foot. Police apprehended the female suspect, but the male suspect fled. At 6 p.m. the police had tracked him down on Nicollet Avenue and closed in for an arrest. The male suspect was later identified as Eddie Sole Jr., a 38-year-old from Minneapolis. As police forces advanced to make an arrest, Sole Jr. shot himself in the head while standing on a sidewalk outside the entrance to a Target store, just before officers reached him. Within an hour of the suicide a large crowd had gathered at the scene.
The encounter between Sole Jr. and the police quickly sparked social media rumors about the manner of his death. At a Black Entrepreneur State Fair event on the other side of the Mississippi River in Father Hennepin Bluff Park, nearly one mile (1.6 km) away from where the death occurred, a DJ announced to the crowd that police were covering up a death with a suicide story. A group marched across the Stone Arch Bridge to downtown to protest what they believed was a police shooting. That evening protesters swelled into the city's downtown area and reached what was estimated as a crowd of 500 people.
Police denied that they had fired weapons at Sole Jr. during pursuit and released a surveillance video of his apparent suicide to quell rumors that it was an officer involved shooting. Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo sent text messages to several racial justice advocates seeking help in circulating the video, such as to Nekima Levy Armstrong who attempted to contain the spread of false information. However, some in the crowd downtown began breaking windows at nearby businesses, resulting in property destruction and looting at many stores and restaurants. As the scene downtown became more violent some in the crowd urged others stop the destruction, including a person on a megaphone who shouted, "We have the video — the man killed himself!"
At 9:30 p.m. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey publicly requested assistance from the Minnesota National Guard to restore order. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz activated troops just before 11:00 p.m. and the first troops arrived downtown just before midnight. Frey imposed a citywide curfew overnight, and both Walz and Frey declared a state of emergency.
Destruction overnight reached a total of 72 property locations in Minneapolis and four locations in neighboring Saint Paul. In Minneapolis, four businesses were set on fire, including a downtown restaurant and three other businesses located miles away from the city's downtown area. The rioting in downtown Minneapolis mostly stretched along Nicollet Mall from 5th to 12th streets, though it spread to a gas station and liquor store near Loring Park. The rioting also an effect beyond downtown Minneapolis. Several businesses in south Minneapolis, Uptown, and Dinkytown were vandalized and looted, as was a liquor store in the suburb of Brooklyn Park.
Two Minneapolis police officers were seriously injured during the unrest and hospitalized, but the injuries were not believed to be life-threatening. One of the injuries, captured on a bystander's video, showed an officer being hit in the head by a trash can lid and becoming unconscious. Some bystanders cheered when the object hit the officer.
To prevent further rioting and looting, officials put in place a curfew for the second night, from the hours of 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. the following day. Nearly 1,000 members of law enforcement and 400 Minnesota National Guard troops amassed in the metro area to prevent more lawlessness. Thirty people were arrested that night, all for curfew violations. Calmness prevailed after August 27.
State and local officials declined to issue a curfew for Friday, August 28. However, Minneapolis city officials extended the state of emergency through the weekend to allow for possible curfews, if needed to address unrest. National Guard troops and law enforcement were kept mobilized. The state of emergency ended at 8 a.m. on Monday, August 31, 2020.
Officials believed that their experience with the unrest in the days after the killing of George Floyd the previous May led to a speedier response that distinguished people protesting peacefully and those causing destruction.
The investigation into the homicide of Eddie George Gordon revealed that he had been in an altercation with Eddie Sole Jr. and an unnamed woman around 2 p.m. on August 26, 2020 in the Ramp A parking garage in downtown Minneapolis. Sole Jr. pulled out a gun and shot Gordon in the head. By August 31, police sources were not sure what provoked the incident. Both men had connections to the Salvation Army's Harbor Light Center shelter next door to the parking garage, with Gordon making occasional night stays since 2017 and Sole Jr. calling it his home for the past two-and-a-half years. It was also unclear to investigators why Sole Jr. shot himself as officers closed in.
