Embattled Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, 38, has taken center stage amid violent protests that have been griping numerous American cities following the death of George Floyd, who died after Derek Chauvin, a white former Minneapolis Police Department officer, knelt on his neck while detaining him.
The largest city of Minnesota, together with Saint Paul forming the Twin Cities, which unlike the cities of Chicago, Detroit and New York, does not have a history of race riots, has been severely impacted by demonstrations across the metropolitan area. Protests first emerged on May 26 in the Twin Cities area, later becoming violent over the next couple days that included thousands of people have looting and burning buildings in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Following continued looting and damage to property in the Twin Cities area, Frey declared a state of emergency in the city on May 28, deploying 500 Minnesota National Guard troops to quell the demonstration and protect properties from damage. That evening, demonstrators set ablaze the 3rd District Police Station, in addition to another 170 businesses according to the Saint Paul Police Department.
“What we have seen over the past several hours and past couple of nights is unacceptable. These are banks that people rely on to get cash, grocery stores that people rely on to get food. They are essential to our community,” Frey said in news conference Friday.
He added that he understood the “pain and anger” of the demonstrators, but he nonetheless supported the deployment of state police and National Guard troops to quell the protests, saying that “we need to make sure that people are looking out for our city right now.”
Amid the crisis facing the city, Frey has also been criticized for not giving National Guard troops a specific mission or strategy for quelling protests, while Minnesota Governor Tim Walz said that state authorities will be assuming control of security in the city.
“If this would have been executed correctly. You will not see that tonight. There will not be a lack of leadership,” Walz said in a press conference.
US President Donald Trump also criticized Frey's allegedly tepid response, saying on Twitter Friday: “I can’t stand back and watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis. A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right.”
In response, Frey said: “Weakness is refusing to take responsibility for your own actions. Weakness is pointing your fingers at somebody else at a time of crisis. Donald Trump knows nothing about the strength of Minneapolis."
Frey, a Jewish former civil rights and employment attorney and city council member, has been in power for two years, with his political future potentially hinging on his response to Floyd's death and ongoing violent protests.
Frey's political future may hinge on his handling of Floyd's death and its violent aftermath, which have followed the coronavirus pandemic that shut down his city for two months.
Frey grew up in Virginia near Washington, DC, but fell in love with Minneapolis when running a marathon there, his official website said. He moved to Minneapolis after receiving his law degree from Villanova University near Philadelphia in 2009.
The Forward noted Frey, whose mother is Jewish, has a close connection with his identity, lighting Shabbat candles on Friday evenings and eating traditional Jewish foods like bagels and lox on Sundays. He has also appeared at Jewish-Muslim solidarity events co-hosted by a local social justice organization Jewish Community Action, and is on for the board of directors for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas.
According to an interview he gave to TCJewfolk, a Twin Cities Jewish news outlet, in 2017, Frey said his mother influenced him to keep Jewish traditions, noting that “we’ve done it for hundreds of years, you’re going to do it, too.”