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Minneapolis police link mystery ‘Umbrella Man’ to white supremacists

Erika Christensen, an arson investigator with the Minneapolis police, wrote in the affidavit that the vandalism “created an atmosphere of hostility and tension” two days after Floyd’s death. It unleashed a chain reaction of arson and looting in the Twin Cities, she wrote, after protests had been relatively peaceful.

“In a short time after the front windows are broken out in The AutoZone, looting started,” the affidavit said, noting that the AutoZone burned down later that day.

“This was the first fire that set off a string of fires and looting throughout the precinct and the rest of the city,” it said.

The affidavit asserted that the suspect, 32, hoped to instigate racial unrest. In addition to smashing the windows, it said, he spray-painted a message on the doors that encouraged looting. The store was on the opposite corner from the city’s 3rd Precinct building, which protesters later burned after the police abandoned it.

The suspect “wanted to sow discord and racial unrest by breaking out the windows and writing what he did on the double red doors,” the affidavit said.

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The man’s name and telephone number were listed in the affidavit, but a man who answered a call to that number said, “You have the wrong number,” asked to be sent a copy of the affidavit and then hung up. A lawyer who represented him in a previous case did not respond to a request for comment.

The suspect is a member of the Hells Angels and an associate of the Aryan Cowboys, a prison gang in Minnesota and Kentucky, the affidavit said. Neither group could be immediately reached.

The Trump administration has often sought to blame the vandalism that took place during nationwide protests on leftist agitators. Attorney-General William Barr claimed that “in many places,” the protests were led by “far-left extremists,” but there is no evidence that anti-fascists coordinated demonstrations.

In the aftermath of the unrest in Minneapolis, a cross-section of officials, activists, business owners and residents have suggested that some of the destruction resulted from a breakdown in governance. They say the mayor and other local leaders, many of them relatively new to their roles, failed to anticipate the intensity of the unrest or put together an effective plan to manage it.

A previous accusation that Umbrella Man was a member of the St Paul Police Department became so widespread that the department issued a denial. It released a series of time-stamped surveillance videos showing that the officer was in St Paul at the time of the episode.

The St Paul police chief, Todd Axtell, issued a statement berating people on social media for spreading false information that could jeopardise an officer’s reputation and undermine trust in the police.

The New York Times

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