March 1, 2021
Submitted by Carol Becker
Sheila Nezhad (Mayoral candidate) wrote in “Minneapolis doesn’t need a National Guard Occupation” how she believes that the deployment of the National Guard during the riots in May did nothing to protect Minneapolis. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I spent the two nights of the riots guarding my father’s condo building two blocks from the Third Precinct. I stood there all night both nights, confronting arsonists and looters and people bent on destruction, trying to make sure my father’s home wasn’t destroyed. I had a gun pulled on me. I got a baseball bat to my car. I was physically threatened repeatedly. I watched helplessly as gangs looted the Sprint Store and CitiTrends. I watched people loot HiLake Liquor the first night and then come back the second night. I watched people throw Molotov cocktails at the Wells Fargo Bank. I watched people loot the Seven Mile Beauty store, stealing armfuls of weaves and putting them in their car, which had “Black Lives Matter” scrawled on it. I saw a minivan driving off from the furniture store with a chair strapped to it. I watched hundreds of people looting my Target Store in broad daylight. I watched them set the Dollar General store on fire the first night and no fire department came. I watched arsonists carry propane tanks into the furniture and beauty stores and heard the propane tanks explode and I watched these businesses burn to the ground. I picked up a nine-millimeter shell off the Target parking lot.
If you don’t believe me, I have pictures.
I asked people why they did it. The answer was unanimous. There were no consequences. One of the looters asked his friends, “Where should we go loot next?” Because there was no one to stop him.
Why did they stop? On my corner, at 3:30 am on the second night, the National Guard set up a perimeter in front of our building. And it all stopped. All the looters and arsonists and violence just melted away. I can’t describe the depth of my relief. I wanted to hug the National Guard.
I would also note that they arrived hours after the arsonists set fire to the HiLake Mall, not before as Nezhad claims.
Nezhad believes these were peaceful protesters “exercising their constitutional right to free speech and assembly.” The Lake Street destruction shows the truth.
The differing perceptions between Nezhad and I are really emblematic of the debate over policing in Minneapolis. And maybe the root of our debate is our belief in humanity. Nezhad argues that people are fundamentally good and if they are not provoked by “militaristic” actions, we will all be safe. If you believe that about humanity, maybe we don’t need police. I believe that people are self-interested and will harm others and enrich themselves if they can get away with it. I say this not just because of my experience during the riots, I also say it as someone who had had a violent man come to my house three times over three months to steal my catalytic converter. He may have come more, but I just stopped fixing it because I am on the monthly route of a criminal.
Nezhad’s perceptions of the world just seem naïve to me. And dangerous. Without someone to provide consequences, we will see the same thing we saw the first time when there were no consequences – violence, destruction and death. If the National Guard comes again, I want them parked right in front of my dad’s place. Maybe this time I will hug some of them.