Libor Jany, Star Tribune, September 4, 2020
Late one night a few weeks after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police, a loud knocking came on Jaquita Morris’ door, and two of her sons tumbled into the family’s North Side home.
But her annoyance turned to shock, then anger when the boys, 19 and 14, told her they were waiting for a bus to their older brother’s house when they saw two white men wearing all-white “KKK gear” appear from behind a bush and start running after the terrified teenagers before they reached safety.
As south Minneapolis was enveloped in protests, riots and looting in the wake of Floyd’s May 25 death, authorities received dozens of similar reports of racial attacks, harassment and vandalism, many of which were centered on the predominantly Black North Side. There was confusion about whether outside influence was present in the days after Floyd’s death, when state officials gave conflicting accounts of whether the suspected agitators came from the ranks of white supremacists exploiting the rage over Floyd’s death, or left-wing anarchists bent on turning the anger toward their ends of discrediting the police.
Local authorities have opened investigations into several racially motivated incidents, like the case of the “Umbrella Man,” who police believe has ties to the Hell’s Angels and Aryan Cowboy Brotherhood motorcycle gangs and was seeking to incite racial tension when he was recorded smashing out the windows of an auto-parts store that later went up in flames. The case could wind up in federal jurisdiction.
Minneapolis Police Department spokesman John Elder said no statistics on race-related offenses were kept, but investigators had sorted through reported crimes and incidents after Floyd’s death, looking for patterns or trends.
“There were no such patterns,” Elder said, while adding that some cases remain open and under investigation. Of the dozens of people charged so far with crimes related to the riots, none have been publicly linked to white nationalist groups.
The threat posed by far-right, neo-Nazi and white nationalist groups has captured headlines of late, in light of protests that turned deadly in Kenosha, Wis., after the police shooting of Jacob Blake and in Portland, Ore., where protests have been ongoing since Floyd’s death.
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said his department received information from federal law enforcement partners suggesting that the post-Floyd unrest might draw groups “with the sole purpose of harming and committing violence on African Americans.”
“We had certainly heard that there may be extremist groups up here to cause harm to our African American community,” Arradondo said in a recent interview.
At the height of the protests, state Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said he was dubious about reports of “crazy stuff about the Klan marching down the street,” saying that “some of it looks like it is deliberately being planted as disinformation.” A spokesman said this week that state authorities had received no new information that would suggest otherwise.