Back in May, Black Lives Matter protests received criticism from conservative politicians and the media for allegedly inciting violence that resulted in property damage. While there are arguments to be made about why people are more important than property, in response to the criticism many social media users began pointing out that those instigating the violence appeared to be doing so against the wishes of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Videos of white protesters smashing windows circulated from cities across the country, with many speculating these were alt-right interlopers or undercover law enforcement attempting to undermine the protests following the murder of George Floyd.
In this context, footage of a masked man with an umbrella in Minneapolis went viral, showing the man smashing the windows of an AutoZone during a Black Lives Matter protest.
As the video gained notoriety, many attempted to identify the person dubbed the “Umbrella Man.” Minneapolis police claimed this man’s actions sparked a series of fires and looting in the days to come, as the Star Tribune reports.
“This was the first fire that set off a string of fires and looting throughout the precinct and the rest of the city,” Minneapolis Police Department investigator Erika Christensen wrote in a search warrant affidavit filed in court this week. “Until the actions of the person your affiant has been calling ‘Umbrella man,’ the protests had been relatively peaceful. The actions of this person created an atmosphere of hostility and tension. Your affiant believes that this individual’s sole aim was to incite violence.”
It seems the Twitter speculation wasn’t far off, as police have now identified the rioter as a member of the white supremacist Hell’s Angels biker gang. He is reportedly also a member of the white supremacist group the Aryan Cowboy Brotherhood, and the Star Tribune linked him to the harassment of a Muslim woman and her 4-year-old last month.
The 32-year-old man, who has not been publicly identified, is not currently facing any criminal charges.
The MPD found the man through a tip sent via email that identified him as a Hell’s Angels member who “wanted to sow discord and racial unrest by breaking out the windows and writing what he did on the double red doors,” the affidavit reads.
This story follows a pattern we’re seeing nationwide. Anti-police white supremacists reportedly infiltrated peaceful Black Lives Matter protests in Richmond, Virginia over the weekend. Others are instigating violence against protesters, such as the man who murdered Garrett Foster during a peaceful protest in Austin, Texas on Saturday night. While these actions are incredibly disturbing, most of the violence during protests is being escalated by militarized state and federal officers.