The Police Are The Out-Of-Towners Provoking Violence

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

Since protests of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis began on May 26, authorities at every level have blamed “outsiders” for provoking violence. On May 30, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter claimed that the large majority of protesters who had been arrested the previous night were from outside the state, a claim which turned out to be false.

US Attorney General William Barr claimed that the protests have been turning violent because of “groups of outside radicals and agitators,” a claim that he did not present evidence to support.

On June 1, Chief of the New York Police Department Terence Monahan claimed that protesters were coming “from California, from all over the country” to turn the protests violent, also without evidence.

And in the less consequential world of social media, people have speculated that broken windows and fires have been caused by white supremacists or anarchists who are not organic participants in the protests living in the community, in some cases capturing video that seems to support some of these assertions, though clear confirmation has been rare.

But there is a group which substantial and indisputable evidence shows is coming from outside the community and provoking violence: the police. In Minneapolis, 92 percent of police officers do not live in the city, but come in from other places, including from out of state. And additional state troopers and National Guardsmen have also been called in from outside Minneapolis.

In Monahan’s NYPD, the numbers are better: 62 percent of officers live inside the city limits—but only 45 percent of white officers do. Nationally, among the 75 cities with the largest police departments, only 35 percent of officers live in the cities they police.

In fact, Derek Chauvin, the officer who killed George Floyd, declared himself a resident of Florida on an application for a realtor license obtained by Minnesota reporter Tony Webster. He keeps a house in Florida and has voted in Florida in the last two federal elections.

In other words, the igniting spark that set off the conflict and turmoil in streets across the country was started by someone coming in from out-of-state and being needlessly violent: Derek Chauvin killing an unarmed black man who had not committed a crime and was not resisting arrest.

The many police coming in from outside the community have clearly been provoking violence and escalating conflicts on a nightly basis in cities around the country. The tactic of shooting tear gas and rubber bullets into peaceful crowds has been repeated at protest after protest. Protesters exercising their right to freedom of speech to express frustration with police tactics have been maced from close range in multiple cities.

In short, there is one group that has been clearly shown to be full of outsiders coming in from elsewhere to cause trouble and provoke violence: not protesters, but police.

Eric Murphy is a graduate of the UC Berkeley School of Journalism