MSNBC Reporter Insists Riots Aren't 'Unruly' While Standing in Front of Burning Building

An MSNBC reporter claimed on Thursday night that riots against police in Minneapolis were "not generally speaking unruly" while flames could be seen engulfing a building behind him. 

"I want to be clear on how I characterize this. This is mostly a protest. It is not generally speaking unruly, but fires have been started, and this crowd is relishing that," said Ali Velshi, who was reporting live from the Twin Cities. 

"There is a deep sense of grievance and complaint here, and that is the thing. That when you discount people who are doing things to public property that they shouldn't be doing, it does have to be understood that this city has got, for the last several years, an issue with police, and it's got a real sense of the deep sense of grievance of inequality."

As Velshi downplayed the destruction, a liquor store and a smoke shop burned in the background.
  • Minutes prior, Velshi had covered rioters overrunning the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct and setting it ablaze as a crowd cheered, chanted and set off fireworks. 
  • Velshi also pointed out another nearby liquor store that rioters had burned.
Velshi's characterization of the riots was widely mocked by conservatives on Twitter.  Some noted that MSNBC's parent company, NBC, has apparently prohibited reporters from describing the unrest in Minneapolis as "riots."

Why they're rioting: Thursday was the second night of looting and arson in Minneapolis after three days of protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man, in police custody on Monday. 
  • Floyd died after pleading, “I can’t breathe,” while a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck, a viral video of the arrest shows. 
Earlier on Thursday, tens of thousands of protesters in Minnesota and nationwide demanded that four now-fired officers from the Third Precinct be arrested for their handling of the arrest. 
  • Justice Department officials said they were leading a "robust criminal investigation" into the death of Floyd. 
  • President Donald Trump, who has condemned the actions of the officers involved, urged the department to expedite the probe. 
But protesters' anger was seemingly fueled by Minnesota prosecutors' announcement that they had not decided whether to charge the officers involved in Floyd's arrest.  In a late-night tweet, Trump condemned the Minneapolis rioters as "THUGS" and warned that "when the looting starts, the shooting starts" — leading to an escalation of his feud with Twitter.
  • Trump also called Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, a Democrat, "weak."
Frey rejected the criticism at a press conference early Friday morning. 
  • He said he had ordered police to vacate the Third Precint before it was overrun by rioters after learning of "imminment threats."
Democratic Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, echoing comments by Frey the previous day, expressed understanding toward the rioters even as he pleaded for a restoration of law and order.

“The ashes are symbolic of years and generations of pain, of anguish,” Walz said at an afternoon briefing, referring to the dozens of Minneapolis arsons this week and a history of racist policing, respectively.
  • But he added, “We have to restore order.”
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