The Siege of the 3rd Precinct: An anarchist playbook

For those looking for symbolism, there was no better prize: A police precinct in middle America, ransacked and on fire.  

The strategy behind that historic night of May 28, three days after the killing of George Floyd, is described in thorough detail in an anonymous essay, “The Siege of the Third Precinct in Minneapolis,”for the anarchist website, Crimethinc.

The author, or authors, write that their purpose is to “…to preserve the strategy that proved victorious.”  

Crimethinc did not reply to an email seeking comment. Law enforcement sources tell the FOX 9 Investigators the factual account it provides appears, on the whole, fairly accurate.  

The essay functions as both political analysis and military strategy paper, as it dissects the “composite” crowd and the use of “ballistics” like Molotov cocktails and fireworks.  

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo referenced the strategy police encountered at a press conference Wednesday, as he described how police were outmatched and overwhelmed.

“That did not appear to be organic, just based on emotion and reaction,” said Arradondo.  “There were strategic things that appeared to be going on at once, in key locations, (we) had not experienced that before.”

According to the account in Crimethinc, the large and diverse crowd of protestors was both a strategic and tactical advantage, that led to “ambiguity” about who was on the front lines, as peaceful protestors “created a spectacle of legitimacy” that “blocked police attempts to advance” and “shielded those who employed projectiles.”

“There was practically no one there from the usual gamut of self-appointed community and religious leaders, which meant that the crowd was able to transform the situation freely,” writes the authors. 

And transform it they did.

The essay provides a level of detail the public has not heard from police or elected officials, as it describes a two-day war of attrition against Minneapolis Police that drained the department’s resources. 

By Thursday, May 28, the anarchists write, police were surrounded by a “kingdom of ashes.” The Third Precinct was “a lonely target with depleted supplies,” an enemy “teetering on the brink. All it needed was a final push.”

The looting along Lake Street, “boosted the crowd’s morale” and made it appear the crowd was growing exponentially.   

And then came the fires. The article describes the 26 arsons in the area as “tactically intelligent” because “it contributed to depleting police resources.”  Police had to establish a perimeter to allow firefighters to battle the fires.

But when police tried to establish a perimeter, or advance on the crowd, it “pushed the crowd down Lake Street” and “indirectly contributed to expanding the riot across the city.”

And yet, the rioters were leaderless. It is at times unclear from the essay whether the strategy it describes was developed ahead of time, or if this is exclusively a retrospective analysis of a strategy that evolved organically.

“We combine without becoming the same, we move together without understanding one another, and yet it works,” write the authors.  

The essay describes the presence of a half dozen right-wing Boogaloo Boys, who had expressed sympathy for George Floyd, but were later seen guarding a business from looters.  

“This demonstrated not only the limit of their claimed solidarity, but also of their strategic sensibility,” writes the authors. 

The essay puts the sacking of the Third Precinct in the context of other recent protests, riots, and civil actions around the world. It also tries to extract some lessons for future actions.  

Many rioters relied on the App Telegram to comunicate, but did not use disposable ‘burner phones’ to prevent law enforcement from using tools like Stingray, which mimics a cell phone tower and can be used to collect personal data. 

Likewise, those taking photographs inadvertently provided law enforcement with a way to identify rioters, and “posed a material threat to the crowd.”

The essay says rumors among the crowd were also a distraction. They repeatedly heard the National Guard was “twenty minutes away,” yet never appeared.  

They also contend there was a rumor of leaking gas lines near the burning AutoZone. In fact, the City of Minneapolis sent alerts warning of that possibility. 

At times, the essay veers into rhetorical flourishes and embellishments that more closely resembles propaganda.  

“In general, the crowd looked upon these sublime fires with awe and approval,” the authors write.  

“Instead of believing the rumors about provocateurs or agitators, we find it more plausible that people who have been oppressed for centuries, who are poor, and who are staring down the barrel of a Second Great Depression would rather set the world on fire than suffer the sight of its order,” the essay states.