Photo Credit: Screenshot of Augsburg University Archives video, and the Facebook page of Mayor Jacob Frey
Minneapolis Mayors Arthur Naftalin (L) and Jacob Frey

It’s a baffling thing with the progressive Jewish mayors of Minneapolis, Minnesota: somehow, their reigns coincide with huge race riots.

Jacob Frey is Minneapolis’s second Jewish mayor, he is a member of the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party, and has been active in community organizing. As mayor, Frey reformed the Minneapolis Police Department’s body camera policy, tying non-compliance to strict disciplinary consequences. Since 2018, officer compliance with the body camera policy reached record highs.

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On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, 46, a black man, died after a white officer pinned his neck to the pavement with his knee while Floyd was in handcuffs. The initial video of the outrageous event were later supported by police bodycams. Public outrage grew over what looked to many like the execution of a restrained man whose crime, by the way, was reportedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a nearby store.

Mayor Arthur Naftalin won his first term in office in 1961, joined the 1963 March on Washington and was at Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Then, in 1967, Naftalin called in the National Guard to put down the 1967 Plymouth Avenue civil unrest. The riots began with the mistreatment of a black woman by Minneapolis police.

It came to be known as the long, hot summer of 1967, with 159 race riots that erupted across the United States. In June 1967 there were riots in Atlanta, Boston, Cincinnati, Buffalo, and Tampa. In July there were riots in Birmingham, Chicago, New York City, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New Britain, Rochester, and Plainfield. The worst riots that summer took place in July, in Newark, New Jersey, and Detroit, Michigan.

Around 11:30 PM on July 19, 1967, a crowd of African Americans moved towards Plymouth Avenue, where they violently protested discrimination and mistreatment by police and Jewish business owners. The crowd vandalized, looted, and burned stores on Plymouth Avenue. Someone threw Molotov cocktails at the home of Jewish city-councilman Joe Greenstein. By early in the morning of July 20, ten Plymouth Avenue stores had been vandalized. Silver’s Food Market and Knox Food Market—both Jewish-owned businesses—were completely destroyed by fires. Ten people were treated at local hospitals, and thirteen African Americans—including children—were arrested.

Mayor Frey tweeted on Wednesday: “If most people, particularly people of color, had done what a police officer did late Monday, they’d already be behind bars.”

Frey has since become the target of Twitter attacks by President Donald Trump, who charged: “I can’t stand back and watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis. A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right.”

Twitter slapped a warning on Trump’s next tweet: “These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen … Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!” The tweet was soon declared to be in violation of “Twitter rules about glorifying violence.” Needless to say, this did not go over well at the White House.

A reporter read aloud Trump’s tweets to Mayor Frey, who responded: “Let me say this: weakness is refusing to take responsibility for your own actions. Weakness is pointing your finger at somebody else at a time of crisis.”

Frey then said: “Donald Trump knows nothing about the strength of Minneapolis. We are strong as hell. This is a difficult time, yes, but you better be damn sure that we’re going to get through this.”

A fourth day of violence has ensued on Saturday in Los Angeles, site of the nation’s largest race riots in the 1990s. Mayor Eric Garcetti on Saturday asked Gov. Gavin Newsom as many as 700 National Guard soldiers to assist the LAPD. The Guardsmen are due early Sunday. A curfew was declared in the city after rioters clashed with police repeatedly, set police cars on fire and looted stores. Saturday’s clashes took place in the Fairfax District, the historic center of LA’s Jewish community, known for its upscale shopping.

Protests mixed with riots for a fifth night early Sunday, with escalating violence, looting and firebombing in at least 25 cities, including Minneapolis, Philadelphia and New York. Two police cars were set on fire in New York. In Philadelphia, protesters set fire to a statue of former mayor and police commissioner Frank Rizzo. Protesters outside the White House set fires and fireworks. Altogether, it is estimated that 1,400 rioters have been arrested in 17 cities across the US since Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

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