In Minnesota, Black militia group tries to keep the peace

AP Photo/John Minchillo

Here’s a headline you don’t see every day. Out in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, where nightly protests and sporadic violence have been unfolding ever since the police shooting of Daunte Wright, a new group of players has taken the field. According to the Associated Press, a group of mostly Black civilians wearing body armor, many of whom are armed, has been patrolling the streets in the evenings, seeking to establish some distance between groups of noisy protesters or potential rioters and the police. Calling themselves the Minnesota Freedom Fighters, the group members describe themselves as an “elite security unit.” While most of them did not appear to be armed on Friday night, they still had a very militaristic look about them. One member said that their only intent was to ensure that the protests remained peaceful.

As protests intensified in the Minneapolis suburb where a police officer fatally shot Daunte Wright, a group of Black men joined the crowd intent on keeping the peace and preventing protests from escalating into violence…

The Black men at the edge of the crowd wear yellow patches on protective vests that identify them as members of the Minnesota Freedom Fighters, a group formed to provide security in Minneapolis’ north side neighborhoods during unrest following the death of George Floyd last year. They are not shy about casting a forceful image — the group’s Facebook page features members posing with assault-style weapons and describes itself as an “elite security unit” — but on Friday the Freedom Fighters didn’t appear to be armed and said they intended only to encourage peaceful protesting.

As several people began to rattle a fence protecting the Brooklyn Center police department, the Freedom Fighters communicated to each other over walkie-talkies. They declined to say how many are in their group.

Some of the early commentary I saw on social media from liberals ran along the lines of how “white conservatives are gonna freak out” about a group of armed Black men taking to the streets. I had to laugh when I saw that. I think this is a great idea. There’s no suggestion thus far that any of the members of the MFF are not licensed firearm owners. Nor have there been reports of them doing anything but protecting property and keeping the crowds from trying to tear down fences and attack the police. One of their members interviewed in the linked report is a former Marine who pointed out the damage to the local neighborhood that ensues when the crowds begin to riot and the police respond.

So that’s some good news, right? But before we chalk this up as a job well done, we should hop into the Way Back Machine for a moment. You may recall another group of armed men who showed up in Kenosha, Wisconsin last year. It was the group that included Kyle Rittenhouse. Let’s contrast these descriptions of the Freedom Fighters with how the Associated Press covered the presence of (mostly white) armed people patrolling the streets of Kenosha prior to the Rittenhouse shooting. Most of these descriptions sound fairly different, wouldn’t you say? (Emphasis added)

“The sheriff told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that militia members or armed vigilantes had been patrolling Kenosha’s streets in recent nights…”

“How many times across this country do you see armed gunmen, protesting, walking into state Capitols, and everybody just thinks it’s OK?” [Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela] Barnes said.

And then there was this coverage from the same week, warning of online calls for armed militias to travel to Kenosha.

Reddit said Thursday it had removed posts that had urged vigilantes to go to the Kenosha protests. The company said in a statement its rules “explicitly prohibit content that encourages, glorifies, incites, or calls for violence.”

Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth said Wednesday that militia members or armed vigilantes had been patrolling the city’s streets in recent nights and asked about being deputized.

But what did the group Rittenhouse joined claim to be doing when they arrived in Kenosha? They were there trying to prevent vandalism and damage to businesses and private property while preventing attacks on the police. Isn’t that the same thing? And yet when the Rittenhouse crew showed up, they were immediately tagged as militia members and vigilantes. But the MFF is “a group of Black men… intent on keeping the peace and preventing protests from escalating into violence.”

Funny how the news media style guide somehow shifts on a dime, isn’t it? In any event, I wish the Minnesota Freedom Fighters the best of luck in their efforts. Hopefully, they can keep the mayhem and the damage somewhat tamped down.