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PROPERTY
&
PROTEST

Property Damage in Minneapolis
after the Murder of George Floyd

Image: Looting
of the Target on
Lake Street during
the first days
of the protests
was a striking
symbol of a public
claiming power over
commercial civic
space.

Source: Nathan
Anderson
Photography, Flickr
CreativeCommons

By Charlie Townsley

Charlie Townsley is an organic farm boy from Wisconsin who, after completing a bachelor’s degree
in architecture from the University of Minnesota and practicing design in Minneapolis, is currently in his
first year of Penn’s Master of City Planning program. Within the housing, community, and economic development concentration, Charlie is passionate about all things
related to community building and empowerment. Outside
of school, you can often find him exploring new restaurants, dive bars, or hiking trails.

INTRODUCTION

The cover image of this piece shows Minneapolis during the
uprising that followed the murder of George Floyd by members of
the city’s police department on May 25th, 2020. Protests against
police brutality swept across the city, before being echoed across
the world, and numbered well into the thousands. [1] This period also saw the largest deployment of national guard troops in the state’s history, significant property damage, and an outpour of mutual aid. [2While living in Minneapolis in 2020, I became involved with a project through the Twin Cities chapter of the Architecture Lobby to map property damage that occurred during the protests. [3] Our goal was to better understand how these protests manifested in urban space. Our guiding questions centered around the theme of people claiming power in space.

• Why did protests with the greatest intensity, which some called
riots, occur in certain parts of our city?


• Were these spatial patterns reactions against a history of
“colonists and capitalists appropriating the land of the
indigenous and indigent?” [4]


• Which areas received the most damage?


• We noticed that many damaged properties appeared to be shops along commercial corridors. Was there actually a strong correlation between commercial properties and damage?


• Did protestors target public space as “the battlefield on which
the conflicting interests of the rich and poor are set,” as
Springer argues protestors have done across time and place?[5]

To answer these questions, our group worked with a dataset of
damaged properties published by the city of Minneapolis, which
included addresses of damaged properties as well as the types of
damage they received during the four-day period, between May 25th and May 29th, when protests were at their peak intensity. We added property owner and primary taxpayer information to this dataset, after which we began to run into the confines of our limited access to, and knowledge of, GIS mapping software. We decided to put the project on hold in the fall of 2020.

 

The following essay details my explorations, with data initially
collected with the Architecture Lobby, layered with demographic
information from the US Census Bureau, and property information from open data portals of the city of Minneapolis and Hennepin County, Minnesota. [6] It begins by mapping property damage from the protests in relation to significant features from that time, specifically, sites of protest, police stations, and commercial corridors. It then studies these locations in juxtaposition with visualizations of race and income. Finally, it compares property damage to land use and property value.


My goal for this piece is to understand how mass protests claim
power by disrupting existing patterns of ownership and control in space and to shed light on areas for further study.

PROTESTS AND PROPERTY DAMAGE
I began by grounding my inquiry in the primary patterns of protest and property damage that I observed while living in Minneapolis during this period. I noticed that most protest damage occurred along commercial corridors, in particular on Lake Street, and at police stations which became flash points for the crowd’s concentrated anger. Mapping these factors bears out the narrative I heard at the time. Of the 1,182 damaged properties, 65% were along commercial corridors, 66% were
within half a mile of a police station, and 50% were within half a
mile of a protest site (see Map 1). The dataset of damaged properties contained ten different types of damage which I consolidated into four: “destroyed,” “severe,” “moderate,” and “minor.” “Destroyed” describes properties that were rendered completely uninhabitable.

[1] Kasakove, Sophie,
Nicholas Bogel-
Burroughs, Frances
Robles, and Campbell
Robertson. “18 People,
a Deadly Fire: For
Some, Crowded Housing
Is Not a Choice.” The
New York Times, January
8, 2022.

[2] “About Us.” Penn
Office of Investments.
University of
Pennsylvania, June
30, 2021; Office of
Homeless Services, 2020
Annual Report § (2020).

