Target store looted

Target store located near Minneapolis’ Third Precinct police headquarters.

Looters, Big Box Stores, and Racism

Target store looted
Target store located near Minneapolis’ Third Precinct police headquarters.

Amid the violent protests that took place on Wednesday, May 27, a woman named Jennifer wielded a knife while maneuvering a motorized wheelchair in an attempt to block looters from leaving a Target store in Minneapolis.

The Target store is located near the Minneapolis Police station where riots took place in response to the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin.

Prior to going inside the Target store, Jennifer was captured on camera attempting to grab a looter’s cart before being physically pushed away. Jennifer grabbed a knife, hopped on an electric wheelchair, and drove into the store prepared to lay her life down for her local Target.

According to videos posted on Twitter, the woman is sprayed with a fire extinguisher, and a voice can be heard saying, “Jennifer, is that enough?” and “Jennifer, is there anything I can do for you, please?” — but she held her ground.

Afterward, Jennifer said that she was “peacefully protesting” and “trying to block the way, so they couldn’t leave with cartfuls of stuff.”

“They attacked me … from the front and back,” Jennifer continued. “They punched me in my mouth, my head, I got punched in the head several times. I got grabbed from behind. … They stole my keys. They stole everything they could off of me. I got maced in the face. I got covered with fire extinguisher stuff. I’ve already seen the EMTs and they told me to go home.”

Afterward, another video was shared on Twitter where a person can be heard telling Jennifer, “I’m so sorry, ma’am. Can we get you off the street? … Can we move your chair?”

Jennifer refused. She said, “I’m trying to block traffic so they don’t go down that way,” she said. “I’ve been involved with the cops before. We’re cool.”

America’s Moral Arbiters

Property is inanimate. It doesn’t breathe, it doesn’t have hopes, dreams, or mouths to feed. There are properties we cherish—our homes, our places of worship, buildings of historical and cultural significance. A Target is not one of these places, and neither is an Arby’s, a Wendy’s, an Aldi, an Autozone, or an empty construction site. It’s safe to say that the aforementioned establishments are better insured than many Americans. But just as a destroyed CVS became a symbol of the unruliness of protesters in following the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, so too is the Minneapolis Target store that provided protesters with a sliver of catharsis in the face of an uncaring police force and an uncaring society.

In “The Black Riot,” Raven Rakia argues that “When the same system that refuses to protect black children comes out to protect windows, what is valued over black people in America becomes very clear,” Rakia wrote. “One cannot discuss the immorality of damaging property without devaluing the rage that brought protesters to this point.”

For far too many Americans, it is easier to mourn the destruction of a series of chain stores, owned and operated by millionaires, than the death of a Black American.

Since 2015, Minnesota police have been responsible for a series of high-profile killings of black men: Marcus Golden, Jamar Clark, Philando Castile, and now George Floyd. Minnesota is one of the most racially inequitable states in the nation and responsible for serious acts of injustice against its black residents. None of the above has resulted in riots until now, a feat of extreme restraint considering the history of racist violence and execution by state forces. Because as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, a riot is the “language of the unheard.”

The idea that looting is opportunistic folly negating the fight for justice is absurd. A protester told media outlet Unicorn Riot that while he believed the looting does little to bring about justice, it’s minor compared to what was already lost.

“All this is replaceable,” he said, gesturing toward the burning buildings around him. “But life? When you take lives… you can’t replace it, you know what I’m sayin’?”

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