Rioting arrests and criminal charges
State and local officials arrested 132 people during the unrest that featured looting, reports of shots fired, thrown bottles at police, and the firing of commercial grade fireworks. Twenty-six people were charged, all of whom were Minnesota residents, with home addresses in Minneapolis, Saint Paul, several suburban cities, and Saint Cloud. Four of the arrests were of people who allegedly broke into the Pixie Liquor store in Brooklyn Park during the unrest.
Federal arson charges
Three men from the Twin Cities were indicted in U.S. District Court for setting fires at the downtown headquarters of the Target Corporation on the evening of August 26. Shador T.C. Jackson, a 24-year old from Richfield, Minnesota, was accused of using a construction sign to break the glass entrance to the building. Several people went inside the building during the rioting. Jackson intentionally set a fire on a counter in the mailroom and Victor D. Edwards, a 31-year old form Saint Paul, Minnesota, added liquid accelerant to it. Leroy L.P. Williams, a 34-year old from Minneapolis, also entered the mailroom. Williams was a relative Eddie George Gordon who was shot and killed earlier in the day, beginning the manhunt that led to the unrest. Surveillance video captured the three men fleeing the mailroom. Williams allegedly returned to the Target building and attempted to start another fire at its entrance. Prior to the incident, all three defendants had felony records in Minnesota for violent crimes. Jackson and Williams pled guilty to conspiracy to commit arson in connection to the incident on August 26, 2020. The case against Edwards was pending as of January 2021.
Assault of a police officer
A 28-year-old man from Minneapolis faced charges in early September for burglary and assaulting a police officer by throwing a 15-pound metal garbage can lid and knocking him unconscious on August 26. The injured officer allegedly had a connection to the suspect whose vehicle was also involved in a recent burglary. The suspect said that he was eating at downtown restaurant and became angry when learning of the rumors of a possible police shooting, and he regretted being involved in the ensuing chaos. The officer was released from the hospital by early September, but underwent continued treatment and therapy.
At the time of the unrest, downtown Minneapolis businesses were said to be struggling from closures related to the COVID-19 pandemic and unrest after the killing of George Floyd the previous May. For the dozens of business that were broken into and looted, the August riot was considered another challenging economic setback. Some commentators speculated that the unrest and rioting in Minneapolis in 2020 could mark a decades-long period of stagnation and decline, similar to what cities such as Los Angeles, Detroit, and Newark experienced after historic unrest.
The four business set on fire on August 26, 2020, included Brits Pub on the Nicollet Mall in downtown, and three businesses in south Minneapolis, a Tires Plus store, a Walgreens drug store, and the China Wok restaurant. The south Minneapolis area was the epicenter of heavy rioting after Floyd's death in late May 2020, including where a police station was torched. Kam Talebi, owner of the downtown Brit's Pub, remarked about broader conversations to address the unrest in Minneapolis, "I hope within that there's a priority of safety for residents and the businesses. It's just tough to be able to operate right now in downtown Minneapolis." Brit's Pub was looted and much of the interior destroyed by fire. It reopened seven months later after extensive clean up and refurbishing.
Suicide video controversy
As protesters gathered in downtown Minneapolis the evening of August 26, the Minneapolis Police Department sent out a message via the Twitter website that contained an embedded video: "*WARNING: This video contains graphic images. This evening, a murder suspect committed suicide as police approached them at 8th & Nicollet. No officer weapons were fired. This is a tragedy for our community that is still hurting." Release of the video generated controversy though allowable under a set special circumstances in Minnesota state law. Some Minneapolis officials believed that quick release of the video was necessary to stop rumors of a police shooting. City officials had to weigh pain of people seeing the graphic content with their intention of stopping rioting and looting. Minneapolis police and many media outlets took down postings of the video later the same evening.
- 2020–2021 Minneapolis–Saint Paul racial unrest
- 2020–2021 United States racial unrest
- Kenosha unrest
- List of civil unrest in Minneapolis–Saint Paul
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