On Monday, after the Derek Chauvin trial went to the jury for its verdict, protesters marched through the streets of Minneapolis, Minn. As they marched, a Polish National Catholic Church mysteriously caught fire and sustained heavy damage.
“The fire spread to multiple parts of the church, parts of the roof have collapsed, and right now, it looks like mot of the contents of the church will be unsalvageable,” Michael Kutek, the son of the church’s residing pastor, said in a GoFundMe campaign to restore the church.
People were inside the church, Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, when the fire began. They called the Minneapolis Fire Department just before 7 p.m. Firefighters evacuated those inside the church and then used aerial ladders to extinguish the fire in the building’s structure, its roof, and its bell tower. Firefighters put out the fire, but the roof collapsed.
BREAKING: Large flames now coming through roof of Minneapolis church as firefighters, extended above the fire from ladder trucks, spray massive amounts of water on raging flames. pic.twitter.com/3Eck0EFcwP
— Preston Phillips (@PrestonTVNews) April 20, 2021
According to the local ABC News affiliate, the fire’s cause remains under investigation and no injuries have been reported.
Protesters took to the streets after the close of the trial, in which former police officer Derek Chauvin stands accused of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. While Americans should hope and pray for impartial justice, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) demanded a guilty verdict, encouraging protesters to “get more confrontational” if Chauvin is acquitted.
Waters said this after the protests following the death of George Floyd devolved into violent riots that damaged no fewer than 700 buildings in Minneapolis last year — with twelve structures “wholly destroyed,” i.e. burnt to the ground. Tragically, the riots ostensibly aimed at combatting racism destroyed black lives, black livelihoods, and black monuments.
Waters’ comments may constitute threats against the safety of Minneapolis and the jury, and they may give Chauvin grounds for an appeal or even for a mistrial should he get convicted of manslaughter or murder.
Minneapolis is a powder keg, and protests are likely to devolve into riots no matter what the jury decides. A Chauvin murder conviction followed by a mistrial due to Waters’ comments may be the worst possibility for the safety of Minneapolis.
Facebook officials said they are preparing for violence after the verdict. The social media platform has pledged to remove content that calls for violence in Minneapolis. Facebook has deemed the city a “high-risk location” due to the forthcoming verdict.
“Our teams are working around the clock to look for potential threats both on and off of Facebook and Instagram so we can protect peaceful protests and limit content that could lead to civil unrest or violence,” said Monika Bickert, vice president of content policy at Facebook.
It remains unclear whether the protesters had any connection to the fire at the church, but this tragic fire may be a portent of violence to come. Americans can donate to help the church at this GoFundMe campaign. As of Tuesday morning, the church has only raised $3,975 of its $50,000 goal.