MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis is in the midst of a third night of unrest in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, with protesters taking over the police department’s 3rd Precinct building late Thursday night.
The break-in happened at about 10 p.m., with helicopter footage showing a large fire burning near the main entrance.
Police released a statement, saying in part, “in the interest of the safety of our personnel, the Minneapolis Police Department evacuated the 3rd Precinct of its staff. Protesters forcibly entered the building and have ignited several fires.”
City officials tweeted a warning about 90 minutes later that the precinct building may be in danger of exploding.
The Minnesota National Guard announced that 500 soldiers are in Minneapolis, St. Paul and surrounding suburbs to “protect life, preserve property and the right to peacefully demonstrate.”
The St. Paul Police Department said more than 170 businesses were looted or damaged Thursday, and dozens of fires were set. But there were no serious injuries reported in the city.
Thousands gathered in downtown Minneapolis early Thursday evening at the Hennepin County Government Center to demand justice for Floyd, before marching down Marquette Avenue.
Peaceful protesters made their way down Nicollet Mall, where several businesses boarded up their first floor windows, including Target, JB Hudson Jewelers and Haskell’s Wine and Spirits. Jack Farrell, Haskell’s president, said he respects the protest, but if his business gets looted or damaged, he’s not sure if it will be able to recover — especially in light of revenue loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This could be the death knell for downtown Minneapolis,” Farrell said.
By about 9 p.m., tensions began to flare up between protesters and law enforcement near the light rail station off 5th Street and Hennepin Avenue.
Some of those protesters took to Interstate 35W just before 10 p.m., leading to the closure the Washington Avenue exit.
In south Minneapolis, police say there was a shooting at about 8:30 p.m. at the Walgreens pharmacy on the 3100 block of Lake Street, just a few blocks down from the 3rd Precinct protest site.
Within the hour of the shooting, MaX It PAWN shop near the 3rd Precinct erupted in flames.
Earlier, the Target store near the 3rd Precinct, which was looted Wednesday night, became another chaotic focal point, with dozens of people gathered in the parking lot. A car was set on fire just after 7 p.m.
Looting spread to St. Paul beginning early Thursday afternoon, with businesses being targeted along University Avenue in the Midway neighborhood. Police clashed with looters and protesters for hours.
The looting expanded throughout the city Thursday evening, with Grand Avenue businesses in peril.
By 8 p.m., there were reports of several fires in the Capitol city.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order Thursday afternoon to activate the National Guard to “to help protect Minnesotans’ safety and maintain peace in the wake of George Floyd’s death.” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey also declared a local emergency late Thursday.