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Jun 4, 21

“All Cops Are Derek Chauvin!”: Police Killing of Winston Smith Leads to Renewed Clashes in Minneapolis

Report back from so-called Minneapolis, after street clashes and looting kicked off following the police killing of Winston Smith, which took place against a backdrop of the city attempting to evict and re-open George Floyd Square.

Early in the morning on June 3rd, City of Minneapolis workers and a nonprofit called Agape Movement cleared the barricades surrounding George Floyd Square for the first time since the uprising following George Floyd’s death last summer. This incursion into a sacred space held for over a year now by protesting residents at 38th and Chicago was then followed by a multi-agency police operation in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis just a few miles away that ultimately resulted in the death of a 32 year old black man named Winston Smith. Details of the shooting are still hard to come by as the police and city officials have been very vague in their statements thus far. First he was called a murder suspect and then they back tracked by saying there was only a warrant for failing to appear in court. Following news of the shooting and the early morning raid on GFS, crowds started to gather at 38th and Chicago (déjà vu, anyone?) and at the intersection of Lake and Girard near the parking garage where Smith was executed by the State.

The following is a report-back from an anonymous participant in last night’s protest that began around 9pm. As soon as I saw the leaping yellow-orange flames of a dumpster that had been set alight, I knew I was in the right place. The crowd was relatively small, gathered calmly around the bonfire. Police crime scene tape adorned a traffic signal above, torn down by protesters before I had arrived. Asides from the fire, the crowd seems calm and the atmosphere tense yet quiet. It isn’t long before I find some familiar faces and we decide to stick together. Pacing. Talking. Smoking. The lack of a police presence oddly enough gave me more anxiety. The only thing worse than facing down a line of riot cops is not knowing where they are or when they will strike.

Just as we started to think the crowd was thinning out and maybe tonight’s action had fizzled out, more started to arrive. More trashcans are dumped out onto the bonfire. A skateboarder kickflips over the flames. Antagonistic messages are spray painted on nearby walls. Then, the telltale sound of breaking glass and the concussive report of fireworks. That was when the police revealed themselves.

I frantically get on my bike and make my way back to the thick of the crowd, warning people that police are on their way, and as if on cue the detonation of flash-bangs signals their arrival. The crowd retreats in a scene very familiar to anyone who had been at the intersection of Minnehaha and Lake street last summer. As my friends and I try to regroup with the crowd, we see a group of people smiling as they sprinted with armloads of merchandise and a small group of riot police frustrated that they could not grab any of them.

For the next few hours, my friends and I circle the perimeter on our bikes, trying to see what was happening. The telltale drone of the Minnesota state patrol’s spy plane breaks the eerie silence as it circles overhead. After a while, we figured the crowd had dispersed and decided to call it a night. But we were mistaken.

About half an hour after I had left, the crowd had returned to the intersection in force, this time with much more destructive intent. Target, CVS, T-Mobile, a liquor store, and several more are all looted, or at least have their windows broken. Police are pelted with rocks in their cruisers as they scramble to protect the businesses in the area. Another intersection just a few blocks east of the initial clashes is taken over and a block party atmosphere takes over. Clashes, looting, and arrests carry on into the night. The police claim nine arrests over the course of the evening.

A few tactical observations from last night’s actions:

MPD seemed to be taking more a hands off approach than they have recently. It could be that they were waiting until they had enough officers geared up and ready before trying to contain the protesters. It could be that they were hoping the protest would fizzle out on its own, as the crowd was relatively calm other than the dumpster fire. Or it could be that they were waiting for reports of property damage before stepping in. Whatever their reasoning, the moment MPD decided to strike, they sprung their trap quickly. Anyone participating in further demonstrations should always have a heightened sense of situational awareness and be ready to react quickly while not letting our minds be clouded by paranoia or rumors. Utilizing scouts on bikes or on foot could help mitigate this threat. Remember to not share unverified information, and to use the SALUTE method. (Size/Strength, Activity, Location, Unit Identification, Time and Date, Equipment.)

The crowd made the sound tactical decision not to attempt to hold the intersection at Lake and Girard. When police arrived and attempted to kettle everyone in, the vast majority were able to escape capture. A tactical retreat is a smarter move than letting yourself fall into enemy hands, giving us fewer numbers, and tying up more resources into arrestee support. The point is not to get arrested. The point is to keep fighting and stay out of their clutches. To take a line from Hong Kong protesters, we must “be water” and slip right through the fingers of the slave catcher patrols. By this I mean that rather than defending some static location and trying to “hold the line” we should instead remain mobile and dynamic, ever-shifting.

Expanding on my last point, the looting tactics we’ve seen evolving over the past year (from the George Floyd Rebellion to the Daunte Wright protests) represent in my view the bleeding edge of urban guerilla fighting. The extremely mobile and decentralized nature of the mass looting that took place in May/June 2020 made it nearly impossible for police to be able to effectively respond to every looting event that took place. Instead of the conventional political activist impulse to condemn these so-called looters (more accurately, expropriationists) for their “opportunism” we should instead see the tactical innovations they present. In the words of an LA law enforcement official speaking on last year’s revolt: “We can handle one 10,000 person protest, but not a hundred 1,000 person protests.” We should take notes from them and adopt the same mobile and dynamic approach. We cannot hope to succeed in clashing with the police directly without much superior numbers, which were sorely lacking last night. An asymmetrical approach must be taken if we are to have any hope of exhausting and overstretching the police’s manpower beyond what they can manage and control.

Fire to the plantations, death to the slave catcher regime

For anarchy and class war

– Another face in the crowd

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