WASHINGTON — Scott Nichols, a balloon artist, was riding home on his scooter from the protests engulfing Minneapolis last weekend when he was struck by a rubber bullet fired from a cluster of police officers in riot gear.
“I just pulled over and put my hands up, because I didn’t want to get killed,” said Nichols, 40. “Anybody that knows me knows I wasn’t out there to cause problems.”
Nichols, who before the coronavirus pandemic made his living performing at children’s birthday parties under the stage name “Amazing Scott,” spent two days in jail before being released on criminal charges of riot and curfew violation.
President Donald Trump has characterized those clashing with law enforcement after George Floyd’s death under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer as organized, radical-left thugs engaging in domestic terrorism, an assertion repeated by Attorney General William Barr. Some Democrats, including Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, initially tried to blame out-of-state far-right infiltrators for the unrest before walking back those statements.
There is scant evidence either is true.
The Associated Press analyzed court records, employment histories, social media posts and other sources of information for 217 people arrested last weekend in Minneapolis and the District of Columbia, two cities at the epicenter of the protests across the United States.
Rather than outside agitators, more than 85% of those arrested by police were local residents. Of those charged with such offenses as curfew violations, rioting and failure to obey law enforcement, only a handful appeared to have any affiliation with organized groups.
Those charged with more serious offenses related to looting and property destruction – such as arson, burglary and theft – often had past criminal records. But they, too, were overwhelmingly local residents taking advantage of the chaos.
Social media posts indicate only a few of those arrested…