A Minnesota police department denied accusations from critics who believe they deployed undercover officers to undermine protests happening in Minneapolis.
On Thursday videos showing a white man dressed in all black and a mask smashing windows at an AutoZone in Minneapolis was circulated on Twitter. The man had no sense of urgency as he calmly walked to each window and hit it with a hammer.
He did not stop until protesters intervened and chased him away. When one person asked if he was a cop, the guy replied, “it doesn’t matter.”
The clips led many to believe law enforcement was trying to sabotage the movement.
“Yo this guy is *almost certainly* a white supremacist there to instigate violence. This video needs to be shared everywhere,” wrote one person.
“Because the explanation that it’s a cop makes more sense. Why would an actual person protesting Floyd’s murder, do this just to make the rest of the protest look bad?” asked another Twitter user. “Law enforcement have acted as agent provocateurs before. It’s a reasonable explanation here.”
Some named a St. Paul Police officer as the culprit based on text messages from his alleged ex-fiancée, but those claims were not verified.
St. Paul Police denied the man with the hammer was one of their officers.
“We don’t know who that person is, but we hope he’s identified and held accountable for his actions,” the department tweeted.
“Our officer? He’s been working hard, keeping people and property safe, and protecting the right to peacefully assemble. It’s sad that people would post and share this untrue information, adding more confusion to an already painful time in our community.”
Minneapolis has been engulfed by demonstrations since George Floyd died on Monday night, after former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin pressed a knee into his neck. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz acknowledged the painful reality of Floyd’s death but denounced the behavior of some demonstrators.
“What the world has witnessed since the killing of George Floyd on Monday has been a visceral pain, a community trying to understand who we are and where we go from here,” Walz said.
“As we put a presence on the street to restore order, it is to open that space, to seek justice and heal what happened,” he continued. “I will not in any way not acknowledge that there is going to be that pain, but my first and foremost responsibility to the state of Minnesota is the safety and security of all citizens. We cannot have the looting and recklessness that went on.”
Chauvin was taken into custody on Friday afternoon. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced he was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.