“I think that America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air.
Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But, in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? “
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “The Other America,” April 14, 1967. Stanford.
Far-Right Infiltrators and Agitators in George Floyd Protests
by Mia Bloom
When anyone studies the Middle East for as long as I have, you become practically immune to conspiracy theories. The word in Arabic “muamarrat” is pervasive and after hearing my whole adult life about the hidden forces behind various catastrophes one automatically winces when someone tries to push the real story they heard somewhere or saw on social media.
The protests that have torn through the United States, following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minnesota police officers, shift the emphasis in real time videos broadcast nationally. The images challenge our beliefs about who is really protesting and for what reason.
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz echoed this sentiment in a press conference on Saturday alleging that the demonstrations that caused so much damage included provocateurs, likely from outside the area. State officials said around 80 percent of those arrested in the Twin Cities on Friday were from outside Minnesota. Former FBI agent and CNN commentator, Josh Campbell wrote, that Minnesota “authorities have been monitoring alleged criminals online, including postings by suspected white supremacists trying to incite violence.”
Before the rioting started in Washington DC, Brooklyn, Denver, Atlanta, and other cities, allegations emerged that undercover police officers might be to blame for some of the worst commercial destruction in Minneapolis. Experts on political violence (and not just Qanon conspiracy theorists) shared stories on social media that the May 27 looting and arson at AutoZone by an unidentified man in a gas mask carrying an open umbrella (dubbed #umbrellaman) was not necessarily a protester but could be an agent provocateur or member of the police. In video posted to YouTube, while this man smashed windows with a hammer, protesters at the scene accused him of being an outsider and began to film him.
According to reporting in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “The man’s actions were so odd that other rioters in the area paused their own protests to call him out and began filming. “Are you a f—ing cop?” someone else can be heard yelling to the man as he disappeared from view.”
People in St Paul (including someone saying they are a former fiancé) claimed to have identified #umbrellaman as Jacob Pederson, a member of the St. Paul police whose goal would appear to be to exacerbate racial tensions and instigate more property damage in order to undermine the legitimacy of the protests against police brutality. However, the Saint Paul Police Department issued an unequivocal statement saying the individual was not Pederson, and told reporters that Pederson had a complete alibi. “We spoke with his supervisor, who was with him. We spoke to his colleagues, who were with him,” said Steve Linders, public information officer for the St. Paul Police Department. “We were able to verify where the officer was and who he was with. In fact, he was working, as a Saint Paul police officer, protecting people and property.”