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Minneapolis After the Verdict

“George Floyd Square” is a lawless place now, a warning of a possible future.

A mural is seen near George Floyd Square in Minneapolis, Minnesota on April 21, 2021, a day after Derek Chauvin was convicted of Floyd's murder. (Photo by KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images)

Because Minnesota was having a rare early spring, I was in my yard when I got a friend’s text message: “Verdict to be read at 4 p.m.” The jury in the Derek Chauvin trial had had the case for less than a day and we would learn his fate in approximately 90 minutes. In the time between that text and the verdict being read in open court, I told the many who contacted me the same thing when asked: guilty on all three counts.

Much has been written about both the verdict and the month-long trial. At times there was saturation coverage of even the smallest details. Local media gamely tried to compete with the national and international press in town but this only showcased their lack of talent and provincialism. It’s a common saying on the political right in Minnesota that if you want to know what’s really going on here, you should read the U.K.’s Daily Mail. You’d have to live here to realize how much truth there is in that statement.

Virtually no one in the state thought that Chauvin stood a chance of being acquitted; the only question was on how many of the three counts he would be convicted. There was also a sense that a conviction was guaranteed when the trial judge, Peter Cahill, denied his request for a change of venue.

What couldn’t have been predicted was that another riot would break out during the trial of a police officer charged with killing a black man because another local police officer killed a young black man, Daunte Wright, by reaching for her gun instead of her taser. We’d already seen that movie but, unasked for, we were getting a sequel.

I was proven wrong in that riots did not break out in the Twin Cities after Chauvin was convicted. “Celebratory riots” someone had called them, and I thought that was what we were going to get. But the lack of riots post-conviction hides the reality of what has taken place in Minneapolis, and to a lesser degree in my hometown of St. Paul, since George Floyd’s death on May 25 of last year.

The city has not recovered from the enormous damage caused by those riots, even as we’re being told to this day that they, and many others around the country, were “mostly peaceful” by a deeply dishonest—to the point of wicked—media. Large areas along Lake Street remain in bombed-out conditions. Rebuilding has been scattered and slight. City leaders have no comprehensive plan to rebuild, renew and reinvigorate the riot-stricken areas. Even accounting for COVID lockdowns, foot traffic in the area is sparse, giving the impression of a war zone.

The reality is that Minneapolis was already a city in decline, decline being a choice, before the death of George Floyd. His death was a massive accelerant that has left it reeling, with local leadership having no capacity to adequately respond to events. Inaction and paralysis best describe the state of things.

* * *

If safety is of paramount concern, the best time to visit “George Floyd Square,” a literal no-go zone in Minneapolis at the spot where he died, is early morning. Criminal activity has skyrocketed in that area, leaving residents trapped in a sort of ongoing Clockwork Orange cycle of violence and social collapse. “Third World favela” was my first impression, and that’s not an exaggeration. A sign at the entrance singles out white people for instruction: They are to “decenter” themselves and “listen, learn, mourn and witness,” as well as to “contribute to the energy of the space, rather than drain it.” So much for those “All Are Welcome Here” yard signs with which Minnesota liberals virtue signal. The downside to an early morning visit is the lack of people out and about. Innumerable businesses have been wiped out and only a few have made an attempt to reopen. Moreover, those in the area are less than willing to speak with someone from outside it, no matter the hour of the day. When asked if things were beginning to improve, one person said, “Not really,” and left it at that.

People here can hardly be blamed for not wanting to casually chat about their suffering with a random stranger who they know will take a quick tour and depart in less than an hour. Being gawked at, understandably, breeds resentment. What’s striking is that the Democrats who run Minneapolis—the last Republican mayor having left office in 1961—have abandoned their voters who need them most, in favor of mollifying the most radical elements in their coalition.

