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‘They Have Lost Control’: Why Minneapolis Burned

But Mr. Frey did not intervene to stop police officers from moving in and firing tear gas and flash grenades.

The next day, hundreds of angry protesters gathered once again outside the precinct house, facing off against lines of officers who occasionally fired tear gas and rubber bullets. Nearby, a white man, who wore a gas mask and carried an umbrella, began calmly breaking the windows of AutoZone with a hammer. Within hours, AutoZone went up in flames.

That night, the mayor asked for the Minnesota National Guard to help the city. He left the police to handle the details of the deployment since he believed they had the right expertise.

Assistant Chief Mike Kjos acknowledged “some confusion” over the level of detail required.

“It was a rapidly evolving situation,” he said. “We thought we could put a request in and while the people are arriving, we could be formulating what to do.”

In addition, city leaders did not understand how much time it can take for the citizen soldiers of the National Guard to leave their normal jobs, report for duty, collect their gear, and travel to Minneapolis.

“We expected them to be on site right then and there,” said City Council member Alondra Cano, who participated in a “prosecute the police” campaign in college and now heads the council’s public safety committee. Like Mayor Frey, the vast majority of Minneapolis City Council members are relatively new to governing. Five took office in 2018; another five in 2014, including Ms. Cano.

As Wednesday night wore on, buildings up and down Lake Street burst into flame.

“This whole neighborhood could burn down tonight,” Jamie Schwesnedl, co-owner of Moon Palace Books, a bookstore near the police precinct house, remembered thinking as he spent the night on his roof watching buildings around him burn. “I just can’t believe that the city hasn’t anticipated this or responded to it in any kind of proactive way.”

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