Minneapolis is handing out masks to rioters despite earlier resisting the state’s attempt at limited church reopening as a “recipe” for “a public health disaster.”
Jacob Frey, the city’s mayor who has been under fire due to the increasingly violent protests over the death of George Floyd, said Thursday night that officials were handing out face masks to rioters in an effort to avoid the coronavirus spread.
“The City encourages everyone to exercise caution to stay safe while participating in demonstrations, including wearing masks and physical distancing as much as possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” a press release read, Fox News reported. “The City has made hundreds of masks available to protesters this week.”
Frey, as recently as Monday, said the may disregard Gov. Tim Walz’s guideline to reopen churches, that would have limited services to 25 percent capacity or no more than 250 people.
“Moving up to 25 percent capacity and up to 250 people in places of worship is a recipe in Minneapolis for a public health disaster,” he said.
The city has been ravaged since protests erupted earlier this week after the death of Floyd, 46, in police custody. President Trump said he watched the video of a police officer with his knee pressed on Floyd’s neck and called it “horrible.”
Frey has been publicly criticized by Trump for not taking a stronger stance to protect the city from rioters. Trump tweeted early Friday that if the city does not get a handle on the situation, the federal government will take over.
Frey also ordered the police stationed at the Third Precinct to flee Thursday night as rioters gained access to the building. The precinct, which housed the officers involved in the Floyd crisis, was set on fire. Frey explained his decision early Friday and said the “symbolism of the building cannot outweigh the importance of life, our officers or the public.”
The city’s tough stance against church services and its decision to hand out masks to rioters burning down businesses opens it up to new scrutiny and allegations of a double standard. Faith leaders across the country say they’ve been unfairly targeted amid the pandemic.
Frey justified his tough stance on churches earlier this week on CNN, “Oftentimes, older, senior citizens, attending services, singing and breathing and at times, even with physical distancing, they’re in close proximity to one another… We need to be looking our for public health right now and the truth is there is no right to put other peoples’ health at risk.”