By Abigail J. Anderson
This past year, I watched painfully as my city burned to the ground. I am a native Minnesotan, born and raised in the Twin City suburbs. I love Minnesota—the lakes, natural beauty, the people, the history and culture, and all the museums and entertainment the Twin Cities have to offer.
On May 25, 2020, the entire country witnessed a tragedy in Minneapolis as Derek Chauvin kneeled on the neck of George Floyd for 9 minutes, resulting in Mr. Floyd’s death. As the story broke, I remember talking to others online and in-person about how evil this act was. It seemed to be an issue that everyone agreed on, which seemed refreshing in the wake of increasing COVID-19 political turmoil. I hoped our country could overcome this unjust act. I believed that people and elected officials would come together for bipartisan legislation and civil discussion to stop this from happening again. However, soon after, violence and political turmoil escalated in Minneapolis and St. Paul in protest of Mr. Floyd’s death.
Not only were various grocery stores looted, violence soon escalated at the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct. Jacob Frey, the mayor of Minneapolis, eventually gave in to the violent rioters and issued a stand-down order to the police. Following the evacuation of the Precinct, rioters quickly burned the building to the ground. And it didn’t stop there. Night after night, the city burned. Much of the arson took place on Lake Street in Minneapolis, an area of the city consisting of many small businesses run by Somalis and other local ethnic groups. These businesses had just been allowed to open again due to COVID-19 and were already struggling.
As Caitlin Dickerson, a journalist with the New York Times, stated:
And as night fell on Minneapolis, the heart of widening protests set off by the death of an African-American man in police custody there, business owners stood outside their doors and pleaded with agitators to spare the enterprises that many said they had spent their life savings to build.
“I was outside saying, ‘Please, I don’t have insurance!’” said Hussein Aloshani, an immigrant from Iraq, waving his arms in frustration as he recounted the scene Friday night outside the deli his family owns.
The rioting got so bad during those nights that if one called the fire department, they would be put on a long waitlist, having to wait well into the next morning for assistance.
I watched in sadness as these small businesses, grocery stores, and pharmacies were burned to the ground. In the wake of the violence, public transportation was shut down, and many citizens were left without any way to get to a grocery store or pharmacy. Unfortunately, many such businesses within walking distance were burned to the ground, leaving too many with no way to get food, medications, or even diapers for their children.
During these days, I wondered why I saw so many online, posting in sympathy of the rioters, posting falsehoods about how no one committed violence but the police. Even various celebrities donated thousands to bail out rioters from jail. I watched in shock as donations and support poured into Black Lives Matter (BLM), one of the main recognizers of the riots. My heart rather broke for the innocent small business owners and citizens in the community, one of which even died in the riots, burned to death inside a pawn shop. It seemed that no one was willing to condemn the violence that was going on or even acknowledge it, deeming the rioters “mostly peaceful protestors.” Perhaps most of all, I was disturbed when the Minneapolis city council later voted to defund the police, which has predictably resulted in skyrocketing crime in the Twin Cities ever since.
The national media never showed how harmful these riots actually were. Yes, of course, there were peaceful protests, which are a constitutional right and should never be condemned, but there were also nights of mass violence and crime. Even I felt the effects, despite living around an hour away. Even in my county, curfews were imposed, stores were shut down, and there was a mass evacuation from the city to safer suburb areas like my town. We even wondered if this rioting would spread to our local outlet mall at night and wondered who else we knew from church or otherwise might be in danger living in the cities.
Experiencing only a small part of the chaos and violence that have forever changed the place I have called home my whole life made me realize I couldn’t be afraid to speak out anymore. I felt an increased desire to become more involved with politics and government, which led me to discover the student groups at the Madison Liberty Institute in the fall of 2020. This discovery allowed me to become reacquainted with the most important founding principles of liberty in our country, namely the U.S. Constitution.
It never says in the Constitution that we have a right to violently assemble. In fact, the first amendment clearly states: “Congress shall make no law….prohibiting the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Freedom of speech and peaceful assembly is the cornerstone of our democratic republic, not freedom of violence. Great reform has come from peaceful assembly, such as women’s suffrage and Dr. King’s civil rights of the 1960s. But I can’t remember a time in my life when our government, and its people, have been so unwilling to condemn violence over political reasons or fear of controversy.
We talk about the freedom in America which we are blessed to have. But even our freedom has limitations. Our unalienable rights are only ours if we don’t infringe on others. And violence does harm. Lake Street and other parts of Minneapolis may never fully recover from the horrific aftermath of last summer. Indeed, the 25 people or more killed across the country in those summer riots and the countless others killed unnecessarily throughout all of American history through similar means will never get their lives back. This past year has shown me that the American people who wish for peace need to fight harder now more than ever to achieve it. I urge everyone to speak out against violence in all forms. Most importantly, vote leadership into office that will do the same. Otherwise, someday, we may not have a country left.
About the Author:
Abigail J. Anderson was born and raised in Minnesota. A nursing major at Brigham Young University – Idaho, she first set foot in Idaho shortly before her first day of college and since has come to love Idaho. When she’s not learning how to poke people with needles or studying, she enjoys the outdoors, reading, and listening to classic country music.
Abigail is part of Spark Freedom‘s Turning Point USA chapter at the Madison Liberty Institute. She draws her political inspiration from commentators like Larry Elder and America’s forgotten working class. She is also inspired by stories of freedom such as Washington’s crossing of the Delaware or the Wars of Scottish Independence. Abigail was exposed to politics and government from a young age and even went to a Ted Cruz presidential rally in St. Paul when she was 15.