[3] An architecture
advocacy organization.
See http://
architecture-lobby.org/
about/

[4] McDonagh and
Griffin, “Occupy!
Historical Geographies
of Property, Protest
and the Commons,
1500–1850,” 1. Journal
of Historical Geography
53. July 1, 2016. 1–10

[5] Springer, Simon.
“Public Space as
Emancipation:
Meditations
on Anarchism,
Radical Democracy,
Neoliberalism and
Violence.” Antipode 43,
no. 2 (2011): 525–62.

[6] The portal for
Minneapolis is at
opendata.minneapolismn.
gov. The portal for
Hennepin County is at
gis-hennepin.opendata.
arcgis.com.

02_Minneapolis_Overview.tif
Map 1: Locations of
damaged properties
in Minneapolis
from May 24 to May
29, 2020. It draws
attention to police
stations which
served as anchors
for many protests,
and the clustering
of property damage
along commercial
corridors near
protest sites.[17]
05_LandUse-and-Damage_MSP.tif
“Of the 1,182 damaged
properties, 65% were
along commercial
corridors, 66% were
within half a mile of
a police station, and
50% were within half
a mile of a protest
site”

[12] United States
Census Bureau.
“ACS5Y2019; Table
B19013; Median
Household Income in
the Past 12 Months (in
2019 Inflation-Adjusted
Dollars),” 2019. data.
census.gov

 
[13] Although the 17%
of severely damaged
properties seems
like an outlier, it
is important to note
the dataset contained
only 12 properties in
this category with the
next largest category
(moderate damage)
containing over 200.
Therefore, it is easy
for this category to
appear anomalous due to
its small sample size.

 
[14] Abudu, Margaret
J. G., Walter J.
Raine, Stephen L.
Burbeck, and Keith
K. Davison. “Black
Ghetto Violence: A
Case Study Inquiry into
the Spatial Pattern
of Four Los Angeles
Riot Event-Types12.”
Social Problems 19, no.
3. January 1, 1972.
408–26.

[15] Holdo and
Bengtsson,
“Marginalization and
Riots,” 162; Collins
and Margo, “The
Economic Aftermath of
the 1960s Riots in
American Cities.” The
relationship between
protest, property
damage, and social
disadvantage requires
further study in
Minneapolis. Collins
and Margo found that
riots in many U.S.
cities during the 1960s
may have “strengthened
and accelerated”
existing processes of
economic decline in
already marginalized
neighborhoods. This
raises questions of
the long-term effects
of such powerful
moments for those that
lived near sites of
significant protests.

[7] Specifically, I
merged the labels
“destroyed” and
“destroyed by fire”
into “destroyed.”
The labels “severe
fire damage” and
“severe property
damage” I merged into
“severe.” I put “fire,”
“looting,” “medium
property damage,”
“property damage,” and
“fire damage” under
“moderate.” Finally,
“minor property damage”
became “minor.”

[8] Salmenkari, Taru.
“Geography of Protest:
Places of Demonstration
in Buenos Aires and
Seoul.” Urban Geography
30, no. 3. April 1,
2009. 239–60. 1.

[9] Smiles, Deondre.
“George Floyd,
Minneapolis, and
Spaces of Hope and
Liberation.” Dialogues
in Human Geography 11,no. 2. July 1, 2021.
167.

[10] Equity
Considerations for
Place-Based Advocacy
and Decisions in the
Twin Cities Region.”
Dataset. Minneapolis,
MN: Minnesota
Geospatial Commons,
2019.

[11] Case Study
Inquiry into the
Spatial Pattern of
Four Los Angeles Riot
Event-Types12.” Social
Problems 19, no.
3. January 1, 1972.
408–26.

