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Looting Along Nicollet Mall Leaves Downtown Minneapolis Shattered; Curfew Expands To St. Paul For Thursday Night

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey issued another curfew for the city Thursday night and condemned the rioting that took place downtown Wednesday, in which mobs of people smashed storefronts and looted buildings, motivated by a rumor of a fatal police shooting.

In a late morning press conference, the mayor told reporters that happened Wednesday was not a form of protest over racial injustice or police accountability.

"Every person in every neighborhood in our entire city deserves to feel safe," Frey said. "What transpired yesterday does not bring us closer to safety, it does not bring us closer to advancing racial justice in the way we all want."

RELATED: Unrest Grows In Downtown Minneapolis After Police Say Murder Suspect Killed Himself On Nicollet Mall

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter also declared a curfew in his city Thursday night from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. In both cities, exemptions are allowed for law enforcement, fire and medical personnel, the media, people traveling directly to and from work, people seeking emergency care or fleeing danger, and people who are experiencing homelessness.

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said lawlessness will no longer be tolerated in the city. He said that officers arrested about 50 people overnight and booked them into the Hennepin County Jail. More than half of those arrested were from the Twin Cities, particularly Minneapolis and St. Paul. Another 43% were from other Minnesota cities. A few were from out of state.

Frey issued another curfew for Thursday night. It's slated to start at 8 p.m. and last until 6 a.m. Friday. Those in violation face fines and jail time.

The rioting happened Wednesday night after police say a crowd mistook a man's suicide for a fatal police shooting. The looting started at the Target store on Nicollet Mall and spread to businesses up and down the commercial corridor.

In a statement Thursday, Target said the Nicollet Mall location will reopen later in the day. The Minneapolis-based retailer also said that its downtown headquarters on Nicollet Mall was damaged, as were its Uptown and Dinkytown stores.

The rioting persisted Wednesday even though police quickly released video of the man's suicide and distributed it to prominent members of the community. Still, the anger boiled over as many in the Twin Cities have been enraged by police this summer following the death of George Floyd and the recent shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. (The video of the suicide has since been removed from police social media accounts.)

In a prompt response to the looting, Frey declared a state of emergency. Overnight, a curfew was put in place, roads were blocked to downtown Minneapolis, and bus and light rail service were halted; they have since resumed.

Gov. Tim Walz also declared a peacetime emergency and activated the National Guard. Large military trucks could be seen on Nicollet Mall at noontime Thursday as crews boarded up stores and swept broken glass from the sidewalks. The soldiers will be helping police enforce the curfew Thursday night.

"Let's restore order, let's restore peace," Frey said. "That is my ask for everyone tonight."

RELATED: List Of Businesses Damaged Or Looted In Minneapolis Overnight

The rioting left upwards of 20 businesses damaged along Nicollet Mall. A list of the damaged stores include IDS Center, Nordstrom Rack, Foot Locker, Chipotle, Haskell's Wine and Spirits, The Newsroom, Devil's Advocate, Walgreens, CVS, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Dahl Medical Supply and Caribou Coffee, among several others.

One restaurant on Nicollet Mall, Brit's Pub, located on 11th Street, was set on fire. Another nearby restaurant, Sushi Train, had its windows smashed in while costumers were still inside. Employee Keri Coquemont said the customers had to be evacuated through the kitchen as rioters hit the front windows with hammers and baseball bats.

"It was very scary. I've never experienced anything like that," Coquemont said. "Seeing it on the news is one thing, but experiencing in real is scary."

Businesses downtown are frustrated and concerned about what this episode will mean for the heart of the city, said Steve Cramer, the head of the Downtown Improvement District.

"We're a resilient downtown, and I think we'll bounce back from this, but people have to have confidence that the frustrations our community has been dealing with aren't going to well up in this way," he said. "It's simply unacceptable."

The rioting didn't just affect downtown. Businesses in south Minneapolis, Uptown and Dinkytown were also vandalized and looted.

The owner of Franklin-Nicollet Liquors, which is located just south of downtown, estimates that the overnight looting cost him half a million dollars. He said that this is the second time this summer that he's been looted; the first time happened during the days of unrest following the death of George Floyd.

"I came down here after I heard it on the news...that this place was getting hit again," he told WCCO. "I got here and there was no less than 15 cars in the parking lot, 25 people in the store, in and out they were going."

As for how a rumor of a police shooting could lead to widespread vandalism, the answer has to do with the community's deep mistrust of the police department, Minneapolis City Council Member Jeremiah Ellison says.

"Seeing windows broken and items stolen can be beyond frustrating, especially when all that rage was sparked (this time) by misinformation," he tweeted. "But so often our policing institutions have themselves been the source of misinformation. We forfeited our goodwill and this is the ugly cost."

Ellison and several other city council members are pushing to defund and dismantle the police department and replace it with a new apparatus of public safety.

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