Even the relentlessly liberal Star Tribune, the state’s largest newspaper, felt compelled to give voice to their concerns last month when it ran an article by Monica Nilsson, who was deputized to speak for many trapped there. She unemotionally recapitulated events that had taken place in the previous 10 days: gunfights so numerous as to be a regular event after sundown, the killing of a volunteer within the zone, his dying body being driven by others to a hospital because, you see, ambulances won’t go to the George Floyd autonomous zone. Instead, they have “zone medics.” She wrote of men on rooftops with rifles on tripods and noted that when residents asked local officials how best to protect themselves, they were told to “fill the street corners with garbage containers to block off our streets.”

Not surprisingly, there is also something known as “zone security.” It is what one would expect: a trusted group of residents looking out for themselves and others. None dare call it a militia. Criminals in other parts of Minneapolis now flee police by going to this zone, this wasteland. Sometimes police pursue, even with helicopters; other times they do not. The reality of those trapped in and around George Floyd Square is one of nonstop violence and continuous antisocial behavior.

Clearly what’s called for is a reopening of the now blocked intersection where a tall, metal black-power raised fist is ensconced, and an ongoing police presence to patrol the neighborhood and restore order. When that might actually happen is anyone’s guess. Nilsson herself ended on a poignant note: “We will also continue to call 911 as the devolution continues. We are unsure of when help is coming.”

* * *

The aftermath of the Chauvin verdict promises to bring more of the same failed policies that have ruined one of America’s loveliest cities. Minneapolis is lightyears away from the time of Mary Tyler Moore and her exuberant cap tossing into the air on Nicollet Avenue, the heart of downtown. In fact downtown Minneapolis is a relative ghost town, with businesses fleeing and people who are forced to be there for work or medical appointments heading out well before sunset.

Minnesota’s elected leaders, all Democrats, were of one mind and on-message after Chauvin’s conviction. Gov. Tim Walz said that “our work has just begun” and called for a continued march for justice. Attorney General Keith Ellison said, remarkably, that the verdict wasn’t justice, “but the first step toward justice.” In case his point was lost, he added, “This verdict reminds us that we must make enduring systemic, enduring societal change.” Sen. Amy Klobuchar agreed with him that this was “a first step towards accountability.”America itself, you see, was on trial and found guilty. This is now the narrative of the left nationwide. This is poison and we must refuse to drink from that chalice. It won’t be easy, we shouldn’t fool ourselves, but it’s imperative if America as founded is to survive.

Meanwhile, crime statistics for Minneapolis in 2020 can only be seen as manifest evidence of a city in its death throes. There was a 70 percent increase in homicides compared to 2019, a 105 percent increase in shootings, a 301 percent increase in carjackings, a 47 percent increase in robberies, a 24 percent increase in aggravated assaults, and a mind-boggling 660 percent increase in car theft.

Chances of being a victim of a violent crime in Minneapolis are 1 in 105, while for the rest of the state it is 1 in 423. For property crimes, it is 1 in 21 in Minneapolis, but 1 in 48 for the rest of Minnesota. While density obviously plays a role, it’s still remarkable that there are 427 crimes committed per square mile in Minneapolis, compared with 21 for rural or greater Minnesota.

Minneapolis is safer than just 3 percent of other cities in America.

Minnesota’s junior senator, Tina Smith, asked, “What if this verdict is the beginning of a transformation in public safety for Minnesota and our country? Where we move past the warrior model of policing and toward a model of truly protecting and serving?”

Could Senator Smith, not known for being particularly hardworking, find time to meet with her constituents trapped in the George Floyd autonomous zone to explain how that would look any different from the hell they have been living through for almost a year?

And while she was there, perhaps, could she explain how the Minneapolis City Council’s decision to strip $8 million from the Minneapolis Police Department’s 2021 budget constitutes “protecting and serving” them?

John Gilmore is an author & political commentator living in St. Paul, Minnesota. His writing has appeared in the Hill, the Star Tribune, Alpha News and the Center for Security Policy, and he blogs at MinnesotaConservatives.org. He is currently working on a book concerning vaccine skepticism and free speech, as well as a biography.

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