As he reported from an out-of-control protest in Minneapolis that had morphed into a full-blown riot Thursday night, MSNBC’s Ali Velshi stood in front of a burning building. In spite of the dramatic scene unfolding behind him, Velshi rejected the description of the riot as “unruly.”
Appearing on The 11th Hour With Brian Williams, Velshi noted that “at least four fires” had broken out in the area surrounding the 3rd precinct in Minnesota’s largest city. One fire had engulfed the police station itself; as Velshi pointed out, “there were police actually in the building.” Rather than characterize what was happening as a riot, Velshi proclaimed, “this is… mostly a protest...It is not, generally speaking, unruly.”
Velshi added a caveat: “but fires have been started and there’s a crowd that is relishing that.” The MSNBC host downplaying the severity of the riots in Minneapolis should not have come as a surprise. Earlier in the day, his colleague Craig Melvin sent out a tweet indicating that “This will guide our reporting in MN. ‘While the situation on the ground in Minneapolis is fluid, and there has been violence, it is most accurate at this time to describe what is happening here there as ‘protests’ -- not riots.”
Melvin’s tweet came the day after protesters had decided to riot by looting a Target and torching an Auto Zone at ground zero for the Minneapolis protests. After Velshi sugarcoated the riots, he explained the context in which they were taking place; specifically, in response to the tragic death of African-American George Floyd, who died after a police officer kneeled on his neck for several minutes. When he highlighted that local and federal authorities were “proceeding very carefully” in issuing charges against the police officers responsible for Floyd’s death, Velshi uttered perhaps the understatement of the century: “This crowd is not looking for careful right now. They are looking for something that feels like justice, and they don’t seem to be getting it.”
Later, Velshi did admit that the specific area he was reporting from was “out of control.” His use of that phrase kind of contradicts what he said at the beginning of his report; where he refused to use the term “unruly,” which is a synonym for “out-of-control,” to describe the protests.
While Americans certainly have a right to protest the profound injustice that took place earlier this week, setting fires, putting innocent people in danger, and looting make the situation much worse; not better. As Floyd’s own girlfriend pointed out, “Waking up this morning to see Minneapolis on fire would be something that would devastate Floyd.” Too bad the agenda-driven media does not keep that in mind.
A transcript of the relevant portion of Thursday’s edition of The 11th Hour is below. Click “expand” to read more.
The 11th Hour With Brian Williams
12:05 AM EST
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Ali Velshi is back at his location. Both of our correspondents are kind of around the same corner. Ali, go ahead.
ALI VELSHI: Yeah, so there’s…you know, Morgan and I are sort of crisscrossing each other. The liquor store fire he was talking about was over that way. This is the other liquor store and the folks out behind me. And there’s the…the police station fire over there. A lot of activity now. It’s become the…sort of the center of activity in front of the police station. The crowd has now moved over there. At…at this point, there…that seems to be the center of what’s going on. Let me just give you a sense of it. What Morgan said was interesting. For most of the day today, it looked a lot calmer than yesterday looked. And that’s what happened yesterday. It…it, it picked up later in the evening. The crowds gathered here, and…and the standoff with the police looked very different last night. Police had lined up…there were no barricades outside the police station. Police had lined up around it and were preventing protesters from getting close. Then they put up…overnight, they put up fences and barricades so that people couldn’t get there and that’s what broke through. So, it caused a new center of focus for the protesters. The idea that they would then…they would then try and take that police station from the police. And again, we were very surprised to find out that there were police actually in that building, but there were. There were about five police who came out. They had their weapons with them that fired the…the, the gas canisters, and it dispersed the crowd; which then came this way and started this activity and a fire that occurred over there. So, again, there are fires as…as you mentioned at the top of the show. There are at least four fires that I can see, and that’s just in this small radius that Morgan and I are in. Obviously, some of them are very active. This one has now, as you can see, very obviously spread to the…the buildings on either side of it, the liquor store and the shop to the left. But there is no ability…and I just think we have to…we have to remember this. The National Guard has been activated. They are not here. The police are not here. The police have been evacuated. The fire engines can’t get in here. There is no ability to bring anybody in here to solve this problem. Though, I…I, I want to be clear on how I characterize this. This is a…mostly a protest. It is not…it is not generally speaking unruly. But fires have been started, and…and there’s a crowd that is relishing that. 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…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…grievance of inequality. And you mentioned earlier, before we had video, how did we know about these things? Now, we have video. We have three angles of this thing, and the people who are talking to me, not an investigator and I don’t have access to the information that investigators have. But they are saying what more do you need? You’ve got three angles of, of, of video. Why haven’t there been arrests? And the FBI and the Minneapolis Bureau of App…Apprehensions and the Hennepin County Attorney, all of whom are proceeding, are proceeding very carefully. This crowd is not looking for careful right now. They are looking for something that feels like justice, and they don’t seem to be getting it.
WILLIAMS: Ali Velshi, a question that there may be no answer to as far as our reporting. If you’re the governor, where are you watching this right now.? If you’re the mayor, if you’re the member of Congress whose district this is, two U.S. Senators, what are they thinking? Where are they watching because right now, for now, Minneapolis does not control the area where you are. They have nothing to do with it. It’s…
WILLIAMS: … being run by another…
VELSHI: …exactly right.
VELSHI: And there have been various protests in various parts of the city, right? So, there was one at city hall that was more organized. There was one at Hennepin…Hennepin County Courthouse where people knelt in…in protest. Those seemed to be the ones where people are trying to get the attention of the politicians. This has a…a more visceral feel to it. This protest is not about the politicians. This protest is about the police. This protest is about people who feel that police brutality is not something that is dealt with fairly in this country. This is not about politicians. There are not politicians, even in Baltimore when we saw riots or in Ferguson where we saw that, you saw politicians; generally aldermen, people like that, coming to the area. That’s not what’s happening right now. This several-block area that Morgan and I are in right now is out of control. It is not in the control of authorities. It’s not in the control of the police. It’s not in the control of…of the government and not the National Guard. So, for all those people who are hearing that the National Guard has been activated in Minneapolis and in Minnesota, that is not happening right now. Right now, no government authority, no authority whatsoever has control over this area. The people have control over this area, and this is what’s happening right now. There’s a lot of venting going on. There are definitely people who have come up to me. They’re not happy about the way this is…this is unfolding. They’re not happy about the damage to public property. But, boy, the anger. I…I can’t…I mean your pictures show it, Brian, but the anger is visceral here.