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Apr 19, 21

Three Thousand National Guard Troops Flood Minneapolis as Protests Against Police Murders Continue

Thousands of people continued to take to the streets over the past week across the so-called United States, as anger remains volatile following the police murder of Daunte Wright in the city of Brooklyn Center, located only minutes outside of Minneapolis. Wright’s murder, which resulted from a simple traffic stop, has sparked over a week of raucous demonstrations against heavily militarized police and the National Guard. Already, more than 3,000 National Guard troops have flooded into Brooklyn Center and Minneapolis, in a clear show of force and intimidation.

But despite the repression, the latest rebellion has spread to cities across the US, as the State undergoes massive preparations for possible unrest under the banner of “Operation Safety Net,” (a massive counter-insurgency response uniting police, government, and military forces), as the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial is expected to come possibly next week. Adding to the anger has been the high profile police killing of Robert Delgado, a houseless man shot by law enforcement in a Portland park, and the release of the body-cam footage of the murder of thirteen-year-old Adam Toledo, killed by police in Chicago on March 29th.

And as anger builds, the massive consolidation of State, military, and police forces in Minneapolis has been rejected and condemned by many within the local community and beyond:

After four nights of clashes with police and protesters in Brooklyn Center, dozens of community organizations and elected officials signed two separate letters calling for local and state leaders to curtail Operation Safety Net, the joint law enforcement task force deployed in the Twin Cities.

Operation Safety Net — a coordinated law enforcement response between the Minnesota National Guard, Minnesota State Patrol, Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office and local police departments — was originally devised to preempt potential unrest during the Derek Chauvin trial. But its first deployment has been as a counter to protests in Brooklyn Center in response to a police officer fatally shooting 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop.

Two separate letters were circulated on Thursday, one signed by a coalition of roughly three dozen community organizations; and another signed by a score of local city council members, Hennepin County commissioners and school board members. They addressed the leaders at the head of Operation Safety Net, including Gov. Tim Walz, Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson, Mayor Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter.

The letter from community organizations criticized the “militarized” police response to people protesting police brutality “and the compounding trauma caused by the state against Black, brown, and Indigenous communities.” It also addressed reports of journalists being harmed or detained while reporting on the demonstrations.

It also cites a report from Brooklyn Center of someone sent to the emergency room after being struck by a tear gas canister and over 100 serious injuries from police response to unrest in Minneapolis last summer.

And people in Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center have a lot to be angry about. Over the past week, police and the National Guard have made mass arrests, spied on demonstrators with high-tech surveillance technology, targeted journalists, imposed curfews, and in general, have tried to stop protests from growing to the size that they did last summer following the police murder of George Floyd. Meanwhile, similar scenes of police repression are playing out across the country. In Portland, federal agents dressed in military fatigues take to the streets along-side heavily militarized riot police. In New York, the NYPD’s counter-terrorism unit is quick to try and shut down demonstrations and make violent arrests. And back in Brooklyn Center, the National Guard and police can be seen shooting projectiles through metal fences at protesters armed with only water bottles and umbrellas, as local residents are forced to take refuge in a nearby church to escape the tear-gas and flash-bangs. While Trump’s rhetoric may be absent, the response from the Biden administration has been more widespread and in many ways, more brutal, as police across a vast area have cracked down hard while more National Guard units are being activated in the lead up to the Chauvin verdict.

In press conferences and in numerous statements, law enforcement has attempted to paint themselves as victims under siege from violent rioters armed with multiple weapons, an image that doesn’t square with reality says Chris Schiano, a live producer for most of Unicorn Riot’s streams from Brooklyn Center. Talking to It’s Going Down he stated:

There has been some militant resistance and combativeness from within the crowds at the station, however the police are pretty clearly exaggerating in order to deploy the same fear mongering tactics they’ve historically used to justify brutal crackdowns at previous anti-police protests and political conventions or world trade summits. The situation with cops in Minnesota is so bad that their same old propaganda techniques don’t seem to be working as well as they used to, likely due to the state patrol’s passion for blatantly attacking journalists, which keeps the media from towing their line.

In fact, according to the Associated Press:

U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina Wright issued a temporary restraining order Friday prohibiting police at the protests in Brooklyn Center from arresting journalists or using force against them, including flash-bang grenades, nonlethal projectiles, pepper spray and batons, unless they know the person committed a crime.

The order also prohibits police from forcing reporters to disperse along with the rest of the crowd and from seizing their equipment. But USA Today videographer Jasper Colt tweeted that he and other reporters were forced to lie on their stomachs Friday evening while police photographed them and their credentials before letting them leave.

Such targeting of the press by police is nothing new; during the initial outbreak of protests last year in Portland, police repeatedly attacked and targeted journalists covering the demonstrations, which led to a supposed ban on police targeting journalists, legal observers, and also working with federal law enforcement.

