Burned building Minneapolis

A burned down building in Minneapolis following a night of rioting in response to the death of George Floyd.

(The Center Square) – Gov. Tim Walz is requesting financial support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) after rioters damaged half a billion dollars worth of public and private property after George Floyd was killed while he was detained by Minneapolis police.

“We’re asking our federal partners to step up and help our communities recover,” Walz said in a statement. “We need to come together to ensure Minnesotans who were victims of this destruction have access to critical infrastructure they need so they can go to the grocery store, pick up their medication, and live their lives. Together, we will rebuild.”

Rioters burned, looted or vandalized nearly 1,500 Twin Cities businesses, the letter stated, with estimated damages exceeding $500 million – the second most expensive riots in the United States after the 1992 Los Angeles civil unrest following the police beating of Rodney King. 

Walz requested President Donald Trump “declare a major disaster for the State of Minnesota because of extensive fire damage to public infrastructure caused by civil unrest.”

A preliminary damage assessment calculated $15.6 million in fire-related eligible damages.

“While many areas suffered damage, Minneapolis bore the brunt of the destruction,” Walz wrote. “Deliberately set fires were used to wantonly destroy local businesses, public buildings, and other property.”

A FEMA spokesperson said that Walz requested assistance for Hennepin County and hazard mitigation statewide, which is currently under review.

“If approved, FEMA’s Public Assistance (PA) Grant Program supports communities’ recovery from major disasters by providing them with grant assistance for debris removal, life-saving emergency protective measures, and restoring public infrastructure. Local governments, states, tribes, territories and certain private nonprofit organizations are eligible to apply,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to The Center Square.

In his letter, Walz also noted the state’s projected $2.4 billion revenue deficit was an accompanying challenge; the state's previously pre-COVID 19 projected $2 billion surplus changing to an almost $4 billion deficit.

Although Minnesota spent almost $13 million deploying up to 7,000 National Guard members, it didn’t stop business owners from losing their livelihoods.

In a hearing started last week, lawmakers heard testimony from business owners and employees who attempted to defend their stores from looters.

Jim Stage, who owned Lloyd’s Pharmacy in St. Paul, teared up when recounting how more than 100 people looted his business, which was destroyed.

“I’ve kind of been moving on from this,” Stage told lawmakers last week. “I don’t know why I’m getting emotional. ... I bought this pharmacy in 2014. I had worked there, interned there. I grew up in the neighborhood. I went there as a kid. So I think that’s probably why it’s more emotional for me."

He estimated losing close to $3 million, counting his building, drug stock and other expenses.

Bobby Awaijane, an employee of Stop-N-Shop on East Lake Street in Minneapolis, described defending his family business for seven consecutive days, sleeping just hours each night.

In 2015, FEMA denied Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s request for federal aid to rebuild parts of Baltimore after the riots over Freddie Gray’s death in police custody.

“The social and economic impacts of this incident will be felt for years, if not decades,” Walz wrote in the letter.

Staff Reporter

Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.