MINNEAPOLIS — Drifting out of the shadows in small groups, dressed in black, carrying shields and wearing knee pads, they head toward the front lines of the protest. Helmets and gas masks protect and obscure their faces, and they carry bottles of milk to counteract tear gas and pepper spray.
Most of them appear to be white. They carry no signs and don’t want to speak to reporters. Trailed by designated “medics” with red crosses taped to their clothes, these groups head straight for the front lines of the conflict.
Night after night in this ravaged city, these small groups do battle with police and the National Guard, kicking away tear gas canisters and throwing back foam-rubber projects fired at them. Around them, fires break out. Windows are smashed. Parked cars destroyed. USA TODAY reporters have witnessed the groups on multiple nights, in multiple locations. Sometimes they threaten those journalists who photograph them destroying property.
Leggat, the security consultant, said intelligence reports from his colleagues indicate most of the hard-core protesters in Minneapolis are far-left or anarchists, and that far-right groups have not yet made a significant appearance. He said looting is typically done by locals – usually people with no criminal record who just get caught up in the moment.
But direct conflicts with authorities come from a mix of both locals and outside groups who see these conflicts as a core part of their mission. Many of the anarchists, he said, target banks, chain-type businesses and even luxury cars as symbols of corrupt institutions. He said even a peaceful protest can turn violent if outside agitators decide to participate, hijacking the message. – READ MORE
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