Waiting for the Umbrella Man or someone like him

Who can take a city, burn it to the ground? The Umbrella Man can, at least according to the search warrant affidavit filed by Minneapolis police officer Erika Christensen last week.

The Star Tribune’s Libor Jany told me he came across Christensen’s affidavit in a routine review of new court filings. He reported on the allegations of Christensen’s affidavit in “Minneapolis police say ‘Umbrella Man’ was a white supremacist trying to incite George Floyd rioting.” The story has made waves around the world.

According to Officer Christensen, Umbrella Man is a white supremacist who set off the week of riots and arson throughout the Twin Cities by knocking out the windows at AutoZone on Lake Street at Minnehaha Avenue in south Minneapolis on May 27. Did Umbrella Man also burn the AutoZone down? I can’t tell from Libor’s story, but it was in fact torched. Libor quotes Christensen’s affidavit: “This was the first fire that set off a string of fires and looting throughout the precinct and the rest of the city.” Umbrella Man himself does not seem to have committed the arson that destroyed the AutoZone premises. Below is the tweet with the video featuring Umbrella Man at work.

So far as I can tell, Umbrella Man has not been arrested. He remains at large. Libor did not identify him in his July 28 story because he has not been charged. I have been waiting to write about Umbrella Man until he was arrested, but this will have to serve as a placeholder until that time.

Officer Christensen’s account of events is taken at face value in the numerous news accounts that immediately followed the Star Tribune story last week, but it is ludicrous. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey is responsible for the key event that led to the destruction wrought throughout the Twin Cities following the death of George Floyd. The key event was the abandonment of the Third Precinct headquarters on May 28.

Mayor Frey too remains at large. His dereliction is not illegal.

Two good columns subject Christensen’s affidavit to the derision it deserves. Jason Whitlock casts a gimlet eye on the miracle of Umbrella Man in “Umbrella Man is the Lee Harvey Oswald of racism” at OutKick. It apparently takes a heterodox sports journalist to cut through the fog.

Spectator USA’s pseudonymous Cockburn also conducts a reality check in “The curious Umbrella Man myth.” Subhead: “Cockburn hasn’t seen this many people excited about an umbrella since Mary Poppins hit theaters in 1964.” Cockburn writes: “Cockburn would have thought that the carnage of the past month would render one man’s window smashing a historical footnote. But instead, the opposite has happened, for the usual 2020 reason: it is politically useful.”

Officer Christensen’s affidavit superimposes a mythical narrative over the events as we saw them unfold. Cockburn adds, by the way, that it took him “just a single minute on Google to discover rioting and destruction from May 26 — the day before Umbrella Man supposedly kicked everything off.” Spectator USA has made Cockburn’s column freely accessible at our request.

Officer Christensen, perhaps coincidentally, is “a frequent letter-writer to the Star Tribune” and the Minneapolis police department’s “rare ‘out’ liberal,” as she described herself in this Star Tribune column last year. See Christensen’s letters to the editor here (May 8, 2017) and here (March 25, 2019).