03_Minneapolis_BIPOC.tif

LAND USE

The previous maps in this report illustrated that many of the properties which experienced more than “minor damage” during the protests were on commercial corridors. However, I wanted to better understand which kinds of properties were damaged, regardless of their location (see Box 3). Mapping damaged properties with land use revealed that most damaged properties (67%) were commercial. This is a higher correlation than any other factor I examined and is only similar in quantity to properties on commercial corridors (65%) and properties near police stations (66%). The correlation between property damage and commercial land use is even higher when looking at the most damaged properties. The vast majority (94%) of properties “destroyed” during the protests and all “severely damaged” properties were commercial. Commercial properties also accounted for 51% of “moderately damaged” properties and 71% of properties that received “minor damage.” Map 4 also suggests that many damaged properties that were not commercial were close to commercial properties, further strengthening the correlation between protest intensity and commercial property damage. These findings agree with those of the Los Angeles study, which found a significant positive correlation between fire events during protests and the total number of stores in a census tract.[16]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CONCLUSION

Mapping protest and property damage in Minneapolis from the summer of 2020 against a variety of factors, led me to develop a new understanding of the resulting spatial patterns. I still believe the central struggle of these protests was a fight to temporarily wrest power from the hands of a State that many people think was not being used in a way that was just, equitable, or humane. However, creating these maps helped me see that existing structures and systems in the built environment may have also played a role in influencing these spatial patterns. While two police stations served as key nodes of protest and damage, it appears these protests themselves followed patterns of historic protests around the world: patterns where economic and racial neighborhood characteristics correlate with areas of impact. Table 1 shows a noteworthy difference in the median value of properties based on level of damage. The average 

value of “destroyed” and “severely damaged” properties was 2.6 times higher, at $866,000, than the average value of properties that received “moderate” or “minor” damage, at $334,000. This suggests some truth to the narrative on the ground, that property damage was not entirely random and may have targeted higher income sites. The findings of this essay suggest that when protesters struggle for agency in a capitalist society where commerce and power are deeply interwoven, the commercial corridors of society itself are likely to become contested ground. Furthermore, the racial and economic segregation of US cities that has historically concentrated affluence and power in largely White neighborhoods may also concentrate protests within economically or racially marginalized communities. These observations are meant to be exploratory rather than definitive. I hope this piece can serve as a jumping off point for those continuing the study of spatial characteristics of protest in Minneapolis.

Acknowledgements

This report builds on a foundation of work done by the following members of the Architecture Lobby – Twin Cities during the summer of 2020. Samuel Brissett, Jakob Mahla, Ali Karlen, and Mary D. Begley.
 

[16] Abudu, Margaret
J. G., Walter J.
Raine, Stephen L.
Burbeck, and Keith
K. Davison. “Black
Ghetto Violence: A
Case Study Inquiry into
the Spatial Pattern
of Four Los Angeles
Riot Event-Types12.”
Social Problems 19, no.
3. January 1, 1972.
408–26.

[17] Map 1 Data:
opendata.minneapolismn.gov; The Architecture
Lobby - Twin Cities;
Mapping Protest 2020;
some protest sites from
author’s memory.


[18] Map 2 Data:
opendata.minneapolismn.gov; The Architecture
Lobby - Twin Cities;
Equity Considerations
for Place-Based
Advocacy and Decisions
in the Twin Cities
Region dataset.

[19] Map 3 Data:
opendata.minneapolismn.gov; The Architecture
Lobby - Twin Cities;
US Census Bureau, 2019
5-Year ACS, table
B19013_001.

[20] Map 4 Data:
opendata.minneapolismn.gov; gis-hennepin.
opendata.arcgis.com;
The Architecture Lobby
- Twin Cities.

 Map 2: Compares sites of protest, property damage, and police stations with percentage of people who identify as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC), by census tract. Shows a loose correlation between the most damaged properties and areas with large shares of BIPOC residents. [18]
04_Minneapolis_Income.tif
Map 3: Where the previous map suggested a correlation between property damage from the protests and BIPOC areas of the city, this one suggests a negative correlation between
property damage and high-income areas. [19]
 Map 4:Shows
which types of
areas experienced
maximum property
damage. While some
overlapped with
residential areas,
the vast majority
were on commercial
corridors,
especially West
Broadway in North
Minneapolis,
downtown, and Lake
Street.
[20]
“94% properties
“destroyed” during
the protests and all
“severely damaged”
properties were
commercial, as were
51% of “moderately
damaged” properties
and 71% properties
that received “minor
damage.”
“Roughly 40% of all
damaged properties
were in census tracts
where more than half
of their population
identified as BIPOC.”
“Just 5% of all
damaged properties
were in census tracts
that were in the
top 25% of median
household income.”

