Even northern towns under curfew tonight after chaotic week in Minnesota

Minneapolis residents clean up after Friday night’s riots. (PHOTO: Fibonacci Blue, Flickr CC-BY)

UPDATE June 1: A peaceful night passed on the Iron Range. Further review indicates that internet rumors prompted Range towns to set curfews. Efforts to organize peaceful protests in these towns became wildly misinterpreted.

Original May 31:

Today, peaceful demonstrations took place in towns across northern Minnesota, including Bemidji, Grand Rapids, Hibbing and Virginia. In each location crowds gathered to protest the murder of George Floyd, the Black man killed by a Minneapolis police officer last Monday. 

But even 200 miles away from the devastation in Minneapolis and St. Paul, officials in these towns ordered curfews for Sunday night. They cited nonspecific but credible threats by unnamed “outside groups.”

Last night, Duluth went under curfew after protestors managed to shut down I-35 for a time. Acts of vandalism were reported in the city.

In Bemidji, Mayor Rita Albrecht said the curfews she ordered on Saturday and Sunday nights aren’t related to the peaceful protests in her city. Rather, she said law enforcement became aware of chatter by outside groups to cause trouble after Saturday’s crackdown in the Twin Cities.

Hibbing Mayor Rick Cannata ordered a curfew for 9 p.m. Sunday until 6 a.m. Monday. People can still go to and from work and members of the media are exempt, according to Eric Killelea in the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

Meantime, Virginia, Minn., Mayor Larry Cuffe Jr. ordered a curfew that starts at 10 p.m.

Though rumors of a curfew in Grand Rapids, Minn., flew around social media I find no reports of one actually being called. Several Grand Rapids businesses closed today, however. A peaceful protest took place in the lawn of Central Square School this afternoon. But it looks pretty mellow in all the pictures I’ve seen. 

This term, “outside group,” becomes a complicated piece of this puzzle. Law enforcement agencies in the Twin Cities report that many of the most violent, destructive participants in the riots there were not specifically protesting the death of Floyd. Rather, they were anarchists, white supremacists, or perhaps just opportunistic criminals. We don’t really know yet. 

We know there are organized elements sowing the worst of the chaos. Why did some of these combatants use organized urban warfare tactics? This suggests much more than just a protest that got out of hand. 

I’d argue that social media itself seems to be fostering divergent threads of rumors and threats, some feeding back in on one another. 

Meantime, police and sheriff departments across Minnesota have been arming themselves with powerful guns, armored cars, and riot gear for the last several years. We will now find out if these things will be used as a last resort, or if overzealous officers will make things worse. I’m really not certain about the outcome.

It’s possible that Iron Range officials overreacted here. I suppose I don’t see the information they’re using to implement a curfew. Or the criteria used to close Hibbing schools tomorrow (something I just learned about). But whether this was borne of panic, caution, or specific threats, at least it shows that Minnesota is one state, dealing with the same problems.

Real problems avoided never go away. Inequalities facing communities of color in Minnesota and beyond won’t solve themselves. Emotions about life and death don’t cool naturally. Festering hate found online and in our communities won’t just evaporate when it encounters a rainbow.

We must address each of many important wrongs in our society to restore true prosperity and order. Glossing them over might get politicians through another election or two. But the problems will remain and the end result will be worse yet.



  1. The protest in Grand Rapids was peaceful and handled well by the police officers of Grand Rapids. The Stores closed do to bomb threats and all our Local Stores,S.1,T,walgrn, wally

  2. How dare you say, ” Iron Range officials may have overreacted. ” They were smart to “get ahead of the game” before any potential violence.

    • Oh, I dare. Social media is caked with ridiculous rumors and conflation of peaceful protests (which have happened for all manner of causes and political parties) with the violent activities seen in cities across America. I think simple police work and everyday diligence in exploring threats is all that is required for small towns. Evidence shows that ramping up security and limiting freedom of movement increases the chances of violence, despite authoritarian claims to the contrary. The old saying goes “When you’re a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.” So it goes for increasing the anxiety and stress of police riot suppression before there are any riots. Preparedness, sure. Police should (and do) have plans for different contingencies. But let’s not lose our heads because we’re stressed out over the news.

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