Federal government denies Minnesota request for funds to rebuild after riots

President Donald Trump’s administration has denied Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’s request for $500 million to rebuild Minneapolis after protesters turned violent and destroyed hundreds of businesses in the wake of George Floyd’s May death in Minneapolis, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

A total of about 1,500 buildings in the city have been damaged or destroyed in unrest that started May 25 in response to the death of Floyd in police custody, and local officials and police did little to stop the damage.

“After a thorough review of Minnesota’s request for a major disaster declaration from extensive fire damage as a result of civil unrest in late May and early June, it was determined that the impact to public infrastructure is within the capabilities of the local and state governments to recover from,” a statement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) read, according to a report from TwinCities.com. “The governor has 30 days to appeal that decision.”

Walz was reportedly “disappointed” by the decision and is deciding whether to pursue an appeal.

Millions in damage

A preliminary damage assessment revealed $16 million in fire damage, and federal funds would have been used to fund repair and debris removal by local governments. A total of $500 million in damage was sustained during the riots, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

President Donald Trump repeatedly urged cities where violence and damage were taking place to seek help from the National Guard, the military, or other federal resources, but many police departments did not use all of the assistance at their disposal to quell the violence.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey did use National Guard troops to help get the violence under control, but not until the majority of the damage was already done during nearly a week of rioting. At one point during that time, Frey approved a decision for Minneapolis police to abandon the 3rd Precinct to rioters, who promptly set it on fire.

By the end of the week, Walz had to take control of the response. Even so, Walz praised Frey, as The Washington Post noted, rather than criticizing his weak and ineffective response.

Thorough review required

Minnesota Republican Rep. Tom Emmer asked Trump in a letter Thursday to conduct a “thorough review” of how the state and local governments responded to the protests so that everyone involved now and in the future can learn from what was done and to prevent it from happening again, the Star-Tribune reported.

“If the federal government is expected to assist in the cleanup of these unfortunate weeks, it has an obligation to every American — prior to the release of funding — to fully understand the events which allowed for this level of destruction to occur and ensure it never happens again,” Emmer said in the letter.

While it is easy to feel sympathy for the business owners who had their property destroyed in the rioting, the feds and Emmer are absolutely right that the government can’t be expected to bail out local and state officials who were negligent in their duty to restore order and stop the protesters as soon as they became violent.

The damage and destruction of such a large number of buildings — mostly private property — rests squarely on Frey and Walz and all those in charge who let the violence continue for weeks. If the federal government foots the bill to rebuild, what lesson will the country learn about the consequences of similar failures in the future?

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