Meanwhile, on the ground in cities like Brooklyn Center and Minneapolis, the counter-insurgency push against the rebellion is in full-effect. Beyond just the military, mass surveillance, and police attacks on journalists; groups like the Minnesota Freedom Fighters are actively working with the police and local government to push out and shut down front-line protesters:

On recent nights, the Freedom Fighters have moved through the crowd in formation, wearing body armor and dark clothing, weaving past umbrella-wielding demonstrators to create separation along a double-layer perimeter security fence. Their passive tactics are intended to deescalate the tension, preventing agitators from pressing forward and provoking the law enforcement officers standing at attention with pepper-ball and less-lethal sponge grenade launchers at the ready.

“We can keep it peaceful,” said Tyrone Hartwell, a 36-year-old former U.S. Marine who belongs to the group. “There’s always somebody in the group that wants to incite something,” adding that throwing objects at the police takes the focus away from their calls for justice and saps energy from the movement. They have also formed relationships with the city government and police department. City spokeswoman Sarah McKenzie said there are several “formal and informal relationships” with members of the Freedom Fighters, but it does not fund or contract with the organization because it is an armed group.

But as politicians and police worked to create relationships with organizations intent on policing the demonstrations, popular opposition is also manifesting against the presence of the National Guard. One incident in particular that has highlighted this growing anger occurred last week, when union members and front-line protesters mobilized to kick out the National Guard who were occupying a union hall as a staging ground. As the Twin Cities Pioneer Press reported:

To shouts of “Don’t come back!” and “Whose house? Our house!,” members of the Minnesota National Guard were ousted from a St. Paul union hall this week, and the reverberations have been felt throughout organized labor and the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.

The issue highlights a split between social justice movements and public safety concerns about the $700 million in arson, looting and property damage that befell the Twin Cities after the death of George Floyd less than a year ago.

Lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle have called for the labor activists involved in Wednesday’s forced departure to make apologies. Others have demanded that DFL Gov. Tim Walz de-escalate the situation in Brooklyn Center and remove the Minnesota National Guard from protests there and other locations around the Twin Cities.

Meanwhile, bus drivers have also “refused to aid authorities in Brooklyn Center by transporting arrested protesters.” These collective acts of refusal have also been met with other individual actions across the US, from graffiti and vandalism outside of police stations and Governor’s mansions, to people outright firing on the National Guard.

Ironically, this massive police buildup comes right when more light is been shown on both the State’s response to last summer’s rebellion following the police murder of George Floyd and the the attempted pro-Trump coup in DC on January 6th. For instance, recently released documents show the degree in which the State was attempting to surveil and infiltrate the George Floyd demonstrations:

The Drug Enforcement Administration conducted “covert surveillance” on people protesting the killing of George Floyd last summer in Philadelphia, Chicago and Albuquerque, according to emails obtained by CREW. The operations involved the use of undercover DEA agents to “infiltrate” protests, social media monitoring and aerial surveillance by the DEA Air Wing. Justice Department leadership authorized the surveillance efforts in May 2020, per a DEA memorandum revealed last year by BuzzFeed News. The decision—which significantly expanded the DEA’s law enforcement authority nationwide for 14 days—was decried by members of Congress and civil liberties advocates as an invasion of First Amendment rights.

But while police were busy keeping tabs on protesters, according to new reporting in The Guardian, they were also donating to fund-raising campaigns for Kyle Rittenhouse and other “accused vigilante murderers, far-right activists, and fellow officers accused of shooting black Americans.” At the same time, other reports show that Trump loyalists at the Pentagon and within the Capitol police were able to slam the breaks on dispatching National Guard troops to put down the attempted coup on January 6th and “through deliberate inaction and what can only be described as sabotage,” Capitol police leadership forbade officers from “using their most effective crowd-control tactics and equipment despite intelligence clearly indicating that an attack on the Capitol building was planned.”

With states such as Pennsylvania calling in National Guard units in the lead up to the Derek Chauvin verdict, we can expect to see the continued ramping up of repressive State forces, as protesters point to the possibility of far-Right militants joining in on the violence, highlighting recent comments made by one Minnesota State Trooper who stated, “I think my message tonight…is that I’m extremely comfortable in saying and asking, “We need help.” We need help from Minnesotans to stand up and say that this can’t be tolerated, it can’t be tolerated. And right now, to interrupt this cycle that we’re in, were every night we’re out there in this fight, we need people to stand up and help us by saying, ‘It can’t be tolerated any longer.'”

A roundup of ongoing demonstrations across the so-called United States.

Seattle, WA

 

Portland, OR

Santa Rosa, CA

Oakland, CA

Sacramento, CA

Modesto, CA

Los Angeles, CA

Tucson, AZ

Minneapolis, MN

Chicago, IL

Raleigh, NC

Atlanta, GA

Washington DC

Brooklyn, NY

New York, NY

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