Howard Dean, Strib echo Trump: "No one seems in charge" in Minnesota; Walz: Okay, now we're taking charge

That “Donald Trump doesn’t know the strength of Minneapolis” riposte from Mayor Jacob Frey isn’t aging well, even with Frey’s nominal allies. The staggering abandonment of a police station even after the National Guard has been called up has many wondering where city and state leadership has gone. Former DNC chair and governor Howard Dean called Frey out for his lack of action and warned Governor Tim Walz to step up now and take charge — before someone else does (via Twitchy):

The Star Tribune also noticed a leadership vacuum overnight, as did some state-legislature Republicans:

Minnesota state and local officials faced mounting criticisms Friday morning, after a third night of protests and violence in response to George Floyd’s death in police custody led to the breach and destruction of a Minneapolis police precinct and dozens of other buildings across the city.

Gov. Tim Walz, who activated the National Guard on Wednesday to respond to the unrest, has a 10:30 a.m. news conference scheduled Friday, but hadn’t spoken publicly since making the announcement.

Leaders were silent for much of the evening, leading to widespread criticism that they weren’t doing enough to respond to the fires and destruction happening across the city. …

Minnesota House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, raised concerns about the coming weekend. “There has been a disturbing lack of leadership and clear plan on how we’re going to prevent further chaos with the weekend approaching,” he said in a statement. “City and state leaders knew that there would be more looting and riots last night, but took no visible steps to prevent the destruction.”

Is this crisis still manageable under current leadership? Perhaps if National Guard troops rolled out onto the streets and imposed security, but it seems pretty doubtful at the moment. What little has been seen of National Guard troops makes them appear more like bodyguards. Frey assigned them to protect firefighters, the Star Tribune reported, but apparently did little to clear the area to allow firefighters to salvage the 3rd Precinct building. Instead, protesters chased police as they retreated and then celebrated the destruction. They even set off fireworks:

No matter how Frey tries to spin it, the images of police fleeing from rioters does not project strength. Practically everyone except Frey seems to understand that.

It’s not just Frey and Minneapolis now, though. The riots spread across the river again into Saint Paul, with more than 170 businesses hit by looters and vandals:

What appeared to start as impromptu demonstrations for George Floyd, the man who died in Minneapolis police custody, turned into a day of scattered arson, looting and significant destruction of retail shops in St. Paul’s Midway and elsewhere in the capital city on Thursday.

The unrest continued into the evening — more than 170 businesses were damaged or looted, and dozens of fires were set, according to police. There were no reports of serious injuries in St. Paul.

Just after 1 a.m. Friday, a fire broke out at Lloyd’s Pharmacy, which dates back to 1918, at Snelling and Minnehaha avenues. A large crowd gathered, many visibly upset the neighborhood business was targeted. By 1:30 a.m., the two-story building was fully engulfed, with several fire crews fighting to contain the flames.

All this took place after the call-up of 500 National Guard troops. Where were they, and why weren’t more troops activated? Why didn’t those already activated take more assertive action in protecting the 3rd Precinct? The answer appears to be that leadership in both cities and at the state capitol called up the National Guard but didn’t want to risk political backlash to use them properly in restoring order. Instead, they ended up taking the same passive response that local and state police have taken over the previous two nights, with the same results.

These riots now require an overwhelming and firm response to put them to an end. The riots aren’t about George Floyd any more, whose death in police custody demands justice and for which peaceful protests are more than warranted. As James Lileks writes this morning at The Bleat, the riots have an entirely different agenda:

“When our turn comes we will make no excuses for the terror.”

Karl Marx. There’s more than a few of his fans about, I think. It would not be ridiculous to assume that people previously given to direct action for ther sake of destroying the existing order wouldn’t show up at these events and lend a helping hand, would it? People on reddit and twitter think there are neo-Nazis in the riots, trying to start something, but you know, I’m looking at the guys who have a lot of practice with the whole “break things because you’re all fascists” pasttimes.

A housing development under construction was burned. It was supposed to supply below-market-rate housing: ah well. No matter. It is better that people suffer today if it brings about the necessary future. Every one and every physical thing is expendable. …

But the bread runs out. What then?

After burning out stores and having retailers pull out of the Twin Cities, the rest of the Minnesotans they served will be asking that question sooner rather than later. Unless Walz gets his act together — or Trump really does federalize the Guard and send in a lot more troops — there won’t be much left to salvage after a few more days of this.

Update: A few minutes ago, Walz spoke at a press conference and pleaded with the Twin Cities to cooperate with new efforts to impose order. Curiously, however, Walz said that he put the National Guard into play at 3:45 am this morning after developing a plan just after midnight. Walz had called up the Guard yesterday afternoon; why didn’t they have a plan to prevent what happened last night at that time?

Walz also went on at length about how the violence of the last few nights are just the venting of generations of anger. The protests could be described that way, but why legitimize the violence in that matter? Keith Ellison followed up by quoting Martin Luther King by saying that riots are the way that the unheard get heard. Maybe that’s something to say once order gets restored, but that’s hardly a way to get people to stop rioting. Ellison then talked about the Guard as though it will be “another military occupation.” It’s as if they want to incentivize more rioting — it’s insane. Thus far, leadership still seems vacant in Minnesota.