“Severe” includes significant fire and property destruction. “Moderate” consists of lesser fire damage, looting, and damage that required repair but did not make the building uninhabitable. Finally, “minor” damage includes cosmetic damage such as graffiti and slight vandalism to building elements or grounds. [7]

 

Diving into these correlations further, I found that 88% of “moderately damaged” properties were along commercial corridors, 81% of “destroyed” properties were within half a mile of a protest site, and 85% of “moderately damaged” properties were within half a mile of a police station. A noteworthy outlier is the West Broadway commercial corridor in North Minneapolis, which was not the site of a police station or mass protests, but still experienced significant property damage. Interestingly, the weakest correlation was between “minor property damage” and proximity to protest sites. Just 44% of parcels with “minor damage” fell in this category. Overall, just 16% of all damaged properties did not match the above criteria, meaning they were not on a commercial corridor, and they were not within half a mile of a protest site or police station. Therefore, it appears that most damage did not occur in residential areas. 

Scholarship on protest geographies supports these findings. Salmenkari argues that the majority of demonstration sites fall into the same categories, “outside governmental buildings to communicate with the authorities; at centers of commercial activity to appeal to the public; to places that link them historically, culturally or morally with symbolically important events; or at places connected with a particular grievance.” [8Police stations, commercial corridors, and the various locations of the protests I mapped all fall into these categories.

 

SOCIOECONOMIC FACTORS

Preliminary analysis of socioeconomic factors in relation to damaged properties suggests these may be fertile areas for future study in Minneapolis. I chose to compare property damage with the city’s concentration of residents who identify as Black, Indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC) and household income (see Box 2). I selected these factors based on a collective sense that emerged after George Floyd’s murder that the protests and subsequent property damage were “a challenge to the continued marginalization of Black, Indigenous, and other spaces of color through disinvestment and neglect by the state.” [9] Mapping the spatial concentration of Minneapolis’ BIPOC population showed a moderate correlation between property damage and areas with greater numbers of BIPOC citizens. Roughly 40% of all damaged properties were in census tracts where more than half of their population identified as BIPOC. [10] Even though this correlation was quantitatively not as strong as others, of note is West Broadway, one of two commercial corridors in Minneapolis that experienced the most significant property damage and lies in the largest majority BIPOC area of the city (see Map 2). North Minneapolis, as the surrounding area is known, is a significant home to the city’s Black community.

Similarly, a study of riots in Los Angeles during the 1960s found a significant correlation between the locations of riots and the size of local Black populations. [11 The lack of a strong correlation between BIPOC population and protest damage in Minneapolis suggests that comparing damage to populations of specific races may have yielded different results.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Similar to mapping BIPOC population concentration, mapping household income (Map 3) did not show a significant positive correlation between the location of damaged properties and areas with the lowest income. However, there was a significant negative correlation between high income areas and property damage. Just 5% of all damaged properties were in census tracts that were in the top 25% of median household income. [12]These tracts, where the average household income was over $82,400 per year, contained zero “destroyed properties”, 17% of “severely damaged” properties, only  1% of “moderately damaged” properties and 6% of properties with “minor damage.” [13]The authors of the Los Angeles study found areas with high unemployment rather than income to be most correlated with sites of looting. [14Although this piece does not examine unemployment, their paper suggests it might be an equally telling metric for future studies of property and protest in Minneapolis. It is interesting to note that Map 3 shows Lake Street, where much of the most intensive property damage occurred, as sitting at a border between the bottom and bottom middle quantiles of household income. This brings into question whether contested class boundaries could have influenced the locations of property damage. Together, maps 2 and 3 suggest that areas of marginalization within Minneapolis loosely correlated with sites of protest. This pattern agrees with scholarship that links “urban riots” with “disadvantaged residential areas.” [15]