One year ago, May 28 and 29, 2020, was a terrifying time in our area.  The fires in Minneapolis and St. Paul started the night of May 27, and continued to the early morning of May 29.  I asked my friend, Ruhel, when his restaurant burned down.  “May 29” he said with no hesitation.

The fires the first night were totally unexpected.  Ours is a major metropolitan area and problems and protests are not unusual.  But not violent.  The last such time I can remember was Minneapolis, 1967.

May 28, 2020,  caught everyone by surprise, and rumors were flying about outside agitators and criminals coming to town.

There is now a year under our national belt – an opportunity to put those nights in context.  Of course, crimes are committed in secret, and people like myself are not insiders when it comes to information.  So what I am going to offer is strictly opinion, informed by a career of looking for evidence.

First, Nancy sent me a comment which you can find in my May 29, 2020, post, “A City Burning”, as follows:

“Here’s a post that I saw on Facebook today — very important message:

‎Jesse Haug‎ to Lowertown, Saint Paul
9 hrs
A reminder that on nights like these, there are multiple distinct groups in action, with distinct goals and behaviors. Do not confuse one with another.

I’d group them into at least 5 categories. [emphasis added May 29,2021]

ACTIVISTS: They have clear goals, at least in their own heads. They are out to be heard and noticed. They may be nonviolent. If there is property damage, it will be targeted. Diff activists may have diff targets, but it won’t be indiscriminate.

GRIEVING CITIZENS: They aren’t (yet) organized activists. They’re hurting deeply. They haven’t been heard. They have more anger than they know what to do with. They may cause unjust damage, even though their anger comes from a place of justice.

ROWDY IDIOTS: They don’t give a shit about justice. They just want to fuck shit up. They’ll mingle with the activists, even though activists are ultimately a nuisance to them. They’ll come like moths to a light any time things are going off the rails.

CHAOS AGENTS: Like rowdy idiots, they want to fuck shit up. But like activists, they have a goal and are self-controlled. They’re here to escalate, create an opening, make others look bad. Prime examples: alt-right instigators and crooked police. (There’s overlap.)

PROFESSIONAL THIEVES: Whenever there’s chaos, there’s an opportunity to make a buck. Some of the “looting” has actually been well-organized, coordinated hits: post a lookout, designated grabber, getaway car.

There may be more groups I’ve overlooked.

I say all of this to point out the danger of using the word “protesters” for everyone out there tonight. If, for example, you say, “protesters need to stop burning buildings,” which of these groups are you are referring to? Be specific, not vague or generalizing.

Above all, be careful that you do not wrongly ascribe to ACTIVISTS and GRIEVING CITIZENS the actions of the other three groups. That is just what those other groups want.

The need for justice is real. The grief is real. Take them seriously. Respect them.

Addendum: just in case it’s not obvious, the first two groups are the vast majority of people out there — but the last three cause the vast majority of damage.”


I want, here, to focus on #4, CHAOS AGENTS.  #3 and #5 could be added as well.

The death of George Floyd on May 25 was certainly tinder for the protests.  We have watched this play out for an entire year.

But there has been shadow activity all along, right up to today.  Very visible, in plain sight, in the news, frequently.

You might remember the Tuesday following May 29, 2020.  That would have been June Tuesday, June 2, 2020, when the then-President called in the troops to clear the riff-raff from Lafayette Park from the White House, and posed for the infamous photo with the Bible in front of the Church.

The June 3 Minneapolis Star-Tribune, on page one, headlined an article, “Bipartisan rebuke of Trump move”.  Here’s the entire article:Minneapolis burning June 3, 2020.   The Minneapolis-St. Paul crisis was made to order by Mr. “Law and Order” and his acolytes.  Later came places like Portland and Kenosha, all useful as false equivalences, using legitimate protests as cover for chaos.

You might remember the insurrection of January 6, 2021, where a mob and mayhem descended on the U.S. Capitol building.

You might remember, yesterday, May 28, 2020, and the vote in the U.S. Senate against hearings about January 6.

I still have hopes that justice will be served in Minneapolis-St. Paul for all places that were damaged in the aftermath of May 25.

There will be peaceful resolution if we make it so, as we have done ever since those awful events.

Have a good Memorial Day.

2 replies
  1. Anna
    Anna says:

    Hopefully this Memorial Day will be much happier than last year. It was hard to realize something like that could happen in Minneapolis , such a quiet town. Happy Memorial Day all

  2. mkb
    mkb says:

    Good perspective Dick thanks…just a typo–the last date should read.2021 not 2020…I hope that the three AND 4 groups are pursued into justice. Such purposeful social attention and energy we have may have been waylaid or displaced by covid and the subsequent sad Floyd issues. My radar has always been up for these exploiters and disruptors since I personally encountered them in 1968 both in Chicago and in the Gene McCarthy Campaign…California.
    I stopped protesting in the late 70’s when the militarization of police became apparent and I met a MPLS professional on 1978 China tour who had trained the Hong Kong police on riot control pending the turnover. We are now witnessing where that expertise continues to be used..
    My neighborhood group had a practice of approaching the unknowns in black trucks unregistered who appeared in May 2020. One was taking pictures of BLACK LIVES MATTER signs and said “we’ll be back…St. Paul native….”


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