Daily Reformer: Fog of War

The ruins of what used to stand at an intersection near the Minneapolis Police Department Fifth Precinct. Macklin Caruso/Minnesota Reformer

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Saturday and Sunday night were calmer in Minneapolis and the Twin Cities, relative to Thursday and Friday. Martial law tends to have that effect. 

But it was still tense. 

A tanker truck plowed through a crowd but luckily no one was injured. What was he doing on that highway full of protestors? Early indications are that it was all a big mistake and misunderstanding. About 150 protestors were arrested at I-35W and Washington Avenue for breaking curfew. (Strib.)  

As I wrote in this space Saturday, the big question in the coming months: Who will be blamed? 

Minneapolis Police union president Bob Kroll has his answer, according to a letter sent to members and leaked this morning. 

“The politicians are to blame and you are the scapegoats,” he writes. I’m reminded of Kevin Baker’s piece from after the Iraq War about dolchstoss, the German myth of the “stab-in-the-back,” the idea that Germany could have won World War I if it had not been stabbed in the back by its weak leaders. It helped give fuel to the rise of fascism and Nazism, with Hitler making Jews the ultimate villains in the pernicious myth. 

At one point Kroll implies that his organization has sought something of a coup with Senate Republicans. 

“I gave a detailed plan of action including a range of 2000 to 3000 National Guard, their deployment allocations throughout our city and St Paul, in a phone meeting with Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka. The Senate was going to try and run the actions that the governor displayed he is clearly incompetent to do.” 

Um, what?

Naturally, there was the self-pitying of every bully you’ve ever met: 

“I’ve been a visible target from the groups conducting this riot, politicians on the left allowing it and encouraging it and liberal media.” 

We’ll have more on this extraordinary communique later. 

Who is to blame? Watch this extraordinary mashup of undisciplined police officers assaulting protesters around the country.  

Highly cognizant that they’ll get blamed, because, sadly, they always do, Black Americans have begun stepping in and stopping looters and arsonists — often white kids — and telling them to stop. Check out this scene at a Starbucks. Unclear what city. 

Attorney General William Barr is blaming “far-left extremist groups,” i.e. Antifa.  

Telling that he left out the possibility of white supremacist, far right criminals. They would seem to have more motive in making Black Minnesotans and Black Americans the scapegoat — helping to sow discord as a prelude to the white supremacists’ long planned race war. 

And about the whole notion that outsiders are causing all this. I’d submit we still need to know more. 

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter’s Saturday statement that all the city’s arrests Friday were out-of-staters — which he later corrected to “most” before that too fell apart — certainly didn’t bolster the claim. 

Gov. Tim Walz’s claim that 80% of Friday night’s violence was caused by people from out-of-state also lacked any supporting evidence. As David Montgomery pointed out, it’s a “useful” assertion. And comforting if this mayhem is the work of Wisconsin racists rather than our own. 

But that doesn’t make it true. 

Via Tony Webster, Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said Sunday that “We are now finding caches of incendiaries all over the metro area, and in greater Minnesota, adjacent to spots where fires have been set or where we had had large riots…” 

He said stolen vehicles without plates were used to transport them, and the items planted as recently as Saturday or in other cases 3-4 days ago (he was speaking Sunday.) 

While all this suggests some organized plan by somebody, Harrington also said in response to a question from the Strib that he has no credible evidence at this time of any specific, organized groups in town to foment unrest and violence. (Via Stephen Montemayor.

Minneapolis-based FiveThirtyEight reporter Maggie Koerth’s take is that

Protests continue to happen that call for police accountability and justice for George Floyd. But those weren’t happening last night. Instead, there were groups of white men — some seemingly very coordinated, others not. These men beat up people who tried to stop them from vandalism and robbery. Friends have given me first-hand accounts of chasing small groups of white men dressed in black through their neighborhoods in south Minneapolis. When we say there are outsiders causing destruction, we are not saying that everything would be hunky dory around here if it weren’t for those darned outside agitators. We’re saying there is a coordinated destruction effort independent from protests for George Floyd.

So who is to blame? 

Remember the subject line of this email: the fog of war. (Which, by the way, is the title of maybe my favorite documentary ever, about Robert McNamara and featuring wonderful music by Phillip Glass. Watch the trailer.) 

In other major news, Attorney General Keith Ellison is taking over the prosecution of Derrick Chauvin, who makes his first court appearance on June 8. 

This morning in the Reformer, contributor Cinnamon Janzer talked to Augsburg historian Michael Lansing, whose twitter thread looking at the historical context of the unrest went viral. 

Be sure to check your feeds and our site for work from Max Nesterak later today and a photo gallery of the action this weekend, as well drone shots of the destruction in south Minneapolis. 

Correspond: [email protected] 

Stay safe. JPC

J. Patrick Coolican
J. Patrick Coolican is Editor-in-Chief of Minnesota Reformer. Previously, he was a Capitol reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for five years, after a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan and time at the Las Vegas Sun, Seattle Times and a few other stops along the way. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and toddler son.