A group of armed civilians successfully defended a pair of stores as riots tore through Minneapolis on Wednesday.
Protests about the police killing of George Floyd have escalated into riots that have torched many businesses in downtown Minneapolis. Four men, two white and two black, stood guard outside GM Tobacco and Sally Beauty Supply as rioters looted a Target store across the street and set other nearby businesses on fire.
"These guys are out here with machetes and shattered windows trying to keep looters out of their business because cops can't get in here," one of the armed men told Max Nesterak of the Minnesota Reformer. "So, I figure, before there were cops there were just Americans. So, here we are."
The two men who spoke with Nesterak said they had initially ventured into the area to support the protests over the killing of Floyd, a black man, by Derek Chauvin, a white police officer. Chauvin and three other officers involved in the incident were fired by the police department but have not been arrested or charged over it. The group of armed men became concerned for local businesses once looting broke out. When they stopped to try and buy cigarettes, they found the owners were trying to ward off looters without any assistance from the police.
"They said they're closed and they're defending their businesses," the first man said. "We heard that and were like, ‘Well, we better kit up and go see if these guys need help.'"
Another person in the group said looters were not the only concern.
"The cops are a lot less likely to try and tread on people's rights when there are other armed Americans with them," a second armed man guarding the stores said. "I figured that it's about d— time some heavily armed rednecks stood with fellow citizens."
Nesterak returned to the stores early on Thursday morning and found they were among the only ones untouched in the area.
There have been no reports on whether the men in front of the tobacco store ended up in any confrontations. A man was shot and killed at a nearby pawn shop during the rioting. Police have not determined if the shooting was related to looting.
The men outside the tobacco shop said they would continue to support the effort to hold police responsible for the killing of Floyd but did not want to see local businesses destroyed.
"Bottom line: Justice for Floyd and I hope they stop looting soon," the first man said.