MINNEAPOLIS — Note the dateline on this column. We are reporting from the belly of the beast, mere blocks from the courtroom where Derek Chauvin is on trial for kneeling on George Floyd's neck for more than 9 minutes.
Target Field is the location from where this is being typed, in a press box that gives a good view of the downtown skyline. It's a good location to view the fires.
What fires? Those fires conservatives and Republicans in St. Paul insist are burning in Minneapolis after Floyd's death last year. The ones the people on Facebook are talking about. That's the narrative, that Minneapolis is burning down.
There's no reason to doubt it. Certainly there could be no political motivation behind painting a picture of downtown Minneapolis lit up like a summer bonfire. Certainly politicians wouldn't want to scare the folks in rural Minnesota into thinking a Democratic city is a charred wasteland. No way.
Anyway, there are no fires to be seen right now. No flames. No smoke. Nothing. But surely they are coming. It's Minneapolis and it's on fire. That's the story.
Making their way around the stadium are fans, decked out in Minnesota Twins garb. They seem happy, unaware apparently that everywhere around them lurks danger.
It seems like all is safe, sure, but looks can be deceiving. Aside from the fires that are supposed to be burning, there are also riots. Out-of-control people — "those people," is what they are called on Facebook — setting buildings aflame, breaking windows, looting, overturning cars.
To be clear, there aren't actually any riots happening within view of Target Field or in the blocks surrounding it. Before the game, the fans seemed to enjoy stopping into bars and restaurants that have reopened. But the same people who are spreading the news that Minneapolis is burning are saying that the city is besieged with rioters. So they must be somewhere, just not anywhere where they can be seen.
Getting downtown was a story in itself. It says on social media and right-wing radio that residents and businesses are fleeing Minneapolis by the thousands. They don't want to be in a city that's burning and rioting, the story goes. So I gave myself an extra three hours to get downtown, expecting the outgoing hordes to clog the freeways in both directions.
Got lucky. It wasn't happening. Getting downtown was easy. No fleeing. No outgoing hordes. No mass exodus. Must've missed it by a day or two. Maybe those running away from Minneapolis were hunkered down, scared by the fires and riots that weren't happening.
Gotta admit, it's jarring to see so many non-existent things. There are a few businesses with plywood covering the windows, sure. There are fewer people and cars than before the pandemic because so many downtown employees are working from home. But a guy gets conditioned to expect a burned out hull of a city, overrun by roving gangs of malefactors. To not see any of it is eerie.
But it is happening. Really, it is. Facebook says so. It must be true, despite what the view says here in the belly of the beast.
Readers can reach Forum News Service columnist Mike McFeely at (701) 451-5655