Fires set by agitators in Uptown prompt police, fire response early Tuesday

Some of the fires were reportedly set adjacent to or on top of buildings.

The aftermath of a fire started behind Stella's in Uptown Minneapolis. (Uptown Crime/Facebook)

Several fires were set by agitators in the Uptown area of Minneapolis early Tuesday morning, prompting a response from both police and firefighters that kept them tied up for over two-and-a-half hours.

Some of the fires were reportedly set adjacent to or on top of buildings.

The incidents took place in the area of West Lake Street and Hennepin Avenue South in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis.

The area has been the site of repeated demonstrations, road blockages, fires, burglaries and other damage to property since June 3 when Winston Boogie Smith was killed by law enforcement during his attempted arrest by a federal task force.

The group Uptown Crime on Facebook documented some of the fire activity and the aftermath, which included damage from apparent paintballs being shot at buildings and through windows.

Uptown Crime/Facebook

Over the course of nearly three hours, starting around 2:20 a.m., agitators began moving barricades into the street. Following this were several reports of fires in dumpsters, garbage cans and shrubbery, according to police dispatch audio. At one point, there was reported to be a fire on the roof of Stella’s Fish Café.

Firefighters were required to stage nearby until police could move into the area and make sure the scene was safe for them to enter. According to the dispatch audio, it took nearly an hour before fire crews could begin moving in to deal with the fires.

Other photos of the aftermath showed fire damage to structures and charred remains next to buildings in the area.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the Uptown Association announced that it was canceling the Uptown Art Fair for 2021. The event was scheduled to make a comeback after being canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The original email announcement cited “security” as the key reason for the decision to cancel the event, stating in part:

“Considerable time and work was put in to navigating the challenges our city is facing to ensure a safe and welcoming space for our artists, vendors, sponsors and guests. Multiple options were considered and planned, including moving the event to an alternate location a few blocks away to showcase the greater Uptown community. However, despite our collective best effort, we were unable to reach a consensus among the many stakeholders it takes to successfully put on an event of this size and scope.

Because of multiple evolving issues — including security, road closures and other logistical challenges — our window to move forward has closed.”

A statement on the association’s website was later amended to remove the reference to security. A statement from the association about the reason for the change of verbiage was not provided.

The association vowed to bring back the event in August 2022.

Below is a summary of the police and fire dispatches that took place early Tuesday morning:

2:21: Person dragging tables and chairs into the intersection of Lagoon and Girard, blocking the entire intersection

2:24: Hennepin blocked north and southbound at Lagoon Ave

2:32: Two dumpsters on fire at Hennepin and Lagoon with five or six people standing nearby (officer indicated it was the same group from Lagoon and Girard)

2:33: Minneapolis Fire Department dispatched to stage for response

2:42: Group growing in size and “hotrodders” showing up at the intersection

2:45: All available Fifth Precinct officers requested at the Lake Street and Hennepin area

2:49: Sergeant requested any available response cars from other precincts to come to the Fifth Precinct

2:53: Police camera operator reported “30 plus” people present at Lagoon and Hennepin

3:15: 911 caller reported people on the roof of Stella’s and that they were “lighting Stella’s on fire,” but they didn’t clarify if it was the dumpsters on fire or fireworks

3:21: Police camera operator reported seeing a trash can on fire in front of Stella’s

3:23: 911 caller reported power was cut to a building in the area and to Stella’s

3:31: Police line began moving in and reported a fire in the rear of Stella’s

3:31: Dispatcher told police about a report of power lines and shrubbery on fire behind Stella’s

3:31: Fire Department was cleared in to start responding to the “Code 3” fires, which are urgent

3:37: Arriving officer reporting a “pretty good fire” in the garbage can at Stella’s

3:40: Police made entry into Stella’s and proceeded to check all floors and the basement for intruders

3:57: Police asked for traffic to be shut down at Lake Street and Hennepin Avenue so MFD could address the fire

3:58: Police asked for transit to be diverted from the area as buses were still trying to get through

4:04: Police found an open door on a business at 1406 W Lake Street and cleared the building for intruders

4:35: Other precinct response squad cars were cleared to leave the Fifth Precinct

4:57: The two final Fifth Precinct squads on site near Lake Street and Hennepin Avenue were cleared to go back into service

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Minnesota Crime Watch & Information publishes news, info and commentary about crime, public safety and livability issues in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota.