Suspicion of far-right and white supremacist infiltration of peaceful protests of the police killing of George Floyd continues to surface as demonstrations in several cities turned violent and left untold damage and injuries overnight.
In Minneapolis, the centerpoint of events went from vocal, but controlled, non-violent demonstrations to the looting and burning of businesses. In one case, where a police precinct was burned down, officials are now saying a variety of groups could be responsible. The suspicion ranges from far-right nationalists to left-wing radicals to even drug cartels and foreign operatives.
“We are now confronting white supremacists, members of organized crime, out of state instigators, and possibly even foreign actors to destroy and destabilize our city and our region,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey tweeted on Saturday (May 30.)
People in Minneapolis, however, are being very specific that they believe white supremacists are to blame for the damage made to the Black community. One person tweeted that in the Twin Cities, supplies have run low because of it.
Conversely, President Donald Trump has blamed left-wing and anti-fascist militant group ANTIFA for the violence in a recent tweet. He also officially designated them as a terrorist organization.
“There’s certainly a plurality of actors,” said Alexander Reid Ross, of the Center for Analysis of the Radical Right told Minnesota Public Radio. “It’s a complex ecosystem of a movement and you are seeing different groups contending to shift the balance in different directions. There is an element of provocation emerging. And I think that probably comes from within as well as from without.”
Ross went on to downplay Trump’s notion that ANTIFA was the cause of the fracas.
“Trump is saying it’s the radical left and ANTIFA. I was watching some videos and I didn’t recognize anybody from the usual protests that I see,” said Ross.
BET.com reached out to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Officials there say they have not intercepted any communications or plotting from any extremist groups but researchers continue to monitor the situation.
Several outlets have noted that while the peaceful and multicultural demonstrations have a focus on protesting the ongoing police violence against African Americans, a nefarious element has infiltrated many of these civil actions. In doing so, they have wreaked havoc, turning the focus of the narrative from the death of Floyd and other African Americans who have died at the hands of police to destroyed property and spurning cities into chaos.
For example, a strange man holding an umbrella was spotted on video in Minneapolis breaking windows at an AutoZone store. His behavior was so brazen that protestors confronted him directly.
St. Paul Police officials have denied social media rumors that the person is one of their own. “It’s malicious and it’s character assassination,” St. Paul police spokesman Steve Linders told Twin Cities.com.
Also in Minneapolis, more video was taken of vandalism and property destruction in the midst of a protest while at least one person can be seen begging looters to stop. Although who these people are is not clear, what does is apparent in the footage is that they are not connected to the actual demonstration.
In Minneapolis specifically, businesses in Black communities have suffered extensive damage. It is still unclear what the cost will be in monetary damage. The same may be true in other cities.
Although no single group has been specifically identified, reports have surfaced that far-right and white supremacist elements planned to exploit the demonstrations for their own purposes. A major group that is mentioned is the “Boogaloo-bois,” a group of anti-government types known for wearing Hawaiian-style shirts (because of a variation from the word “boogaloo” to “big luau” and referring to their desire for a new civil war), and showing up armed to other demonstrations and events, have had a presence in the Floyd protests.
According to investigative journalism website Bellingcat.com, Boogaloo-bois tries to position itself as allied with Black protesters, but does little to acknowledge anti-Black racism or police brutality against Blacks. The Bellingcast story cited several examples of racist rhetoric and possible links to white supremacist ideologues.
Other groups are reported to have more incendiary tactics as part of their ideology. People called “Accelerationists” are reportedly encouraging neo-nazis to go to Black protests and commit violence against Black people, according to Vice News.
It is currently unclear if people with these beliefs are directly related to the violence in Minneapolis or other cities but their rhetoric indicates they would support involvement. On a Telegram channel, Vice News reports, a message was posted that said “a riot would be the perfect place to commit a murder.” The movement aims at getting society to collapse faster and is known to have anti-semitic and racist sympathizers in its ranks.
Still, officials in Minnesota are hesitant to outwardly blamewhite supremacists for exploiting these demonstrations.Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said that while they have “seen things like white supremacist organizers posting on platforms about coming to Minnesota” he did said nothing to lay blame at their feet.
BET has been covering every angle of George Floyd’s death in police custody, other social justice cases and the subsequent aftermath and protests. For our continuing coverage, click here.
Photo by Mark Vancleave/Star Tribune via Getty Images