On Monday, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety owned up to law officers slashing protesters' tires in Minneapolis. A couple of viral posts from last weekend showed parking lots full of vehicles with deflated tires, and journalists suggested that their cars were targeted on purpose. In an interview with The Star Tribune, department spokesman Bruce Gordon confirmed that police did this.
"State Patrol troopers strategically deflated tires... in order to stop behaviors such as vehicles driving dangerously and at high speeds in and around protesters and law enforcement," Gordon said. He acknowledged that slashing tires is "not a typical tactic" for police, but argued that it was necessary, as vehicles were "being used as dangerous weapons and inhibiting our ability to clear areas and keep areas safe." There have been cases of cars driving into crowds over the last few weeks of protests, but it is not clear what led police to believe these parking lots might be the source.
Now this is weird. Someone pointed out to us all that of the cars in the Kmart parking lot at Nicollet and Lake St. have slashed tires. The group that told us said it was the police or Natl Guard who did it. @WCCO pic.twitter.com/1nv9Rr2wsh— Jeff Wagner (@Jeff_Wagner4) May 31, 2020
On Saturday, May 30, CBS Minnesota news anchor Jeff Wagner posted photos of an entire parking lot full of cars with their tires slashed. Witnesses told Wagner that the police and the National Guard were the vandals. The following day, Aura Nexus producer Andrew Kimmel posted a video of a similar scene, again claiming that the police were responsible.
"Police overtook this entire area shortly after the protest began. No protester would've been able to get in here after that," Kimmel wrote. "I got stopped by National Guard and was able to get through with my press badge. It was the [Minneapolis Police Department]."
Minneapolis Police slashed every tire on my rental car, as well as every tire of every car in this parking lot. pic.twitter.com/lchFplYQ0n— Andrew Kimmel (@andrewkimmel) May 31, 2020
On Sunday, June 7, a man drove his car into a crowd of protesters in Seattle, apparently angered by their message. He then jumped out of his car with a gun and fired into the crowd, hitting Dan Gregory in the arm. Critics of police across the country have pointed out that dangerous drivers at protests have mostly been counter-protesters, with their tires unslashed. The Seattle shooter turned himself into police.
Meanwhile, police have used their cars as weapons themselves, most famously in a viral video from a New York City protest on Sunday, May 31. At the time, two NYPD SUVs drove straight into crowds of protesters, endangering all of their lives. These actions were defended by Mayor Bill de Blasio, according to a report by CNN.
"I'm not going to blame officers who were trying to deal with an absolutely impossible situation. The folks who were converging on that police car did the wrong thing to begin with, and they created an untenable situation," he said. "I wish the officers had found a different approach, but let's begin at the beginning. The protesters in that video did the wrong thing to surround that police car, period."